Alec Guiness plays an inventor who develops the ultimate textile
fibre; he can make clothes that are indestructible at a reasonable
cost. Concerned only with producing the perfect product and having
it distributed worldwide, Guiness is entirely oblivious to the politics
generated by his
Predictably, the labour unions want his invention suppressed, at
the prospect of seeing their jobs threatened (while they decry exploitation!)
by a product that never needs replacing. They become so emotional
they hunt Guiness down, perhaps to do him in.
But unions are not his only problem. Guiness refuses to deal with
the factory's owners as well, recognizing that they too want his
invention suppressed. The fraternity of industrial giants conspire
to suppress his invention.
Ultimately, Guiness is locked
up while both "labour" and "business" interests
decide what they want done with him. Meanwhile, Guiness' girl-friend
tests his resolve, and assured he is sticking to principle, helps
him escape. The final resolution I'll leave for you to see.
Amidst this telling satire is some outstanding comedy, mostly about
hypocrisy and double
The film is simply outstanding and top-notch in every way.
Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring Dana Andrews
Boomerang is a documentary-style drama about a district attorney's
task of prosecuting a man accused of murdering a priest. The D.A.,
played by Dana Andrews, discovers, through a meticulous investigation
of the facts, that the accused is innocent, and that the murderer
is still loose. Revealing this information to the Mayor, Chief of
Police and other officials, he is instructed to ignore his own findings
and set up a convincing prosecution of the innocent man, an itinerant
no one will miss.
Andrews' job as D.A. and future standing with the city's elite hangs
in the balance. His investigation reveals a web of conspiracy between
the city's elected officials to suppress the truth. It seems the
priest had heard many a confession, and that many are only too relieved
to see the
The pivotal scene in Boomerang occurs when Andrews faces the decision
of whether or not to pursue the truth despite the rancour, upheaval,
scandal, and recriminations these revelations will bring to both
him and other elected officials.
Dana Andrews does a marvellous job of projecting a logical mind,
moral integrity and tenacity in a heroic character. Based on a true
story, this mystery drama packs a wallop.
Directed by Martin Ritt,
Starring Paul Newman, Patricia Neal, Melvyn Douglas
At first, this film seems to have little to do with philosophy or
personal integrity. Paul Newman, the son of a ranch owner (Melvyn
Douglas) shows himself to be a sleazy, opportunistic, immoral and
fundamentally rotten guy, and his idolizing teenage nephew is slowly
seduced into Newman's
tainted and unprincipled world.
The stark contrast is provided by Newman's father, an uncompromising,
man of high integrity, racked with rueful remorse over his degenerate
son's failure to follow an honest and
The scene where the ranch is
ravaged by the cattle having hoof and mouth disease (brought on
knowingly buying inferior, cheap
cattle), and Newman then scheming to sell the cattle before the
disease becomes obvious, is outstanding. Douglas, appalled by the
of his livestock, presents a tremendous paragon of virtue by clearly
stating how rotten Newman is and
why a principled man with "nothing" is worth far more than a dishonest man with "everything".
The contrast between the personalities of Douglas and Newman is
what this film is all about. Douglas is outstanding in a subtle way.
He exudes moral integrity in every word, every look. Newman is tremendous
as a modern-day rogue son, caring only about how he can beat the
Directed by Fred Zinnenmann
Starring Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper's wooden acting style made me cringe in The Fountainhead,
where a young, vital, demonstrative lead was required (a la Gregory
Peck, Kirk Douglas), but in High Noon, he was perfectly
Cooper plays the sheriff of
a small western town in the 1880's whose tenure in the job is drawing
to a close. He has just married a Quaker
woman, and today is the last day he is sheriff. At noon, his job
But the sheriff finds out that a murderer has been released from
the state prison after 8 years (a man Cooper sent there) and is arriving
on the noon train seeking vengeance on the town and
Incredibly, the townspeople all vacillate, fidget, and basically
abandon him in his hour of need, despite his serving them faithfully
All the males in this town but Cooper are variously cowardly, jealous,
envious, traitorous, and/or hypocritical. Even Cooper's own deputy
sheriff hates him for his rectitude, and his Quaker wife urges him
to flee the conflict.
Unlike later westerns of the Eastwood variety, machismo does not
factor into Cooper's character, it is simply the principle of right
and wrong on which his decision is based.
