Blue collar filmography

by Julia Lesage

from Jump Cut, no. 2, 1974, pp. 15-17
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1974, 2004

I gathered this filmography while preparing a course on the treatment of the working class in film and literature. I hope others will add to it. Working class figures can and do appear in any kind of film, often as comic relief, as gangsters, or as servants. When looking at the filmic treatment of a class not in control of the cultural apparatus, it is important not just to trace out the image of that group in film (Image of Women, Image of Blacks) but also to consider the kind of film styles used to treat that group (e.g. the American Indian is usually treated within the framework of the western) and the political implications of those styles.

In this introduction, I would like to point out a number of ways we can look at these films beyond just tracing out the “image” of the working class. The mainstream way of filming stories about working class characters has been the tradition of cinematic realism. In this tradition—which can be traced from Griffith through von Stroheim to the Italian neo-realists, and cinema verite, and which was championed by Andrea Bazin—the details of the characters’ environment are made very clear and are brought to our attention by the use of deep focus photography. “Realist” films about the lower classes bear a relation to literary naturalism. Both artistic traditions emphasize the struggle against a hostile environment and in both there is a certain pessimism as the main character usually strives only to end up defeated. It is particularly important to critique this way of treating the working class in political terms. These films depict class conflict only as it relates to a single individual’s “tragedy.” Obviously, films do not threaten the bourgeoisie if they just show how rough things are for the working class and always show that class as eternally defeated.

In contrast to this mainstream cinematic presentation of the working class are the films of the Russian Revolution, Dudow and Brecht’s KUHLE WAMPE, and some of Godard’s films. All these films represent the search for a revolutionary film style to correspond to revolutionary politics. Cuban filmmakers have also consciously worked to find a “revolutionary” style, but few Cuban films that show the working class are available in the United States.

Films with many actual work scenes are rare. In visual terms alone, manual labor is a more interesting subject to film than someone sitting behind a desk, talk -on a telephone. Yet we have more scenes in offices in film than factory scenes because power is shown to lie in offices, and the potential power of workers withdrawing their labor as in a strike is usually not shown. In feature films, we are often given one or two employment scenes only to show the gangster, singer, or sports figure’s proletarian origins and to indicate what that character is “rising” from. The proletarian world is tacitly acknowledged in many films, but class conflicts are displaced into stories of crime, love, motherhood, winning something, or making it on one’s own. In a film like JOE HILL, for example, Hill’s unionizing efforts come to an end because he takes a murder rap for a woman he once loved. We have many more films about the lumpen proletariat than the industrial proletariat, but, rather than include a long list of “lumpen” films here, I have added only a few of those that pay particularly close attention to the detailed depiction of milieu.

Women’s class position is not always clear. I was concerned in the course to present some picture of blue collar marriage. Again we can see displacement of class conflict in regards to women’s position in a film such as THE JAZZ SINGER, in which Mama (or the sister in any gangster film) stays in the ghetto, back home, while the male protagonist allies himself with a well-dressed, beautiful woman. In fact, the use of a certain type of female in feature films shows that beauty lets a woman rise in class, just as in real life a change in clothes or an attachment to a middle class man can hide a working woman’s class origin. A woman’s class position more often goes down than up. She cannot get as good a job as her father had if she is single; she marries into a husband’s class status; and, if her man dies or if they split up, she is usually poorer than before. The real-life Janie in Geri Ashur’s JANIE'S JANIE had a father who ran a business; then she descended slightly in class position by marrying a blue collar worker; and finally she had to go on welfare after their separation.

Other ways to use this filmography are to draw comparisons between documentary film portrayals of the working class and fictional ones; to examine the psychology and routine of everyday life, the problems of youth and the learning processes in a proletarian milieu. We should look at the kinds of working class militancy admitted into a film, strikes and unionizing efforts in particular, and notice how the film explains the processes of working class militancy (or more often presents its converse: working class despair). We should also note the way poverty is depicted—never presented as bad as it really is, yet also tacitly shown as inevitable, as some-thing about which nothing can be done (except in films from China). Films from the thirties are interesting for the degree to which they include or exclude or implicitly refer to the Depression.

