Bob Schwartz

Tag: Preston Sturges

Donald Trump Jr. and the Happy Smiling Poor of India

“The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.”
Sullivan’s Travels

Washington Post:

Donald Trump Jr. says he admires India’s poor people because of their spirit and smiles

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is in India this week to promote his family’s real estate empire and more than $1 billion worth of luxury Trump Tower projects in four cities, but he still had time to praise India’s poor for their smiles.

“I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face. It’s a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world … and I think there’s something unique about that. I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

You can draw your own conclusions about what this says about Don Jr. and others in the Trump family and circle. You can guess who the miserable successful people might be.

As for the happy smiling poor he admires, I quote from the movie Sullivan’s Travels  by Preston Sturges. A successful Hollywood director of nonsensical comedies, John L. Sullivan, wants to confront the grim reality of the Great Depression, and so plans to travel in disguise as a tramp. His butler Burrows sets him straight:

Burrows: I have never been sympathetic to the caricaturing of the poor and needy, sir.

John L. Sullivan: Who’s caricaturing? I’m going out on the road to find out what it’s like to be poor and needy and then I’m going to make a picture about it.

Burrows: If you’ll permit me to say so, sir, the subject is not an interesting one. The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.

John L. Sullivan: But I’m doing it for the poor. Don’t you understand?

Burrows: I doubt if they would appreciate it, sir.

And:

Burrows: You see, sir, rich people and theorists – who are usually rich people – think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches – as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn’t, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms.

 

 

 

 

 

Preston Sturges on TCM Today

Preston Sturges

If you are quick, and have never seen any of the irreplaceable movies written and directed by Preston Sturges, Turner Classic Movies is devoting part of today to him. If you don’t manage to catch them there, and love movies, and can find the best of these elsewhere, find them and watch them.

As TCM describes his work

Featuring razor-sharp wit and astringent dialogue, writer-director Preston Sturges ranked as one of American cinema’s most gifted creative talents.

We take for granted the unified title of film writer-director, but seventy years ago, Sturges invented and perfected that role. He was Woody Allen before Woody Allen, and with all respect for what Allen has managed to do, none of his work is funnier or more biting than the best of Sturges. There were misses, but the best of Sturges includes three movies released in just two years, between 1941 and 1942. Here’s a summary from TCM:

Sturges went on to direct “The Lady Eve” (1941), a complex romantic comedy about a bumbling snake hunter (Henry Fonda) who becomes the prey of a cool, sexy con artist (Barbara Stanwyck). Fonda and Stanwyck enjoy a shipboard romance but he rejects her when he learns of her unsavory past, and in order to win her man, Stanwyck reinvents herself as a British noblewoman. In one of the most memorable set pieces in film, Stanwyck takes a moment on their honeymoon to regale her new husband with a list of every love affair she has ever had. As the scene progresses and Fonda’s jealousy increases, Sturges skillfully employs the soundtrack as a counterpoint; the train enters tunnels with its wheels clacking and whistles blowing, a storm develops and the score swells. Marvelously acted, “The Lady Eve” was a hit for Paramount and boosted the stock of all involved.

 

Paramount gave Sturges free rein with his next films, starting with perhaps his most personal, “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), a satire that focused on a comedy film director (Joel McCrea) who wants to make more meaningful motion pictures. Determined to experience poverty firsthand, he sets off as a hobo with an aspiring actress (Veronica Lake) in tow. For a comic piece, “Sullivan’s Travels” had a dark undertone with the ultimate moral being that people don’t want to be reminded of their situations, they want escapism. As Sullivan says near the end of the picture, “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh.” The following year, Sturges wrote and directed “The Palm Beach Story” (1942), a satire on business and greed about a woman (Claudette Colbert) who leaves her inventor husband (McCrea) for a millionaire (Rudy Vallee). When the husband arrives in Florida, he is pursued by Vallee’s sister (Mary Astor) with unpredictable results. The film owed much to the French farces that once captivated a youthful Sturges.

If you see these movies, today or some other time, you won’t forget them, you will want to see them again, and you will wonder how you ever missed them. If you love comedy, and especially if you love comedy with witty language at its heart, and have been disappointed by those who say you “must” see this classic comic genius or other but come away thinking “boring”, “horribly dated” or “stupid”, these are for you. Brilliant, timeless, unforgettable. There was only one Preston Sturges.