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#125. Streets of New York

New York City is known for many things, but the two prominent realms that dominate the metropolis are those of finance and theatre. Between the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan run the streets of New York. There’s constant movement on these streets that drives the city forward toward its goals. For some, it’s the get-rich-quick allure of Wall Street and the fast-paced environment of the stock market. For others, it’s a night out on the town, taking in a play or musical on 42nd Street. And yet, there is much that goes on behind the scenes on these famous streets. The drama of high-stakes, all-in mentalities in both worlds drives people either to greatness or to ruin. Both streets have their perks, but at what cost to a person’s soul? This week’s two films look at what goes on in the two realms of the streets of New York City.

Wall StreetWall Street
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms: greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

This quote by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street sums up the main drive of those who work on the eponymous financial district of New York. The greed for money drives a lot of what we do in life. It drives our decisions on where we work, who we know, and where we live. The human condition does not allow us to be satisfied, but rather to always want more out of life.  I guess that’s why people can relate with the above quote so well and why the underlined portion was ranked as #57 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movie quotes.

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) needs to be as clever and sly as one if he plans to make it to the top of Wall Street. When an opportunity presents itself for Bud to meet up with his idol, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), he jumps at the chance to show Gordon what he’s got. Unfortunately, Gordon is not impressed with Bud’s stock pitches. That is, until Bud reveals a bit of insider information about a small airline where his father Carl (Martin Sheen) works as a mechanic foreman. Gekko starts to give Bud more power and influence, but a simple betrayal through one of Bud’s ideas (again with his father’s airline) causes Bud to learn a hard lesson about his mentor. Despite getting caught for insider trading, Bud decides that he needs to set things right and he embarks on a plan to embarrass Gordon as well as bring some karmic realignment toward the stock market shark.

42nd Street42nd Street
Year: 1933
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

“You’re going out a youngster but you’ve got to come back a star!”

This quote (also one of AFI’s top 100 quotes at #87) shows another, similar side of the risks taken on the streets of New York: the risk of fame. While the stock market is always going to have some element of risk, when one sets out to become famous on the stage, they often risk everything in order to make it or break it. Many dreams have been crushed because of the harsh world that exists behind the scenes on 42nd Street. Often, practice isn’t enough to become a star, and it takes a bit of talent and a lot of luck in order to be successful on this street. But it’s not just your fame that’s on the line; it’s the efforts of everyone else who has worked on a production that lie in the fate of a simple performance. So much is on the line that runs down 42nd street.

In the aftermath of the stock market crash of the aforementioned Wall Street (which led to the Great Depression), a new musical by the name of Pretty Lady is being directed by Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter). Even though he’s the best director, he’s liable to have a complete nervous breakdown if the show doesn’t go as planned. After casting Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) in the leading role, the rest of the chorus is filled in with the likes of Ann Lowell (Ginger Rogers) and Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), the latter of which is inexperienced, but attracts the attention of some of the other chorus girls, as well as Billy Lawler (Dick Powell). Even after five weeks of rehearsals, the unexpected happens when Dorothy breaks her ankle, causing everyone to put their hope in Peggy, who Julian trains ruthlessly all the way up until opening curtain. But once that curtain rises, get ready for 20 minutes of musical greatness!

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 risky realms on New York streets


7 responses to “#125. Streets of New York

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