In general we can analyze the political philosophies behind any film, and notice in particular the bourgeois ideology which focuses on the crises and the resolution of those crises in the life of a single individual, even when the problems and their resolutions can really only be explained in terms of a class as a whole. To give an example, William Wellman’s WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD shows ever increasing numbers of unemployed teenagers hitting the road in the thirties and living in shanty towns outside large metropolitan areas, but Wellman is forced to elaborate the resolution in terms of the main characters, and in honesty he can only present a solution for one of the three.

It is obvious that the working class does not control the cultural apparatus—yet in a course or film series on the working class and film, we are dependent on those films already in circulation. Students can understand the caveat not to accept a film’s depiction of a group as truth because they already know from experience how distorted the image of students is in film. In discussing the filmic presentation of the working class, students, blacks, women, American Indians, homosexuals, institutionalized people, and so forth, we can begin by picking any film—LOVE STORY, GATSBY, THE EXORCIST—and asking why that film would or would not be an appropriate vehicle for the treatment of any one of the above groups. It is effective to trace the image of oppressed groups in film but even more effective to trace out where they are not.
The following is obviously not exhaustive, but suggestive, and was compiled with 16mm availability in mind. While as up-to-date and accurate as possible, bookers should check before ordering. Distributor abbreviations are explained at the end.


THE BLUE COLLAR TRAP (1972), NBC Educational Enterprises.

THE CRY OF THE PEOPLE (Humberto Rios, 1972). A political history of Bolivia which shows the working conditions of the miners. Tri.

FACTORY (Evelyn and Arthur Barrons). An excellent documentary about alienated labor in a factory making love rings. Filmmaker’s Library.

FINALLY GOT THE NEWS (Bird, Gessner, Lichtman, Louis, 1970). Made with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers; good sequences of Detroit assembly lines; union struggles; organization of colleges to train youth for industry job slots. Tri.

THE INHERITANCE (Harold Mayer for Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America), Photographic documents of labor struggles in USA. McGraw.

INNER CITY DWELLER: WORK. A 19-minute depiction of urban worker get-ting job training, finding a job, and being laid off. Indiana U. A V Center.

THE KITCHEN (James Hill, 1961). Restaurant workers working in terrible conditions inside a “luxury” establishment; Marxist comment on the capitalist system. AB.

MOVIN’ ON (Harold Meyer for the United Transport Workers Union). One hour history of railroading. HM.

THE RISE OF LABOR. Similar to THE INHERITANCE. Encyclopedia Brit.

SEE YOU AT MAO (Godard, 1968). The opening sequence is a long tracking shot of an automobile assembly line; construction noises are at full volume. Grove.

THE STOCKYARDS: END OF AN ERA. On the closing of the Chicago Stockyards, black struggles in union, history of work there, ethnic neighborhoods. Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union.
WORK (Fred Wardenberg, 1970). A 15 min. film showing assembly line labor; provokes political analysis of alienated labor. Tri.


ADALEN 31 (Bo Widerberg, 1969). The 1931 dockyards strike and massacre brought the Socialists into power in Sweden. Idyllic picture of rural working class’ daily life and adolescent love predominate. FI.

THE ANGRY SILENCE (Guy Green, 1959). Strike in England. No one will talk to the “hero” who is anti-labor and will not walkout with the rest. Screenplay is by Brian Forbes. AB, Ideal, ROA’s.

BARREVENTO (Glauber Roche, 1961). Relation between strike and proletarian life on the Brazilian coast. Depiction of striking fishermen, black magic rituals, emotional relationships. NY.

BLACK FURY (Michael Curtiz, 1935). Strike is caused by unwitting coal miner. Violence escalates due to anti-labor provocateur, gangsters. UA 16.

