Thursday, June 03, 2010

TCM presents 1934 talkie "Babbitt": a satire on the American Dream; recalling a high school book report

I remember reading Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 novel "Babbitt" in high school for a book report, so I was curious to note that Turner Classic Movies was carrying it tonight, the 1934 “talkie” from Warner Brothers and First National Pictures, in “very” black and white, directed by William Keighley.

Guy Kibbee plays the somewhat egotistical old man George F. Babbitt, and Aline MacMahon, his wife. Pretty soon he is running around in circles with real estate deals and affairs, and conflict of interest, the kind of stuff that didn’t bother businessmen before the Crash of 2008. He lives in “Zenith” which a number of cities claimed as their own, especially Minneapolis. He brushes against other people without really understanding them, including a business partner who goes to jail. The film passes briefly, running all of 74 minutes.

I seem to remember a passage in the book where he is in a bathtub and shaves his leg. In the book, he seemed to be poking fun at himself.

The book, written well before the Depression and even before the Roaring 20s got going too much, seemed rather a satire of capitalism, as to what would come of it.

Here’s a YouTube video by “Shelly” of The Midnight People , from the Musical "Babbitt," Written by, Marty Durlin; Adapted from "Babbitt" by, Sinclair Lewis

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