This public-school educational film warns of the dangers of cheating. John Taylor is struggling with his algebra course, and convinces his friend Mary to show him her answers during the tests. But when he is caught, his reputation among his fellow students, along with his student-council seat, is put in jeopardy. Written by
I'm not sure I understand the need to trash instructional short films of this type; not only did they serve a purpose of sorts in their time, but they're very entertaining to watch today. While they might make us smile condescendingly, their innocence and nostalgic charm cannot but win us over.
In "Cheating" a pre-adolescent Richard Nixon, who calls himself John Taylor, yields to the temptation of getting the answers to an algebra test from Mary, his bookworm of a girlfriend. This leads to a prolonged cheating jag, which in turn disgraces Mary the Bookworm, and ends his own budding political career ("You won't have John Taylor to kick around anymore!"). Throughout the film, John's sense of dread over his pending disgrace is mirrored by the Expressionistic lighting and bleak set design.
Of course, it might be supposed that John Taylor's downfall in high school prefigured his later downfall as President. Perhaps his humiliation here fed his paranoia, which in turn led to the political dirty tricks which ended in his resignation and subsequent exile in San Clemente.
Maybe if Mary had better explained the solving of quadratic equations, we might have spared Watergate and our nation's concomitant crisis of confidence in its governmental institutions.
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