THE COURAGE OF THE PEOPLE (Jorge Sanjines, 1971). Dramatic reconstruction of 1967 massacre of striking Bolivian tin miners. Tri.

JOE HILL (Bo Widerberg, 1971). Sentimental picture of labor organizer. FI.

I AM SOMEBODY (Madeline Anderson). Documentary of striking black hospital workers, mostly women, in Atlanta. McGraw.

LIKE A BEAUTIFUL CHILD (Harold Mayer). Strike and development of Drug and Hospital Workers Union in New York City. HM.

THE MOLLY MACGUIRES (Martin Rill, 1970). A secret rebel group in a coal mining community in Pennsylvania in the 1870’s. FI.

THE MOTHER (Pudovkin, 1926), Sentimental version of Gorky’s novel about an old woman who comes to militancy. Excellent action sequences. Typeage of class figures through details of clothing and physiognomy. MOMA.

THE ORGANIZER (Mario Monicelli, 1964). Mastroianni plays a tacky comic organizer, which is a low key way of getting the audience involved in the story of the first unionizing efforts in Italy. WR.

NOSOTROS VENCEREMOS (Jon Lewis, Spanish only). An 11 min. documentary, on the United Farm Worker’s struggles. Tri.

PACKINGTOWN, USA (Bill Adelman, 1969). A documentary showing the great meat strike of 1904 in Chicago. Agitation over Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle. University of IL., Champaign.

PEASANTS OF THE SECOND FORTRESS (Shinsuka Ogawa, 1971). Peasants, students, workers, and the filmmakers themselves join in a five year struggle to resist giving up land for a new international airport near Tokyo. Tri.

EL PROBLEMA DE LA CARNE (Mario Handler, 1968, Spanish only). A 20 min. documentary on imperialist control of the meat industry and the strike of packing house workers to keep company from closing due to competition from U.S.-owned meat factories. Tri.

SALT OF THE EARTH (Herbert Biberman, 1954). Still the best “strike” film. Semi-documentary recreation of Chicano zinc miners’ strike in which the wives of the workers play a large role. AB, Newreel.

THE STARS LOOK DOWN (Carol Reed, 1939). Strike in a Welsh mining town. Story of a coal miner’s son who marries the wrong woman and struggles to become an M.P.. MOMA.

STRIKE (Eisenstein, 1925). More class typeage; an especially unflattering view of the treacherous lumpen. Spectacular picture of state forces repressing working class’ struggles. AB, MOMA.

TOUT VA BIEN (Godard, 1972). Godard and Gorin’s return to commercial film production. Fonda and Montand play roles similar to themselves. A French journalist (Fonda) and a filmmaker of commercials (Montand) visit a sequestered labor boss in France and work out the details of their lives in a way less isolated from happenings in contemporary France. Much Brechtian humor in the film. NY.

VALLEY OF DECISION (Tay Garnett, 1945). Sentimental story of a millhand’s daughter (Greer Garson) and the owner’s son (Gregory Peck) falling in love during Pittsburgh organizing efforts of the 1870’s. FI.


KUHLE WAMPE (Slatan Dudow and Bertolt Brecht, 1932). Fragmented vignettes combine to make a political statement about working class potential in Germany, just before it was blocked by Fascism. AB.

THE LAST LAUGH (F. W. Murnau, 1924) Famous expressionistic treatment of working class life focusing on the fall and rise of a hotel doorman. Camera work by Carl Freund. Ivy.

METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang, 1927). Expressionistic architecture of the upper city, the huge machines, and the workers’ homes below. Visual treatment of alienated labor and the Massemench. Cop-out ending of the joining of the head and the heart (management and labor!). AB, Radim, EmGee.

PIGPEN (Pier Paulo Pasolini, 1969). Surreal portrayal of pigs eating the bourgeoisie. New Line.

POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925). Film classic showing class forces rather than the fate of an individual. MOMA, AB, Film Classics Exchange.