Friendless and alone, Cooper stays to face the four outlaws who
come for him after the noon train arrives, but his real contempt
is reserved for the townspeople who lack the courage to back their
This is an outstanding drama with a great many visual touches and
nuances that show Cooper's plight, and his humility in accepting
the inevitable battle that only he is willing to endure. Cooper really
makes you feel for his character, and the story effectively evokes
disgust towards the
(Clint Eastwood directed and starred in an effective remake of High
Noon in 1973 called High
Plains Drifter, but it is morally ambiguous in comparison with High
Absence of Malice (1981)
Directed by Sidney Pollack
Starring Paul Newman, Sally Field
This film is the story of the pacifist's revenge. A wrongly libelled
businessman, Paul Newman, wreaks clever vengeance on the town mayor,
a special prosecutor, and a newspaper reporter, who, claiming that
he is in the mob and responsible for a murder, have seriously impugned
reputation and have driven a female friend to suicide.
In this modern setting, Newman uses cool logic and reason to expose
the careers of those who are ruining his life and livelihood. Carefully
exploiting the weakness of his enemies, he creates a situation whereby
his opponents are all ruined by their own excesses.
It is particularly satisfying to witness Newman single-handedly
bring his opponents to justice.
Reason vs. Irrationality
Twelve Angry Men
Directed by Sidney Lumet,
Starring Henry Fonda, E.G. Marshall, Ed Begley, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Warden, Jack
For a few seconds, we hear
a judge's distant voice recite murder charges against a frightened,
strangely ugly, Hispanic boy (about
l8 years old) from the New York slums, as a 12-man jury is led
away to deliberate.
This entire movie takes place in a jury room, on a sweltering, humid
summer day. It is immediately obvious that all members of the jury
(except one, an architect played by Henry
Fonda) are ready to convict.
Fonda uses logic, reason, facts, and reality to convince fellow
jurors that reasonable doubt exists not to convict, while other jurors
rely on prejudice, gut feelings, and evasions of reality. Slowly,
one by one, Fonda's undeniable statement of facts sink in on each
All twelve jurors are brilliantly played, and Fonda is the ultimate
rational man in this film, his best
While Fonda's character may use rational, cool-headed, logic, to
crush the futile assertions of his fellow jurors, it is his character's
love for humanity and justice that wins over the audience.
An ethical and cinematic tour-de-force.
Name of the Rose (1986)
Directed by Jean Jacques-Armand,
Starring Sean Connery
Not a classic, but a good film,
the Name of the Rose is a murder mystery set in the 15th century.
The interesting premise of
this film is that the "detective", played
by Sean Connery, is an
Connery is logical and rational,
and attributes these characteristics to his schooling in the works
of Aristotle. (It must be noted that
monks were the educated elite of the 15th century society, before
the advent of the printing press, and would likely be the only
individuals lucky enough to get an
opportunity to read Aristotle.)
Using logic to track down the cause of a series of murders in an
Abbey, Connery discovers that the reason monks are being murdered
is because they are reading a forbidden book from the
The book, the 2nd Poetics of
Aristotle, a lost work, apparently makes fun of God. According
to the movie's
villain it questions the
existence of God, mocks Him, and "encourages men to laugh at
There are very few villains who will murder men for reading philosophy,
but modern parallels can be drawn. The movie makes clear where it's
sympathies lie from Connery's character and the fact the mystical
villain will kill to prevent men from reading Aristotle.
The movie is steeped in style and is no action picture, but how
many films offer a tribute to Aristotelian logic to the degree that
the villain will murder men to prevent them from reading it?
Objectivist Drama As It Should Be Done
Directed by Jean Negulesco
Starring John Garfield, Oscar Levant, Joan Crawford
Humoresque is a drama of a young man (played by John Garfield) aspiring
to be the world's greatest classical violinist, never compromising
in order to be the best, and to show the world he
is the best.
Throughout the serious story-line is hilarious comic relief provided
by the truthful insights of Garfield's piano playing friend and accompanist,
Oscar Levant. Tragedy is provided in the flawed character of Garfield's
patron and worshipper Joan Crawford, who cannot control him or make
him love her.
An outstanding score is provided by Isaac Stern. The philosophy
and conflicts are clear-cut. The performances are first-rate and
the dialogue is crisp and intelligent. It is a cinematic experience.
(Screenplay by Clifford Odets.)
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