30 Movies Featuring the Workplace, In Honor of Labor Day Weekend
Movie #22: Silence is Golden – Modern Times
Year – 1936
We’re kicking it old school (as the kids say…or probably used to say) with what could very well be the original workplace comedy. Made in 1936, Charles Chaplin railed against our rapidly industrializing society his most iconic set-piece where he’s forced to work frantically in order to maintain an assembly line’s increasing pace. A bit repurposed by both Donald Duck and Lucille Ball.
The film was Chaplin’s final silent film (though it did technically include sound effects) and quite possibly the final film of the silent era. The Jazz Singer (the first talkie) had come out in 1927 and by 1929 sound films dominated the landscape. It was a bold move but a correct one. The film is on AFI’s list of the 100 Best Movies of All Time and in 1989 it was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry- TOK
Movie #23: Is Leather Appropriate Office Attire? – Secretary
Year – 2002
First, that was not Maggie Gyllenhaal on the movie poster. Second, the sadomasochism of the subject matter (a dominant/submissive relationship between employer and secretary) is not as lurid as one might expect/hope/fear. That said the film offers a surprisingly fresh take on taboo subject. – DG
Movie #24: Secret Semite – Gentlemen’s Agreement
Year – 1947
Gregory Peck stars as a reporter who goes undercover…as a Jew. Yes, really. He pretends to be Jewish in order to expose how anti-Semitism had permeated society. While the film has a certain “eat your vegetables” quality about it, it still manages to be an interesting story. Given that the film is over 65-years old it’s sometimes difficult to tell if some of its more heavy-handed aspects are accurate or simply “stacking the deck”. But, given that the director is Elia Kazan (East of Eden, On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire), it’s a pretty good bet that we’re in safe hands.
Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck decided to make the film after being denied membership at a country club for being Jewish. Ironically, he wasn’t. But he was so appalled that he felt compelled to shed light on the issue.
Much to Zanuck’s surprise Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish film executives implored him to not make the film for fear it would “stir up trouble”. They also warned that Hays Code enforcer, Joseph Breen, might not allow the film to pass the censors since he was known to (ahem) not be a big fan of the Chosen People. But Zanuck made the film anyway which went on to win three Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. – TOK