PRAVDA (Jean-Luc Godard and others, 1969). With sufficient preparation, a class can learn much from this film about revisionism in Czechoslovakia, Maoist thought (the audio track draws heavily from On Contradiction), and the politics behind film and TV imagery. Grove.

STRUGGLES IN ITALY (Godard and Gorin, 1969). Their most cohesive film on the working class, in which a young militant goes through the details of her daily life a number of times until she finally sees clearly her relation to the working class. At present only French and Italian versions are available. NY.


BRONCO BULLFROG (Barney Platts-Mills, 1970). Made with the cooperation of an East End youth club in Brighton, it shows London East End youths get-ting involved with an escapee from a reform school. NY.

491 (Vilgot Sjomen, 1963). A number of progressive films made in Sweden in the 60’s showed class conflict but never found distribution. This one shows juvenile delinquency and prostitution as resulting from class oppression. Ivy.

KES (Ken Loach, 1970). Boy in Northern England fights being “tracked” into a coal miner’s life by raising a baby hawk. UA 16.

THE LONLINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (Tony Richardson, 1963) Shows the class nature of the punishment of JD’s. WR.

NAKED HEARTS (Edward Luntz, 1967). Location shooting; story of French JD’s after they leave a reformatory. AB.

RAVEN'S END (Bo Widerberg, 1965). Portrayal of family life in Malmo, Sweden in the 30’s, especially tracing relations between an adolescent boy and his father. NY.

ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (Luchino Visconti, 1960). Unskilled youth go from impoverished farm to Milan. One becomes a boxer. AB.

THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS (IL POSTO; Ermanno Olmi, 1961). Alienated ex-perience of Italian youth in a big company. Romantic love episode. Ivy.

TAUW (Ousmane Sembene, 1970). 1/2 hour film on unemployed 20 year old young man in Dakar. Presents picture of generational/ religious conflict, and role of young women, as well. Tri.

WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (Wm. Wellman, 1933). Interesting 30’s film that presents a picture of hobo towns of jobless youth springing up during the de-pression in the US. UA 16.


L'ATALANTE (Jean Vigo, 1934). A beautiful portrait of a couple and the crew of a cargo boat on the Seine. Interestingly enough, when separated, the “helpless” woman finds a job and survives, while the man falls apart. AB

BITTER RICE (Guiseppe DeSantis, 1949). Migrant women laborers harvesting rice in Italy’s Po valley. AB.

GERVAISE (Rene Clement, 1956). Story of a scrubwoman’s struggle to climb out of poverty and how she sinks back in. From Zola. WR,

IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU (George Cukor, 1954). Working woman becomes famous for her name on a billboard. Twyman, AB.

JANIE'S JANIE (Geri Ashur, 1971). Woman who was a white working class wife kicked her husband out. Now on welfare, she describes her new-found militancy. Odeon.

A KIND OF LOVING (John Schlesinger, 1962). English youth marries the woman he gets pregnant. AB.

THE LEATHER BOYS (Sidney J. Furie, 1963). Blue collar English marriage; motorcycle gang and homosexuality theme. AB.

LUCIA (Humberto Solas, 1969). Epic Cuban film dealing with woman working in the second and third of three sections. Focus on the role of women in three stages of Cuban history (see review in this issue). Tri.

THE MARRYING KIND (George Cukor, 1952). Romanticized version of working class sexual politics as a couple each tell a divorce judge their story and then stay together. AB.

WEDDING IN WHITE (Bill Fruet, 1972). A young woman gets pregnant after she is raped by her brother’s friend. She is then forced by her father to marry one of the father’s drunken buddies, four times her age. Avco Embassy.


NANA (Dorothy Arzner, 1934). Based on Zola’s novel. AB, Sam Goldwyn 16.

MY LIFE TO LIVE (VIVRE SA VIE, Godard, 1963). Loosely based on Zola.

TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER (Godard, 1966). Prostitution becomes a metaphor for marriage and for the working class: selling one’s body for food and shelter and consumer goods. NY.

