Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {The Wheeler Dealers}

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From 1963, The Wheeler Dealers is a prime example of the art of Gamesmanship, which is an essential skill to those who follow Stephen Potter's teachings of One-upmanship. What exactly is Gamesmanship? Well, it's the art of winning without actually cheating. Everyone would like to win when playing the game of life, but sometimes one can't do it by being entirely honest. And that's where Gamesmanship comes in.
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James Garner plays Henry Tyroone, a wheeler dealer from Texas. Actually, he's from Boston and went to Yale but if he says he's from Texas and he has the accent then people naturally assume he has pots of money.
Henry is a very successful wheeler dealer, because he always thinks of a way for the taxman to take most of the loss of whatever business venture he thinks of. He believes that "you wheel and deal for fun, money's just the way you keep score".
Henry's had a string of bad luck with his oil wells this year and his accountant sends him to New York in order to pick up 1.2 million in "shopping money" or else he'll go broke. And rich men can't afford to go broke.
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These are Henry's buddies: Ray Jay, Jay Ray and J.R. They live on an airplane and follow Henry around in order to get a piece of the action.
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After raising some money from some investors that owe him a favour, Henry goes to see Mr. Bear on Wall Street in order to see about investing in the stock market. Now, it just so happens that Bear's firm is losing money and he has to let go of some of their worthless stocks and one of their analysts. He's decided to give the Universal Widget stock account to Molly (Lee Remick) and to give her a month to do something with Widget and then he'll have an excuse to fire her.
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Molly is also practising gamesmanship, or at least trying to. Since she wants girls to be accepted on Wall Street, she wears boxy suits with bow ties in order to show that she's serious but she also wear pastel colours in order to show that she's still a girl.
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Guess which analyst Mr. Bear introduces to Henry.
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So now Henry has two missions in New York: raise the money and get together with Molly. Will he be able to do it?
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He starts by giving Molly two dozen roses and she starts by taking him to one of those chic French restaurants where you spend three hours at the bar before you get a table.
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Henry finds this set up interesting and he manages to get a table by speaking Italian to the head waiter. He then disappears for a few days.
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He then takes Molly to the same restaurant, which he has now bought.
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He also doubled the size of the bar, since it was more profitable then the restaurant.
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Molly just can't quite make Henry out.
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So she takes him to one of those pretentious post-modern art gallery openings.
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Henry can't quite figure the paintings out. Until he sees the asking price.
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He then meets the artist, who is also another wheeler dealer and the artist tells Henry that he can make a nice profit by investing in collecting paintings. Henry and the artist then disappear for a few days.
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Check out the hair dryer that Molly's room mate is using to set her hair while vacuuming.
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I like this robe, but you will have noticed that Molly's wardrobe is very business-like and not very revealing. That because she's working in the man's world and has to dress in order to blend in. Plus, she's not considering marriage and that's not normal for 1963.
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Henry and the artist have been buzzing around Europe, picking up German Expressionists in order to display them in a museums and get a deduction on their taxes, until Henry thinks the time is right to sell.
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Molly still can't figure Henry out.
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Meanwhile the boys show up to get in on the action with the German Expressionists.
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Henry and Molly finally decided to take a look at the Universal Widget site in order to see what kind of prospects an investment would have. It burned to the ground in the 19th century.
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They go to see Mr. Wimple, the president of the Universal Widget company and he says that the only reason why they are still a company is in order to avoid paying taxes on the AT&T stock they bought in 1899.
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Even in the country, Molly still has to wear boxy suits, of course she is in the country on business.
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Henry tells Molly that he will help her sell the worthless Widget stock in order to make her a success on Wall Street and encourage other girls to become stock analysts if she agrees to come to Texas to be his assistant for six months.
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They get started on the drive make to New York.
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Henry then goes to see two P.R. men in order to get the word about Widget out. What exactly is a widget? Who cares.
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The boys at the club are pleased to see that people are finally taking an interest in Widget.
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John Astin (pre Gomez) works for the Federal Security Commission and he doesn't like the sudden rise that Widget has been making and he's going to investigate for fraud.
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Meanwhile, Jay Ray, Ray Jay and J.R. go to see Mr. Bear in order to get Molly fired because they think she'll be happier in Texas and married to Henry.
So, Molly gets fired and her registration as an analyst revoked, for which she blames Henry. She then finds out that Henry is really from Boston and went to Yale.
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Her room mate then suggests that she get her revenge.
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Notice how once she's been removed from the man's world of business, she's allowed to wear something sexy.
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So, what happens to Molly and Henry? And what does John Astin's investigation turn up?

The Wheeler Dealers used to only available on an old VHS copy, which is why my screen caps look washed out. However, The Wheeler Dealers was just released yesterday on a multi-region DVD as part of the expensive Warner Archive collection.

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