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Something To Preoccupy You While You Are Still Waiting

With the upcoming performances of Waiting for Lefty and Still Waiting , we thought that you might like a little insight into some of the most famous movies about unions and strikes. Get your picket signs ready!

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Salt of the Earth (1954)

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To kick off this post, we wanted to share Salt of the Earth with you. This movie bears particular significance because the Winston Center will be hosting a film screening of this in conjunction with the department's performance on October 12th at 4:30 pm, in Devlin 101. This is only one of many other cosponsored events, including a keynote address and two panels.

Here is a brief synopsis:

Based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico, the film deals with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who struck to attain wage parity with Anglo workers in other mines and to be treated with dignity by the bosses. In the end, the greatest victory for the workers and their families is the realization that prejudice and poor treatment are conditions that are not always imposed by outside forces.

- Written by Bob Shields

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047443/plotsummary

Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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This movie is based off of the renowned book by John Steinbeck, which you probably read in high school. (Hint: Steinbeck was the author who could talk about a blade of grass for 10 pages).

Here is a brief synopsis for those of you who need to jog your memory:

The Grapes of Wrath chronicles the struggles of the Joad family as they leave their home in Sallisaw, Oklahoma to find work in California. Forced off the land that the family had share-cropped for two generations, the Joads, including elderly Granma and Grampa and fugitive son Tom, become one more family packed into a ramshackle truck heading west on Route 66, expecting plentiful jobs picking fruit or cotton in the fertile valleys of California.

http://www.steinbeck.org/pages/the-grapes-of-wrath-book-synopsis

The Stars Look Down (1940)

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A. J. Cronin's novel was brought to the screen by director Carol Reed. The film is set in a northern England mining town (far more realistically depicted than the back-lot Welsh village in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley. The parents of Michael Redgrave have labored long and hard so that their son can escape his grimy environs and make something of himself. While away at school, Redgrave is trapped into marriage by Margaret Lockwood, previously the lady friend of ill-tempered Emlyn Williams (the actor was himself a product of the Welsh mining community). When Lockwood and Williams resume their romance, the disillusioned Redgrave returns home, where he becomes deeply involved in a labor dispute. He ultimately decides that it is best for all if he remains in the village of his birth, working tirelessly on behalf of his friends, relatives and neighbors.

http://www.fandango.com/thestarslookdown_101577/plotsummary

On the Waterfront (1954)

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You may not have heard of this movie, but you have definitely heard this famous line, "I coulda been a contendah".

This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he's been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb ("plead D & D"). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly's rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker's sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). "Waterfront priest" Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie's brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the crime commission. Because he could have intervened, but didn't, Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly's goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando's famous "I coulda been a contendah" speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of "naming names" against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s.

http://www.fandango.com/onthewaterfront1954_2196/plotsummary

The Pajama Game (1957)

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"Look at me I'm Doris Day..."

The Broadway musical Pajama Game was based on Seven and a Half Cents. a comic novel about labor relations written by Richard Bissell. Doris Day stars as an employee at a pajama factory who becomes the spokesperson for her fellow workers when management refuses to give them a 7 1/2 cent raise. Complicating matters is the fact that Management is represented by handsome John Raitt, who happens to be in love with Day. A subplot involves Day's freewheeling co-worker Carol Haney and her insanely jealous boyfriend, factory-manager Eddie Foy Jr. Many of the cast members from the original Broadway production (Raitt, Haney, Foy, Reta Shaw, Peter Gennaro etc.) are retained for the film version, as are most of the Richard Adler/Jerry Ross songs: highlights include "Hey There", "Steam Heat", "Hernando's Hideaway", "There Once Was a Man". and the title song. The choreography is in the capable hands (and feet) of Bob Fosse. Pajama Game performed so well at the box-office that Warners immediately went to work on the filmization of the second (and last) Adler/Ross Broadway collaboration, Damn Yankees. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

http://www.fandango.com/thepajamagame_53728/plotsummary

The Organizer (1963)

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In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout. But it’s not until they receive unexpected aid from a traveling professor (Marcello Mastroianni) that they find their voice, unite, and stand up for themselves. This historical drama by Mario Monicelli, brimming with humor and honesty, is a beautiful and moving ode to the power of the people, and features engaging, naturalistic performances; cinematography by the great Giuseppe Rotunno; and a multilayered, Oscar-nominated screenplay by Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli.

https://www.criterion.com/films/27612-the-organizer

Norma Rae (1979)

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Who doesn't love Sally Fields? Norma Rae is a lively, but dependable, wife and mother in an Alabama mill town. Like her father, her mother and most of her friends, she works at the Henley mill, spinning and weaving cloth as the days go by without much apparent purpose. Her "nothing special" life changes when she and her coworkers meet Reuben, a dedicated, smart-mouthed labor organizer down from New York to teach the Henley crew about solidarity in a place where workers and owners alike think "union" and "trouble" are synonymous.