LOVE A LA CARTE (Antonio Pietrangelo, 1960). Neorealist comedy about four rebellious prostitutes who open a restaurant. AB.

MARKED WOMAN (Lloyd Bacon, 1937). See Charles Eckert’s excellent article on this film in Film Quarterly, Winter 73-74, where he demonstrates how the gangster motif is a displacement of class conflict. UA 16, Willoughby.

WATERLOO BRIDGE (Mervin LeRoy, 1940). Sentimental story; interesting to analyze from a working class perspective. FI.


Note: Almost all films about blacks in the U.S. or Europe take place in a working class milieu, due to blacks’ history of class oppression.

BLACK GIRL (Ousmane Sembene, 1969). Class portrayal of white middle class family taking a black servant from Dakar to Nice. Sembene shows her exploitation, total personal alienation, suicide, and the white couple’s false consciousness of what they did to her. NY.

EDGE OF THE CITY (Martin Ritt, 1957). John Cassevetes and Sidney Poitier in the story of two youths working in a railroad yard and the conflicts that arise because the black friend is superior to the other. FI.

HALLELUJAH (King Vidor, 1928). Early creative use of sound in films. Portrayal of rural black milieu. The film seems stereotypical now, but was originally banned in many areas for “frank” portrayal of black life. Emphasis on emotion. FI.

THE LEARNING TREE (Gordon Parks, 1969). Picture of a black family in Kansas in the 1920’s, based on Parks’ autobiographical novel. Motion Sound.

NOTHING BUT A MAN (Michael Rohmer, 1964). Southern black railroad worker marries and settles in a small town, where he cannot accept the racism. AB.

THE PASSENGERS (Annie Tresgot, 1968-71). Cinema verite portrayal of Algerian emigrant labor problems, racism, and alienation in Paris. Tri.

THE STORY OF A THREE DAY PASS (Melvin Van Peebles, 1967). Black G.I. and a young white French saleswoman have a weekend at the seashore. This is the first major feature made by a black American director. Made in France. AB.


LA BETE HUMIAINE (Jean Renoir, 1938). This film about railroaders used to be available from AB. I hope they will re-release it.

GOING DOWN THE ROAD (Donald Shebib, 1970). An excellent portrayal of working class youth in Canada. Two youths go from the sticks to the big city and get jobs unloading cases of empty bottles. One gets married; both lose their jobs. New Cinema Enterprises, 25 Britain St., Toronto.

IL GRIDO (Antonioni, 1957). Unemployed factory worker wanders through the Po valley. Portrait of his alienation and the proletarian milieu in the valley. McGraw.

LE JOUR SE LEVE (Marcel Carne, 1939). A disastrous love triangle is played out against the background of working class Paris. Ivy, Janus.

RAICES (ROOTS, Benito Alizraki, 195?). Four short stories about Mexico. Indians, youth, and sexual politics. McGraw.

SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Karel Reisz, 1960). Young factory worker rebels briefly against the sterile life that lies before him. WR.

SONS AND LOVERS (Jack Cardiff, 1960). Film version of D.H. Lawrence’s early novel about growing up in a mining town. FI.

TONI (Jean Renoir, 1934). A psychological portrait of immigrant laborers doing construction work in rural France. In cinematic terms, this film pioneered in the use of deep focus cinematography. McGraw.

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (Sidney Lumet, 1962). Adapted from Arthur Miller’s play, this film examines family life and sexual politics in an Italian immigrant family of dockworkers in New York.


ACCATONE (Pasolini, 1960). Picture of alienated young man, slum life, Italian youth, and the Roman underworld. AB.

THE BICYCLE THIEF (Vittorio De Sica, 1948). The most artfully crafted of the neo-realist films, it shows one man’s desperate need for employment. His bicycle, upon which his job as a poster hanger depends, is stolen. The search for it takes us through Rome’s working class milieu. AB.

