Sunday, March 04, 2018

Citizen Trump

Broderick Crawford in Born Yesterday (1950)

If Donald Trump ever channel-surfed like a normal person, clicking over from Fox News to, say, Turner Classic Movies, he might not be so obsessed with his portrayal by "Alex" Baldwin.  Twice this week I have seen him depicted -- anticipated, really -- in movies made during his childhood, and both times by Broderick Crawford.  It's uncanny, and it even follows the formulation "first time tragedy, second time farce."

All the King's Men, based on the Robert Penn Warren novel, is the obvious Trump template, the thinly disguised story of populist/fascist Huey Long as Willie Stark, governor of an unnamed Southern state.  Willie has a keen sense of how to appeal to "the yokels," providing them with hospitals, schools and modern infrastructure in return for unquestioning support.  It enables him to survive impeachment, if not assassination.  Corrupt to the core and hungry for power, only death keeps him from his national political ambitions.  That Willie is ten times smarter than Trump only makes him more dangerous.

Even closer to life, in Born Yesterday Crawford plays Harry Brock (even the names are similar), an uncouth tycoon who sees government as primarily a means to becoming wealthier still.  He has come to Washington to buy up Congressmen and mingle with the powerful to gain support for a cartel he is putting together.  He has brought along his "dumb broad" mistress Billie Dawn (the divine Judy Holliday); his weakness is his love for her.  Harry's ignorance is a rich source of comedy -- someone mentions Oliver Wendell Holmes and Harry wants to know if they'll be meeting him -- but he decides Billie needs educating and hires a reporter to do the job.  The reporter, played by William Holden, awakens her to American history, ideas, classical music and, ultimately, to Harry.  "Has he ever thought of anyone but himself?" he asks her, as they tour the Jefferson Memorial.  In the end, Billie brings down Harry's crooked business plans and presumably his political ambitions, too, and goes off with the reporter.  (Trump would never have a woman in his life with the spirit and grit of Billie Dawn.  If the dead-eyed Melania ever leaves, he'll just bring in another porn star.)

Trump is said to be a big fan of Citizen Kane, though it's hard to imagine him paying attention to anything for nearly two hours, especially without a single sex scene.  He should check out a few other films.


Post a Comment

<< Home