“I Can Get It For You Wholesale” (1951) provides stellar performances, crackling dialogue, and a smattering of New York City shooting locations to set us right down in the vibrant pace of post-war business. What it does not give us, or at least some of us, is a satisfactory ending. That, of course, will depend entirely upon your point of view, but for my money, the leads play their roles so well that I believe them. Most of their time together is spent at variance. To tack on a reconciliation and promise of future happiness together seems nice—for other people. For them, it is the only unnatural aspect to this terrific movie.
We celebrate Labor Day today, just as we did last year, in New York’s 7th Avenue “Garment District” as it was when most of the clothing we wore in the US was actually made here.
“It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955), was a performer, often a song-and-dance man in musicals, who achieved greater depth in his acting than fellow, more famous, song-and-dance-men. As a dramatic actor, he is a natural, as he is here in the role of a charming, fast-talking salesman for a dress manufacturer.
He has favors in every pocket, a ready smile, and a joke appropriate to any kind of well-heeled buyer, from the genteel and savvy Vicki Cummings who plays Hermione, to the smarmy Harry von Zell, who likes to finger the female models in the dresses.
Dailey is more than hail-fellow-well-met, however. We see he has his serious and sensitive side, particularly when it comes to Susan Hayward.
He joins the team, and they begin a curious relationship. He is taken aback by her blunt avarice and unladylike drive to get ahead, and yet he is also attracted by it, or by something about her. I’m not sure what. In an interesting scene that seems to symbolize their partnership, she taunts him for being afraid to take a chance on starting a new business. She tucks a bill into his breast pocket to pay for their cab, part challenge and part insult. When, in his own attempt at a power play, he kisses her, he pulls back and reaches for his handkerchief from that pocket to wipe her lipstick off his mouth—but pulls out the bill instead. He looks at it, smirks, and wipes her lipstick off his mouth with her money.
Even Dan Dailey, who joins forces with her in a huge leap of faith to conquer the garment industry, imparts this double standard when she takes Harry von Zell out for drinks. Dailey barges in on them, this man who has just scored a date for von Zell like a pimp, belts von Zell for cozying up to his lady partner.
“Because I’m a man and you’re supposed to be a lady.”
This just because Hayward will get the money to put up for her share of the business by duping out her sister of her inheritance from their father’s insurance policy. All in a day’s work.
Lane tells Jaffe, “You want to take your wife to Jones Beach? Take my Buick!”
His partner offer, “Take my Cadillac!”
His other partner chimes in, “Take my wife!”
In the end, they generously give them a month’s severance and their best wishes. There is as much camaraderie in the garment district as competition.
“Middle of the Night” (1959) which we covered last Labor Day, we do see a lot of the cutting rooms and workers in different departments, the diverse army that makes up a company. The receptionist, who is the boss’s daughter just out of business college. The office boy, played by adenoidal Marvin Kaplan, whose comical deadpan whine brings gossip and complaints.
But counteracting that, and not always in a good way, this movie is a kind of fable—not about labor, but about boy meets girl. And then girl meets George Sanders.
I wonder if she finished her fruit cup before Mr. Sanders began his speech.
Which is fine for Susan Hayward, because she regards marriage as a trap and seems well suited to George Sander’s arrangement.
Which is why the ending (careening into spoiler here, close your eyes), seems to fall so flat with Dailey and Hayward making up one more time for what we are assured with be permanent. They will likely marry because they are both in love with each other and Susan has discovered that a promising career cannot match the fulfillment of True Love.
Fine, for another characters, but not these. Hayward is so riveting in her performance we have no reason not to believe her when we see her greatest happiness coming from her business success and not from cuddling with Dan Dailey. She is willing to destroy their business just to get out of her contract so she can work with Sanders.
For his part, Dailey is genuine in his agony about being in love, against his better judgment, with Hayward, who is so hard and determined to shut him out romantically. When he finally becomes so disgusted with her that he’d rather scuttle their business than take whatever crumbs she may throw their way from her new partnership with Sanders—we have no reason to believe he’ll ever want her back as a business partner or anything else.
We expect anything but for her to look contrite at this stage.
Other incidentals: Some great outdoor location shots in the city and Central Park.
Instead of selling “like hotcakes” a dress is said to be selling “like uranium”.
Hayward’s savvy appraisal of a gown, “The only place a woman can wear a gown like that is in a perfume ad.”
Another observation by a model, “The men like it, but the women know you can’t sit down in it.”
George Sanders remarks on a particularly provocative gown, “I thought it had a certain flare.”
Hayward replies, “But it wouldn’t on a hanger. The model brought her flare with her.”
We are accustomed to seeing much smoking in classic films, but it cracked me up to see a model smoking while being pinned into a dress by Susan Hayward.
Have a look here at Farran Nehme’s swell post on "I Can Get it For You Wholesale" from a few months ago over at Self-Styled Siren.
And Happy Labor Day.