THE BIG CITY (Carlos Diegues, 1966). Fictional treatment of urban life in modern Brazil. NY.

BLACK ORPHEUS (Marcel Camus, 1958). A Brazilian bus conductor is Orpheus in this lovers’ tragedy set in the favelas of Rio. Janus

CATHY COME HOME (Ken Loach, 1969). A semi-documentary about the process whereby the poor become homeless and lose their children. Excellent portrayal of the problems facing a welfare mother. Time Life.

CAMPAMENTO (Tom Cohen and Richard Pearce, 1972). An half hour documentary which depicts the unalienated labor of slum dwellers who rebuild their own village in Allende’s Chile. Tri.

COOL WORLD (Shirley Clark, 1964). Cinema verite story set in Harlem, where a gang of boys want to get a gun. OSTI.

THE CROWD (King Vidor, 1928). A man falls from a desk job to the streets. A family melodrama. FI.

CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY (Zoltan Korda, 1952). Adaptation of Alan Paton novel with location shooting in Johannesburg slums. AB.

CRY OF THE CITY (Robert Siodmak, 1940). New York City lowlife. FI. Compare this film to Josef von Sternberg’s UNDERWORLD (1927). MOMA.

THE GIVEN WORD (Anselmo Duarte, 1962). Brazilian farmer in Northern Brazil carries a huge cross to the church to save his sick donkey. The priest refuses him entry and the working class in the town rally to his support. AB.

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MATTHEW (Pasolini, 1964). Christ is a revolutionary telling off the Jewish priests for their class privileges, so they turn him over to the Romans. AB.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION (Maurice Bailen, 1934). A 15 min. documentary about a man seeking employment in downtown Chicago. Center Cinema Co-op.

GREED (Von Stroheim, 1923). What class do we call someone who rises from shoving cars in a mine to a self-made dentist and down again to unemployment—-petit bourgeois? Von Stroheim’s eye for the life of the poor puts this film on any list of films on the working class. FI.
THE JOYLESS STREET (G. W. Pabst, 1925). Early German “realist” film which dealt with the despair of the poor and near-poor in inflation-ridden Germany. See also THE LOVE OF JEANNE NEY (1927) and THE THREE-PENNY OPERA (1931). The latter film differs drastically from Brecht’s play. AB.

A MAN'S CASTLE (Frank Borzage, 1933). Love flourishes among the unemployed in a shack by New York’s East River, but our hero turns to crime when his wife becomes pregnant. Columbia.

MIRACLE IN MILAN (Vittorio De Sica, 1950). Urban poverty solved by strange happy ending. AB.

LOS OLVIDADOS (THE YOUNG AND THE DAMNED, Buñuel, 1950). Buñuel characteristically presents a pessimistic view of working class perversions—-an interesting rejection of liberal idealism. See also his NAZARIN (1958), VIRIDIANA (1961), and TRISTANA (1970). All four distributed by AB.

THE PAWNBROKER (Sidney Lumet, 1965). A part of this film deals with Harlem life and a Puerto Rican employee. AB.

THE PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson, 1959). Many of Bresson’s films, like Buñuel’s take place in a poor milieu with a generally pessimistic outlook on the future of the characters. See also his AU HAZARD BALTHAZAH (1966). Both distributed by NY.

STRANGERS IN THE CITY (Rick Carrier, 1962). Puerto Ricans in New York’s barrio. The boy is beaten by a gang and loses his job; the girl is raped by her employer and becomes a prostitute. AB

UMBERTO D (Vittorio De Sica, 1952). The poverty of the old who have only a pension to life on. James.


(Many of the other films are melodramas too.)

THE AGITATOR (John Harlow, 1945). Socialist agitator inherits the factory upon the employer’s death. Janus.

LA BELLE EQUIPE (J. Duvivier, 1936). Five unemployed workers unsuccessfully attempt to pool resources to get a music hall running. AB.