- Written by Mike Rogers

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079638/plotsummary

Silkwood (1983)

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If you haven't seen some of Meryl Streep's earlier work, you should. Based on a true story, Silkwood begins and ends with Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) driving along a lonely road in 1974, heading to a meeting with a New York Times reporter to deliver evidence of negligence at the Kerr-McGee Plant in Cimarron, Oklahoma. The balance of the film flashes back to Karen's ribald private life with her lover (Kurt Russell) and her loose-living friends (Cher and Diana Scarwid). This is in contrast to her humdrum job at Kerr-McGee--or it least it was humdrum until Karen and several other employees become contaminated by radiation. The higher-ups want to sweep this incident under the rug, but Karen thinks that something's fishy, and informs the union of that fact. X-rays of the faulty fuel rods and written proof of the inadequate safety measures that caused Karen's illness are tampered with, forcing Karen to conduct her own private investigation. As she gathers evidence, Karen becomes a pariah to her boyfriend because of her obsession. She finally organizes the evidence into a briefcase, and heads off to her meeting with the Times reporter. She never makes it; the "official" report on her fatal auto accident is that Ms. Silkwood had been drinking and was under the influence of tranquilizers. Kerr-McGee was eventually forced to pay the Silkwood family an enormous settlement because of her contamination, but the full facts behind her convenient accident have never been revealed (though the filmmakers clearly indictate whom they hold responsible).

http://www.fandango.com/silkwood_37915/plotsummary

Matewan (1987)

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Independent filmmaker John Sayles creates one of his more artistic works with this period feature about a volatile 1920s labor dispute in the town of Matewan, West Virginia. Matewan is a coal town where the local miners' lives are controlled by the powerful Stone Mountain Coal Company. The company practically owns the town, reducing workers' wages while raising prices at the company-owned supply and grocery. The citizens' land and homes are not their own, and the future seems dim. When the coal company brings immigrants and minorities to Matewan as cheaper labor, union organizer Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper) scours the town to unite all miners in a strike. As the crisis grows, strikers and their families are removed from their homes by two coal company mercenaries (Kevin Tighe and Gordon Clapp, both also featured in Sayles' Eight Men Out (1988)), and the situation heads toward a final shootout on Matewan's main street .

http://www.fandango.com/matewan_48184/plotsummary

Cradle Will Walk (1999)

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As a lover of the Arts, this movie should appeal to you. The sometimes rocky relationship between art and politics in America in the 1930s -- as well as the gulf between the wealthy and the struggling -- sets the stage for Tim Robbins' ambitious comedy-drama Cradle Will Rock. Pulling together a variety of threads from actual events, Robbins examines the lives and ambitions of a variety of creative mavericks and figures of power. Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen) and John Houseman (Cary Elwes) are working with Marc Bliztstein (Hank Azaria) to stage the latter's leftist musical "The Cradle Will Rock" for the WPA-funded Federal Theater Project. After Congress cuts funding for the embattled Federal Theater over the perceived leftist slant of their presentations, the project is canceled on the day of its premier. Welles and his cast respond by marching 21 blocks from the theater where the show was to open to another venue where, in deference to Actors Equity regulations, they perform the entire show from the audience. A member of Welles' cast, Aldo Silvano (John Turturro), is a dedicated actor from Italy who is trying to resolve his attitudes about his family, who loyally support Mussolini, to Silvano's disgust. Meanwhile, El Duce's former mistress, Margherita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon), is consorting with industrial tycoon Gray Mathers (Philip Baker Hall) -- whose wife, Contesse LaGrange (Vanessa Redgrave) is a friend and supporter of Welles' project. Elsewhere, Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack) has hired expatriot Mexican artist Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades) to create a mural for his projected Rockefeller Center, but the two are soon locking horns over their different views on art, politics and the work at hand. And a ventriloquist fallen on hard times, Tommy Crickshaw (Bill Murray), finds himself trying to teach both comedy and speaking without lip movements to a pair of would-be performers at a WPA-backed vaudeville house.

http://www.fandango.com/cradlewillrock_182/plotsummary

Pride (2014)

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Last but not least... Inspired by actual events, director Matthew Warchus' Pride details the unlikely friendship forged between a small community of striking miners in Wales and the London-based gay-and-lesbian activists who raise funds to feed their families in the summer of 1984. With no end to the strike in sight, the urban activists venture into the countryside to deliver their donation in person, and find they have more in common with the people of this struggling community than anyone on either side could have expected.

http://www.fandango.com/pride_175306/plotsummary

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