Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ace in the hole ... The Movie

I often wonder exactly what inspires some writers to carry a story to its most logical conclusion.
One such story is the Billy Wilder  tale for which he borrowed from a real life story about Floyd Collins who perished in a cave in 1925 after a local newspaper created a national media sensation while covering his plight. Another claimed (in the wiki notes) inspiration was the "Girl in the well" in 1949 media circus in San Marino CA however this seems like maybe less inspiration than motivation in my estimation.

Apparently ... Wilder's secretary answered a phone call from a screenwriter named Victor Desny in 1949 ... who pitched the idea of  making a film from the story of Floyd Collins... and later successfully (eventually as the first case was tossed)  sued Wilder's production company for plagiarism.

Now the reason I'm interested in this whole deal is because the film was shown just this week on TCM and although I've seen it a few times before this is the first that it really struck me how much of this media news cycle management we see today.
As we look into stories that have come and gone ... or come and stayed ... or get recycled ad nauseum ... it is fairly apparent that Wilder's portrayal of the motivation and methodology is pretty damned astute. In the 1950s or 60s it may have been easy to shrug off this story as an exaggeration of events and the product of the wild imagination of a Hollywood producer. Even in the day though there may have been some who saw this as fairly accurate. Given the response of some newspapers of the day one can almost feel that we are listening to the NY Times or WaPo protesting some criticism of their own journalistic malfeasance....( The Hollywood Reporter called it "ruthless and cynical...a distorted study of corruption and mob psychology nothing more than a brazen, uncalled-for slap in the face of two respected and frequently effective American institutions - democratic government and the free press."... from wiki)
What we see in the current day efforts of media mainstreamers so closely resembles the machinations of the lone reporter that it has prompted some members of our present day media culture to comment on the "au currant" feel of the story.
I concur .... and  I suspect that if Billy Wilder were around today he'd have a lot to say about this situation.

The upshot is that for all the money and effort put into manufacturing news these days .... the actual methods follow what was essentially a scathingly ruthless portrayal of that lone wolf ... loose cannon sort from the 1950s. Today we have multi billion dollar organizations who can do no better than this and it is as if the whole world of media / journalism seem to feel it is their right to emulate the loathsome character of "Chuck Tatum" ... without of course having the courage to take the risks the movie's anti hero undertook.

Wikipedia .... yeah ... I know .....




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