A Successful Failure (October 15, 1934)

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The Big Bluff
 

Released on October 15, 1934: Uncle Dudley's family wants him to make more money, but his boss at the newspaper thinks he is at the end of his usefulness.

Directed by Arthur Lubin

The Actors: William Collier Sr. (Ellery Cushing, Uncle Dudley), Lucile Gleason (Mrs. Cushing), Russell Hopton (Phil Stardon), George P. Breakston (Tommy Cushing), William Janney (Robert Cushing), Gloria Shea (Ruth Cushing), Clarence Wilson (H.T. Flintly, News Record Editor), Jameson Thomas (Jerry Franklin, Ruth's beau), Richard Tucker (J.W. Blair, Atlas Broadcasting), Dick Curtis (man in rally crowd), William Gould (reporter), Francis McDonald (radical speaker in park), Frank O'Connor (man on bench), Edward Peil Sr. (E.D. Hale).

 

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When I was very young and struggling, I spent some time selling life insurance for the New York Life company in Youngstown, Ohio. The manager of the local office was a kindly older gentleman that had been offered a plush job in the home office in Manhattan which he refused because his legs were crippled and he walked with crutches, and the long walks from car park to office, and from office to office in the big city would be more than he cared to endure. He loved to talk about life, and one day while I was in his office chatting with him he told me something that has remained with me to this day. He said that while everyone was complaining about inflation and the high cost of living, the bigger part of the problem lay in our own attitudes. He went on to declare that it isn't so much the high cost of living that keeps us chasing after more, but rather the cost of living high. For just about every working family, there is a way to be happy and out of debt if the family could learn to spend less than they earn and be content with 'enough' instead of running the rat race for more and more 'things'. Keeping up with the Jones' is a merry go round that one can never win - there will always be a 'Jones' that is ahead of you. This movie explores this concept, along with the idea that following your passion can provide all of the needs that you might have, and a lot of the extras as well.

Old man Cushing has a 'blonde' wife, a grown daughter and son, and a young pre-teen son. Ellery Cushing works for the town newspaper, and a new editor has taken over and Ellery is going to lose his job. His specialty is to write cute sayings that show a twist on life and the wisdom of age. Older son Tommy is behind on the payments for a new car that he bought, and he complains that dad won't ask for a raise so that he can have more money to pay for his car. Sis Ruth tells Tommy that if he got a job he could easily pay for his new car. But Tommy cannot be bothered by getting a job. Cushing's daughter Ruth complains that she needs more money, and dad shouldn't let the newspaper push him around, and he should demand more money because she needs to spend more money. And there is a side plot - daughter Ruth is seeing an older man who wines and dines her with plenty of cash, and she is also dating Phil, a young man that works at the newspaper with Cushing. Ruth wants to break up with Phil because she thinks that he is in a dead end job at the newspaper and he will never have enough money to satisfy her needs.

Now Phil quits his job at the newspaper, and convinces old man Cushing to quit also. They work on Cushing's sayings with the idea of marketing them somewhere (if you are in the U.S. and know about the television program '60 Minutes,' think of Andy Rooney commentaries). Cushing doesn't tell his family that he quit his job, and goes off every day to work with Phil on his folksy sayings. Phil loses his apartment and winds up on a park bench, and things don't look to good for the pair, until Phil pitches Cushings sayings to a large radio station, and he becomes an overnight sensation as the wise 'Uncle Dudley.' He goes home with his pile of money and tells the family that he finally got his raise, and they still think he works at the newspaper. Fame and fortune continues to grow for Cushing and his young partner Phil, but they do not tell the family about his new career, because Cushing is convinced that his family would try to change him and his message, and be a hindrance to his writings. But then mom finds out that Phil and old man Cushing are not employed at the newspaper any more, and the family starts to imagine all sorts of evil things that the two must be up to.

Next we are shown a sub-plot about son Tommy, who leads a revolt a-la Communism, trying to inspire the unemployed to march on city hall during this 1934 time of Great Depression. But dad is at a park bench nearby working on his sayings, and when he spots his boy Tommy trying to incite the riot, he stands at the edge of the crowd and heckles his son, and draws the crowd over to him. Cushing proceeds to give them a 'God Bless America' pep talk. A fight still ensues, and while son Tommy gets away without harm, pop Cushing is hurt badly in the fight, and taken to the hospital unconcious, and not expected to recover.

Will evil overcome good? Will Uncle Dudley lose his fight for life and his passion for making people laugh and learn? Will his shallow, good-times family reject him as an old fuddy-duddy? Will Ruth like Phil now that he has lots of money? Will you have enough hot buttered white kernel popcorn to get you through this wonderful family drama from the Great Depression year of 1934?