THE COMMON TOUCH (John Baxter, 1941). “Youth inherits business and poses as a tramp to save a dosshouse from demolition.” (British Film Catalogue) Ivy.

FORTUNE LANE (John Baxter, 1947). “Gardener’s son cleans windows to achieve ambition to drive train.” (Brit. Film Cat.) UNIV 16.

HEROES FOR SALE (W. Wellman, 1933). War hero goes down then up, then down again. This was an early story to deal with heroin addiction. A strike drags the protagonist under, but he still dedicates himself to the poor. UA 16.

OF MICE AND MEN (Lewis Milestone, 1940). Steinbeck’s famous portrayal of lumpen. Other lumpen films are TOBACCO ROAD, MAN WITH A GOLDEN ARM, ACCATTONE. McGraw.

ON THE WATERFRONT (Kazan, 1954). Corruption on the docks. Bad politics. AB.

SATURDAY'S CHILDREN (Vincent Sherman, 1940). A family descends from middle class status. UA 16.

THE SHIPBUILDERS (John Baxter, 1943). “Clydeside shipbuilder and a loyal riveter fight to keep Britain a seapower.” (Brit. Film Cat.) Ivy.
STAND IN (Tey Garnett, 1937). On Hollywood film industry proletariat. AB.

THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (Raoul Walsh, 1940). Bogart and Lupine in truck drivers’ crime story. The end is a courtroom melodrama. UA 16.


A NOUS LA LIBERTE (Rene Clair, 1932). Comedy which traces the uneven fortunes of pals who escape from prison—one becoming the employee of the other. McGraw.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR (Dusan Majavejev, 1967). Also listed as LOVE AFFAIR, it is a spoof on sexual politics, science, and the lowest of jobs—rat catcher—in a Socialist country. AB

THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (Sam Wood, 1941). Department store employees get together and don't realize owner is in their midst acting as one of them. They convert him. Budget Films.

THE HAWKS AND THE SPARROWS (Pasolini, 1965). Humorous jaunt of working class young man and father to the big city accompanied by a crow who talks revolution and whom they eventually kill and eat. AB.

HEAVEN'S ABOVE (John Boulting, 1963). Minister converts factory owner to idea of wealth sharing. AB.

I'M ALL RIGHT, JACK (John Boulting, 1960). Hero cannot make it as a management trainee so he becomes an inept and over-sincere laborer. AB, McGraw, ROA’s.

LOVES OF A BLONDE (Milos Forman, 1965). Young Czech woman escapes from regimented life in a state dormitory and factory labor to run off to the big city seeking romance. Witty look at Eastern European myths of personal fulfillment through labor. AB.

LE MILLION (Rene Clair, 1931, AB) and MODERN TIMES (Chaplin, 1936, Cinema Arts). Of the comedies dealing with working class life, Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES has a more consistent class perspective than A NOUS LA LIBERTE. Clair’s films deal with the rags to riches theme. Chaplin’s shorts, such as THE IMMIGRANT, THE FLOORWALKER, and EASY STREET, are usually from the point of view of a working class protagonist, which fact endeared Chaplin to people all over the world. Even Brecht could admire Chaplin’s work, not seeing in audience identification with Chaplin’s characters the same pitfalls as in identifying with any melodramatic character.

ROSIE THE RIVITER (1944). Jane Frazee was the star of a number of B musicals made during the forties by Republic. This one was designed to appeal to the working woman, and in many cities there were midnight shows to draw those women coming off the evening shift. Ivy.

ultimate rejection of socialist realism. Jokes about sex, Russia, and the U.S.—to name a few. Cinema Five.


APPLAUSE (Rouben Mamoulian, 1929). American picture of the entertainer as proletariat and of the way we purchase women entertainers’ bodies—to look at if not to possess. A good companion piece to Dorothy Arzner’s DANCE, GIRL, DANCE (1940). WR.
THE BLUE ANGEL (Josef von Sternberg, 1929, McGraw) and
VARIETY (E. A.Dupont, 1925, Radim, MOMA, AB). Two German views of the performer’s milieu. Here the “lower class” environment is presented as a way to criticize bourgeois mores and values.

