Friday, August 5, 2011

Movies For Labor Day

Labor Day, aaahhh, a day for relaxing, spending time with family, eating and of course ... movies. For those of you out of country it is celebrated on the first Monday in September, the creation of this labor movement was in 1882 and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. 

The following are movies about the hardworking American spirit.
Grapes of Wrath, this 1940 is a wonderful classic cinema showcasing common man Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) who leads his family on a harrowing journey from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma to the promise of a better life in California. Based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and masterfully directed by John Ford and the novel's original ending was far too controversial to be even considered for a film in 1940. It involved Rose-of-Sharon Rivers (Dorris Bowdon) giving birth to a stillborn baby and then offering her milk-filled breasts to a starving man, dying in a barn. AND to top this off - the movie was shot in 7 (yes 7) weeks!

The Crowd,  this 1928 movie is made by acclaimed director King Vidor won an Oscar nominated for this silent film classic, which highlights the plight of working men and women in urban America. Born on July 4, 1900, John Sims (James Murray) always believed he was destined for greatness. But as his life unfolds, he faces mind-numbing work, difficult relationships, death and his own very ordinary life. Time magazine named this film one of its "All-Time 100 Movies."

The following movies reference the labor union movement.

Hoffa (a given) in this 1992 film Jack Nicholson's portrait of Union leader James R. Hoffa, as seen through the eyes of his friend, Bobby Ciaro (Danny DeVito). The film follows Hoffa through his plethora assaults and includes with a "theory" of their disappearance in 1975.

Salt of the Earth is a 1954 B&W movie based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who struck to attain wages and safer working conditions like their Anglo workers in other mines. The film is an early treatment of feminism, because the wives of the miners play a pivotal role in the strike, against their husbands wishes. In the end, the greatest victory for the workers and their families is the realization that prejudice and poor treatment are conditions that are not always imposed by outside forces. This film was written, directed and produced by members of the original "Hollywood Ten," who were blacklisted for refusing to answer Congressional inquiries on First Amendment grounds. It was the only blacklisted film ever in American film history. It was blacklisted during the 1950s during the height of the Cold War scare, that is why this film wasn't shown in American theater until 1965.
Matewan this 1987 film was about Matewan, West Virginian coal miners in 1920 that were struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and hired guns. Union activist and ex-Wobbly Joe Kenehan, sent to help organize the union, determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. But his efforts to organize the coal company workers spark one of the most violent incidents in the history of the 1920-21 Coal Wars.

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