Have you ever needed a middleman? Someone who can take the fall, or someone who can make you look good? While the term “middleman” is generally frowned upon, the concept is often used. From spokespersons to pinch hitters, stand-ins or proxies are a natural part of society. Most of the time, a proxy is used to fill a gap in capability, be it actual talent or a physical presence. Of course, proxies are only good if you are aware they are being used. If a proxy is being used by someone else to further their agendas, there’s a good chance that you won’t like the outcome when you find out. As such, a proxy can be a great theme to use in movies because it automatically creates some interesting drama. This week’s two movies highlight proxies.
The Hudsucker Proxy
Length: 111 minutes / 1.85 hours
If the title of this movie didn’t automatically give away why it’s included in this week’s set of movies, I don’t know what else would. In this situation, the proxy is for someone who has recently died. Dead men tell no tales, so it’s no wonder that they would need a spokesman to convey their final wishes. Of course, perhaps this proxy is a fall guy, someone to take the blame for the whole group. There are many meanings that can be associated to a proxy, and any combination in-between. The Hudsucker Proxy is a comedic look at a situation where a proxy has far too much power, and really doesn’t know what to do with it.
Of course, in order to know what the Hudsucker Proxy is, you need to know who Hudsucker is. Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning) was a successful businessman. I say “was” because he decided to take a vacation to the “big boardroom in the sky.” Fortunately for Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), who has just obtained a job in the mailroom of Hudsucker Enterprises, he’s put in charge of delivering a letter with Hudsucker’s final wishes written inside. Unfortunately for Norville, Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) sees an opportunity to use Norville as a patsy so that he can take control of the Hudsucker empire. However, in doing so, Mussburger ends up fulfilling Hudsucker’s final wishes, and the Hudsucker Proxy is put in control.
Singin’ in the Rain
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours
Perhaps the most famous version of a proxy is a pinch hitter. Most of the time, a pinch hitter is used in baseball in order to keep the pitcher from getting injured while playing offense. And yet, it could also be filling in a gap in capability. If a pitcher is really good at pitching, he spends all his time refining his craft, which means that other skills (like hitting) may not be as strong. Where am I going with this, you might ask? Well, let’s say you have an actress who acts well on the silent screen, but once sound comes around, has a terrible and grating voice. You need a vocal pinch hitter.
Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect example of a vocal pinch hitter. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are great actors in their own right on the silent screen. However, with the advent of sound, their newest film has decided to be a musical. Don’s got no problem carrying a tune, but Lina couldn’t find pitch in a wet paper bag. So, what would any schedule strapped production company do? That’s right, they dub over Lina’s singing with the vocal talents of Kathy Selden (Debbie Renyolds). Things are going great until Lina eventually learns that she is merely the physical proxy for Kathy’s voice.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stand-ins