EVEL KNIEVEL (Marvin Chomsky, 1970), High school dropout becomes a working class hero—a motorcycle stuntman. Story told in flashbacks. See article in this issue of JUMP CUT. AB.

THE GREAT WHITE HOPE (starring James Eats Jones, 1970, FI) and a 90 min. documentary JACK JOHNSON (Wm. Clayton, 1970, AB). Story of black boxer who was forced into exile in 1910.

JUNIOR BONNER (Sam Peckinpah, 1972). Rodeo story starring Steve Mc-Queen. FI.

KANSAS CITY BOMBER (Jerrold Freedman, 1972). Roller skating movie starring Raquel Welch. FI.

THE LAST AMERICAN HERO (Lamont Johnson. 1973). See article in this issue. FI.

THIS SPORTING LIFE (Lindsay Anderson, 1963, WR). Portrayal of athletics as a proletarian existence. The film combines excellent cinematography with a profound psychological portrait of two mismatched lovers. Compare this film with others on the proletarianization of athletes, such as JIM THORPE: ALL AMERICAN (Michael Curtiz, 1951, AB) or SATURDAY'S HERO (David Miller, 1961, Columbia).

12. AT WAR

BATTLE OF CULLODEN (Peter Watkins, 1964). A picture of the insanity of war. Hand held, eye level camera follows private soldiers in battle; “You are there” style TV news narration. Time Life.

KAMMERADSCHAFT (G.W.Pabst, 1930) and his WESTFRONT 1918 (1931). Two German social realist films about WWI. In the first, a mining disaster brings German and French miners together. AB, MOMA.

THE PEOPLE AND THEIR GUNS (Joris Ivens, 1970). Documentary by famous radical filmmaker on the revolutionary forces in Laos. Imperial Entertainment.


I WAS A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (Mervyn Le Roy, 1932). Paul Muni tries many ways to live outside the chain gang, saying finally, “I will steal to live.” UA 16.

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (Fritz Lang, 1937). Eddie and Joan are modeled on Clyde and Bonnie Barrow. Eddie is kept from working during the Depression. He is accused of a crime, is on the run, and is finally shot by the authorities. There is a false happy ending in heaven. This is the first in the long line of proletarian chase films, such as BONNIE AND CLYDE, THIEVES LIKE US, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. AB.

THEY LIVE BY NIGHT ( Nicholas Ray, 1949). Forerunner of THIEVES LIKE US, i.e. adapted from the same novel. FI.

VANISHING POINT (Richard Serafian, 1971). A young man drives a car ceaselessly across the country. The background is a sensitive portrait of small town working class people. FI.


For additional information on documentaries, consult the catalogues of NET, The Urban League, and the Canadian National Film Board. Also useful are the following:

UAW Educational Publications Department, “Catalogue of Documentary Films on Labor.” 8000 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, Michigan, 48214.

AFL/CIO, “Films for Labor,” Pamphlet Division, 815 16th Street, NW, Washington,. DC, 20006.

“Films for Trade Union Groups,” University of Illinois, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, 504 E. Armory Ave., Champaign, Illinois.

List of films available for rental, plus a pamphlet, “The Creative Use of Films in Education,” Duane Beeler, Labor Education Division, 430 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60605.


AB: Macmillan/Audio Brandon; FI: Films Inc.; Grove: Grove Press; HM: Harold Meyer Productions; McGraw: Contemporary/McGraw Hill; MOMA: Museum of Modern Art (New York); NY: New Yorker Films; Tri: Tercentennial Film Center; UA 16: United Artists Corp.; UNIV 16: Universal Films; WR: Walter Reade 16; Willoughby: Willoughby Peerless.


I wish to thank Bill Hintz, Effie Landes, and Donn Gunn of the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle’s Instructional Resources Center for their help in preparing this filmography.