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Friday, 18 November 2011

Top 5 Films About Trade Unions

The result from UNITE has come in and so it looks like we're all strike for the biggest strike since the seventies. So to mark the occasion I've decided to look at how cinema has dealt with trade unions. Once again there will be no films from the last fifteen years as I haven't watched any films in the last fifteen years.

Films are funded by benevolent Capitalists to provide entertainment for us proles, and so perhaps it's not surprising that some of the greatest roles in the movies have been trade unionists, such as Martin Sheen as Carl Fox in Wall Street, Raúl Juliá as Chico Mendes in The Burning Season and.....errr.....well a few in Ken Loach films obviously and ..... erm.

Okay, lets try again.

Films are funded by evil Capitalists in order to extract as much money as possible from gullible proles, and so it's not surprising that most of the portrayals of trade unionists are negative.

So here we go with the best of the worst.

5. Carry On at Your Convenience (1971)

Trade unions were alluded to regularly in the Carry On franchise, such as in Carry On Cleo when the eunuchs are reported to be striking over of loss of assets.(Groan)

This film finds the team appropriately located in a toilet factory where the local union boss is a buffoon who calls strikes so he can watch football matches, and whose gullible members nearly bankrupt the firm by following him out. Given the someone plebian nature of the Carry On audience this was a bit of an own goal and the film was a flop.

It's not exactly awash with jokes, unless you count the first screen appearance of the mighty Morris Marina car, a vehicle whose history is so inextricably linked with union intransigence that if this was Product Placement it was a grave mistake.

4. On the Waterfront (1954)

It could have been a contender.

A film about why it's good to be a police informer by a Director who snitched on his colleagues to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The Longshoremen trade unionists in the film are shown to be a violent, corrupt and, thanks to some dubious casting, posh.

3. I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Newly demobbed soldier Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael) takes a job in his uncle's factory where, being upper class, he shows how lazy the other workers are by doing twice as much work as anyone else.

This prompts trade union leader Fred Kite (Peter Sellars) to call an all out strike. When Kite evicts Windrush from his house for being a scab Kite's wife leaves too, leaving this working class hero unable to feed or cloth himself.

So a real hatchet job on the workers then, redeemed only by being a very funny and not entirely unrealistic portrayal of industrial relations at the time.

2. The Life of Brian (1979)

In the great pantheon of Trade Union leaders there must surely be a place for Reg (John Cleese).

Committed to Jewish freedom, he is broad minded enough to acknowledge the achievements of the Roman oppressors. Tragically unable to join the suicide mission to kidnap Pilate's wife due to a bad back, he fearlessly leads the Judean People's Front in their war with the People's Front of Judea whilst campaigning for his friend Stan's right to have a baby. A dedicate democrat he refuses to be drawn into action before due process has been followed, even though this costs the life of comrade Brian.

A real hero.

1. The Man in the White Suit (1951)

No, not Martin Bell, but Alec Guiness as the man who invents an everlasting fabric and so brings the wrath of both trade unions and management down on his head.

Eco-warriors have long suspected that the Holy Grails of sustainable technology; renewable energy, cars that run on water, politicians with integrity,  etc, have all been suppressed by those with an interest in the status quo and this is the film that fuels that paranoia.

The deliciously black King Hearts and Coronets prevents this becoming my favorite Ealing Comedy, but it's pretty damn good. Guiness is now mainly remembered as the older version of Ewan MacGregor in Star Wars - a film he hated - but his Ealing days were his best.

They really don't make them like they used to.

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