Finding Great Insights in Old Movies
I’m a fan of old movies, especially those starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Those were two of Hollywood’s great divas and they were known for wanting things their own way. One Joan Crawford movie made good points about getting what you want.
A while ago, I recorded a movie made in 1937 called Mannequin which stars Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy.
Tracy is a rags-to-riches entrepreneur who builds a shipping company by starting with a single row boat.
Crawford is the hard-working daughter of a poor family living in a brownstone flat and surviving on frankfurters and sauerkraut. Joan’s character, Jessie, is the sole support of her non-working father, shiftless brother and her depressed mother. She finds her surroundings so deplorable that she begs her fight-promoter boyfriend to marry her and save her from that life.
The Tracy character, Hennessey and Jessie meet at the restaurant where Jessie and her new husband, Eddie are celebrating their marriage. Sparks fly for Hennessey, but Jessie loves her new husband. Eddie, always looking for angles, stores Tracy’s reaction away in the back of his mind.
How Not to Be
There’s a particular part of Mannequin that caught my attention.
Once married, Jessie finds out that her husband is not such a great deal. He gambles his prizefighter’s contract away, which is their only source of income. Even the home Eddie procures turns out to be only borrowed. The owners return home, forcing the newlyweds to vacate. Jessie and Eddie wind up in a worse situation than the one that Jessie left.
Jessie and Eddie return to her parents’ flat for a meal and the men sit around in a discussion while the women make the meal. The men’s conversation is telling:
Clifford: Pa could’ve done it, but he never had a row boat.
There is a lot of talk of how the system is against them, and if they had more, they could accomplish more. Both men are actually trying to do what Pa Cassidy accuses Clifford of; running some scam.
Ma’s Words to Jessie
Jessie watches this discussion from the kitchen and remarks that she and Eddie need to get some money or the future will be the past (referring to her never-working father).
Jessie’s quiet mother struggles to tell her daughter something that she has not been able to before now:
Eddie eventually ensures a split from Jessie when he suggests that she divorce him. That would leave her free to marry Hennessey for about six months and then divorce him to get a huge settlement. Then Eddie and Jessie could remarry. A horrified Jessie finally realizes that it will only be schemes with Eddie and she walks forever.
Getting What you Want
Let’s take Ma Cassidy’s words to heart. Remember and clarify what it is that you really want. Focus on that thing, hold it in your mind, and then work to get it. If your first plan doesn’t work, then get another plan, but don’t give up on what you want. Avoid schemes and follow good online business methods.
Dialogue from Mannequin written by Lawrence Hazard