Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm All Right Jack

TCM kicks off a salute to a new star of the month tonight: Peter Sellers. The first movie on tap was made just before he became a leading actor: I'm All Right Jack, at 8:00 PM ET.

Top billing goes to Ian Carmichael, who plays Stanley Windrush. Windrush is a product of the British class system, which was beginning to crumble after World War II. As such, Windrush is a man who wants to get involved in a real career, much to the chagrin of his relatives, who think the family business should be managing the family's wealth, such as it it. So, Windrush tries his hand at a number of jobs, but finds that he's singularly unqualified for any of them. So, his uncle (Denis Price from Kind Hearts and Coronets) gets him a job driving a forklift for the uncle's company, Missiles Ltd. Stanley's uncle did this with the thinking that Stanly would be a sort of mole within the labor union, studying the workers' habits to see that they could more efficiently perform their jobs. This is naturally something the union bosses, headed by local shop steward Fred Kite (Sellers) don't want.

Stanley takes up both parts of his job, and develops some sympathy for the workers, in no small part because the management is just as bad as the workers in the desire to get the maximum possible pay for the least possible work. When the workers threaten to strike, it actually gives Stanley's uncle a great idea: let them strike, as a strike would allow him to steer a missile contract a certain way, making even more money!

It turns out that in the world of I'm All Right Jack, everybody is on the take. The movie is generally considered a brilliant satire on workplace relations, skewering union bosses. However, it's just as much going after the bosses, and especially those in power, if not quite as blatantly as it goes after the unions. I don't like to discuss politics here, but I've commented in many Internet forums that if we give government enormous power to muck up people's lives, people will go to great lengths to ensure that government is mucking up somebody else's life, and that's really the attitude I'm All Right Jack shows: government is giving out scads of money; why shouldn't they give it to me? In many ways, I'm All Right Jack would make a great double feature with Miloš Forman's The Fireman's Ball. And both movies are available on DVD.

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