A talented investor makes money and love, but must overcome envy and prejudice to do so. [Dir: Joseph Pevney/ James Garner, Natalie Wood, Dean Jagger/ 102 min/ Drama, Romance/ Creator as Hero, Equality & Envy, Pro-Capitalism]
“He’s got money./ I’ve got none./ Put him in the jailhouse just for fun.” So goes the “innocent” rhyme of some schoolchildren playing together at the beginning of this film. What follows is one of the few laudatory cinematic portrayals of a great commercial talent, and — even more rare — a pointed attack on public envy of that talent.
The hero here is Cash McCall, an ingenious businessman who creates value by buying and reorganizing troubled companies. His success has made him the object of envy, and his willingness to sometimes shut down and liquidate hopelessly unprofitable firms, with all the attendant social costs, has made him the object of hate. But he makes no apologies, frequently saying things like: “I don’t belong in the ‘better circles.’ I’m a thoroughly vulgar character. I enjoy making money.”
Most of the story surrounds McCall’s purchase of a small, troubled plastics molding company. McCall quickly solves the company’s problems and is set to reap the associated gain. News of the quick profit gets back to the company’s former owner, Grant Austen, who in turn feels McCall cheated him by paying him less than his company was really worth, and who therefore threatens to sue. (Woven into all this is a secondary story of a romance between McCall and Austen’s daughter.) McCall is a very ethical person and this turns out to be decisive in his ultimate triumph, a resolution in which all ends well with everyone making lots of money.
There is some suggestion toward the end that the business of reorganizing companies is less worthwhile than managing them, but that misunderstanding is forgivable in the overall context.
Like the earlier Executive Suite, this film is based on a novel by Cameron Hawley, one of the few writers to capture successfully the real drama of the corporate world. It’s a quality production with plenty of good acting, but the most remarkable thing about it is its philosophic content: it’s a genuine capitalist morality play with a strong Randian flavor. This unusual film was voted “Best Libertarian Picture” at the 1994 First International Libertarian Film Festival.