An entrepreneur solves the post-WWII bubble gum shortage, bringing happiness and jobs to war-weary America — until he is destroyed by the IRS. [ Andy Paris: Bubble Gum King credits: Dir: John Paris, Gabriel Ramirez/ Actors/ 65 min/ Documentary/ Creator-as-Hero, Pro-Capitalism, Anti-Taxation]
Shortly after the end of WWII, a young Andy Paris happened to see some kids scuffling. When he intervened, he was told they were fighting over a piece of bubble gum — there was a shortage at the time of pretty much anything that was fun for kids. Andy Paris decided to do something about it.
With a little investigation, he learned that the shortage of bubble gum had continued because the global supply chain of one the key ingredients, latex, had been disrupted by the war.
Having frequently traveled to Mexico to buy candy for his parents’ store, he was also aware that the trees from which the precursor of latex was extracted were plentiful south of the border. So, he convinced some Mexican manufacturers to produce latex for him, from which he would manufacture bubble gum, and he set up a small factory in McAllen, Texas for that purpose.
His costs were so low that he was able to dramatically lower the price of bubble gum to just a penny a piece, and make money in spite of it – bundles of money. He was so successful so fast that by 1947 he was the country’s youngest millionaire, and was featured on the cover of Life Magazine, dubbed “Andy Paris: Bubble Gum King.” His fame even won him the attention of Marilyn Monroe, whom he dated briefly.
Unfortunately, his success also attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS didn’t like the way he accounted for his latex purchases in Mexico, which were often paid for in cash, as the sellers preferred it. After years of tangling with investigators, the IRS managed to build a case against him and took everything he had. Emotionally exhausted and financially destroyed, Andy Paris never returned to his former level of glory.
His story is sympathetically told in this documentary tribute to him. I wouldn’t say this is an artful or powerful production, but it’s well-organized and worth watching for sheer subject matter alone; it’s remarkably pro-entrepreneur and pro-capitalism. As it focuses mostly on his meteoric rise, it’s generally upbeat despite his eventual loss, and would make a good film to share with kids, the ultimate beneficiaries of Paris’s efforts.
“The Andy Paris story is a genuine rags-to-riches to IRS audits all-American tale.”