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An incredible film showing the clash of art and politics in 1930's United States. Written and directed by Tim Robbins, The Cradle Will Rock displays the political brilliance Robbins showed in his other gems: Dead Man Walking and Bob Roberts. This movie smoothly weaves stories of unions, the red scare, unemployment, the insanity of art, and even Mussolini influences in America.

But what makes the movie great, is the fact it is based on truth. The movie's main theatrical production is being directed and produced by Orson Welles and John Houseman. Nelson Rockefeller butts heads with a controversial Diego Rivera about a mural painted in the Rockefeller building. An aspiring actor dealing with union pressures while trying to raise a family during The Great Depression. Hallie Flanagan defends the Federal Theater from the barrage of Communist claims made towards it. All this while an aspiring writer creates a masterpiece perfectly attacking our country's society. The end of the movie will have you giddy like a child on their birthday.

Along with a great story, Robbins also captures our country at that time. The costumes, social discomforts, and sets come together in a beautiful fashion. To understand how good this movie is, one must look at the list of players that act the roles. Cherry Jones, John Tuturro, and Angus MacFayden give brilliant performances:


Written and Directed by Tim Robbins
Rated: R
Runtime: 132 minutes
1999

The film Cradle Will Rock features prominently the opera by Marc Blitzstein of the same name. That opera is an interesting piece in its own right. Though at times its pro-union social message is rammed a little bit too far down the audience's throat, it is a sometimes funny, sometimes moving, and always interesting show. Its score is pretty good too, full of ballads intended to be performed by vocalists and a lone pianist. When considered with its production history (as chronicled in the Tim Robbins film), its relevance as a piece of history is clear. It also has a current relevance, for although unions are more accepted now than in the 1930s (at least in the US), the idea that society's institutions could be bought with corporate money is frighteningly real.

The play takes place in "Steeltown, USA"

The major characters are:

The Moll, a destitute hooker with a heart of gold

Larry Foreman, the union organizer

Mr. Mister, the steel boss, who manipulates the town through its most trusted institutions (see Liberty Committee)

Mrs. Mister, his wife, who helps her husband with the aforementioned manipulations

Harry Druggist, a former druggist, now a vagrant.

The Liberty Committee, consisting of

Reverend Salvation, a preacher

Editor Daily, the newspaper editor

Dauber, a painter

Yasha, a violinist

President Prexy, president of the local college

Professor Mamie, a very academic professor

Professor Trixie, the college football coach

Dr. Specialist, a physician

Other denizens of Steeltown play more minor roles: police, workers, Mr. Mister's children, etc.

As you can tell from the characters' names, the play is highly symbolic, and characters are more representations of types than three-dimensional figures. The play lends itself to a Brechtian interpretation, in which little illusion of a distinct reality among characters on the stage is attempted.

A brief synopsis: The Moll is taken into the Steeltown Nightcourt after resisting a sleazy undercover cop's advances. Simultaneously, the Liberty Committee is brought in because they, under Mr. Mister's orders, had been listening to Larry Foreman's pro-union speech. They protest that they're arrest was a mistake and that they are too high class to be kept behind the bar in the filthy Nightcourt. But the drunk, yet somewhat omnipotent, Druggist (who is in the Nightcourt for vagrancy), explains to the Moll how each Committee member is more of a prostitute than she. We see flashbacks of each Committee member selling out to Mr. or Mrs. Mister and realize how the town came to be in Mr. Mister's clutches. But as all this occurs in the Nightcourt, outside a union rally has been happening. Larry Foreman was hauled into the court as well, but he warns the Liberty Committee that the justice of the people is coming. When Mr. Mister arrives to bail out his Committee, the final confrontation between union ideals and the corruption of money occurs.

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