In 1930s New York Orson Welles tries to stage a musical on a steel strike under the Federal Theater Program despite pressure from an establishment fearful of industrial unrest and red activity. Meanwhile Nelson Rockefeller gets the foyer of his company headquarters decorated and an Italian countess sells paintings for Mussolini. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
This film is based on actual events, though it takes liberties with the details. Marc Blitzstein's 1937 anti-capitalist operetta 'The Cradle Will Rock', about the effort to unionize steelworkers, was originally produced as part of the Federal Theatre Project. The Federal Theatre Project (1935-1939), in turn, was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ people during the Great Depression. Directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman, Cradle was shut down right before it was due to open because of "budget cuts" at the FTP. Everyone involved believed the government deliberately cut funding because the play's message offended its more conservative contingent; Actor's Equity prohibited its members from taking part, apparently oblivious to the fact that Cradle was a pro-union piece and Actor's Equity was - and is - a union. Welles, Housman and Blitzstein spontaneously rented another theater and planned to put on Cradle with Blitzstein himself singing/reading the piece; the show sold out and various actors defied Equity and performed their parts from the seats they'd bought. The secondary plot which involved Mexican painter Diego Rivera butting heads with Nelson Rockefeller when the mural the latter commissioned for a Rockefeller Center lobby on the high-minded subject of "human intelligence in control of the forces of nature" included a portrait of Lenin, is also based on fact, though it happened in 1933. The incident is also dramatized in the 2002 film Frida. Tim Robbins included it because it tied into the theme of artistic integrity vs. economic practicality. See more »
The opening scene takes place in "Fall 1936", but the newsreel says Italian forces are "poised to invade" Ethiopia. The invasion actually took place in October 1935. See more »
Tim Robbins has created a masterpiece. A film that stands up in the face of adversity and squashed freedom.Robbin's telling of the legendary events surrounding the Orson Welles production of Marc Blitztien's Labor Opers, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, not only puts forth the events but he masterfully presents his film in the style of a Brecht theatre piece. The emotional level in the theatre when I saw this film was high,Applause rang out during the films climax. But this film is not only about artistic freedom, it is about freedom as a whole,about standing up for your freedom of belief and expression,could you imagine that there was actually a time in this "free" nation of ours when armed guards actually locked the doors of a theatre ,trying to prevent a show from being mounted.This film is an important one,and what Robbins accomplishes is to present it as entertainment as well,this is not a history lesson but a well executed work of art. As perfomances go everyone was splendid. Hank Azaria wins best honors as Blitztien,Cary Elwes and Angus McFadden as Houseman and Welles are also brilliant in their stellar portrayals.Vanessa Redgrave,Susan Sarandon and Bill Murray also lend their imense talents. John Turrturo deserves special mention for his touching portrait of actor Howard DaSilva. Some critics have pointed out what they felt was a lack of character development in the film. These critics have greatly missed the point. the film is presented as a Brecht (or Blitztein ) style play. Blitztein's CRADLE included characters named for their role in society,or personality, Jimmy Forman,Mister Mister,Reverend Salvation etc. it is this type of acting Robbins successfully evokes from his actors. This film is more than a movie,it is an emotional experience that will change the way you look at society.It is an inspiration,telling us to fight for what you believe in.
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