Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Give me old-fashioned plutocrats!

I watched part of the 1945 Barbara Stanwyck classic Christmas in Connecticut on TCM over the weekend. It's a comedy about Elizabeth Lane, a women's magazine editor who pretends to live a cheery domestic family life in the country, writing recipes and household tips, although she is actually single, childless, and helpless in the kitchen. As Christmas closes in, she has to maintain this fiction for her publisher, Alexander Yardley, a powerful force in the magazine game, played by the mountainous presence of the great Sidney Greenstreet.

He's the one on the left.
It's a great movie, and Greenstreet is imperial as Yardley---demanding but beneficent, patriotic but led by his appetites, round as a ham but sharp as a tack. I have worked for a lot of people in publishing, but never one like this character. I wish I had. He might fire me in a fit of pique, but he'd never weasel around or whine or stab me in the back.

It got me thinking that what we need in America are more and better plutocrats, those wealthy, hard-headed, spats-clad men of business who knew how to get things done. These are the men who made America great and rich. Here a couple more great tycoons of the classic movie era. A picture begins to emerge.

Edward Arnold, Meet John Doe (1941) -- tough, mean, lonely, even duplicitous,
but not some dope to be cowed by political correctness. 

Eugene Pallette, My Man Godfrey (1936) -- A risk-taker who nearly pays for it severely,
but at least he doesn't go around sniveling for a government bailout.

That's the kind of stout and stouthearted stuff we need nowadays. Who do we have instead? Business leaders like Apple's CEO Tim Cook:

 Media moguls who all look like Food Network general manager Bob Tuschman:

Guys who look like they spend more time on treadmills sipping water than ordering flunkies around. Is that the kind of thing that makes America tough, proud, and great? No way. This is why we're in the crapper.

For the love of Pete, Tuschman! You run Food Network! You don't have to assume Greenstreet proportions, but you might look like you enjoy a steak once in a while!

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