Monday, September 7, 2009

For Labor Day: King Vidor's "Our Daily Bread"

For the working people of America, slaves and immigrants, artisans and drill-press operators, at least once a year we can stand completely "above party"....

Celebrate Labor Day with one of the true American classics, King Vidor's 1934 Our Daily Bread [plot summary and critique here]. Aside from being an amazing film [the ditch-digging scene is justly one of the more famous segments in early American talking movies], it is a sentimental tribute to working people, immigrants, heartless capitalist bastards, and the success of cooperative labor.

To call it a paen to socialism is to underestimate what King Vidor was trying to accomplish, but what the hell.

As a political piece it is at best naive, but you can still get swept away with the passion, verve, and optimtism of King Vidor's vision, and--besides--the easy sensuality of Karen Morley still stands out more than seventy years later. [Morley died in 2003; checking her bio page I was astounded to discover that she was born in 1909 in Ottumwa IA--a town many viewers actually thought was made up as a hometown for Radar O-Reilly in MASH.]

OK, so she wasn't that believable either as the perennial loser's wife or the farmer's wife, who cares?

This is a movie, however, about what working people can accomplish--probably the seminal movie about that, and entertaining as hell to boot. Here are the first six of twelve segments: if you get hooked, you can find the remainder on YouTube.

[With thanks to Waldo, who first insisted I watch this movie in ... 1978.]

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