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The Boss

(1956 b 89')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Written by blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, a veteran marries a woman he does not love and replaces his dead brother as a political boss, hiring as his lawyer his best friend who married his love.

         In 1919 in a middle-class city soldiers parade in the street. Two soldiers resent the officer Matt Brady (John Payne). In a stand his brother Tim Brady (Roy Roberts) says Matt looks older. Matt tells Bob Herrick (William Bishop) he will say hello to Elsie Reynolds (Doe Avedon), and he embraces her.

         In a saloon Tim sits at a table and runs politics. He wants Matt to step into his shoes, but Matt is not eager. Bob says he may go to law school. Tim tells Matt he will do what he says. Bob laughs, and Matt hits him. They take off their coats and fight. Tim tells the manager not to break it up. Another soldier hits Matt, and Bob hits him. The fighting spreads as Matt and Bob sit and watch. Tim pushes them outside, and he tells Matt he wants to have a talk with him tomorrow.

         Matt and Bob have a drink. Bob tells Matt he has a future there with Tim. Matt says he had a date an hour and a half ago, and he tells Bob to come along to help explain. Matt knocks on the door; but Elsie does not open because he is drunk. Matt says he will break the door down. She comes out, and he says he wanted to ask her to marry him; but he changed his mind and leaves.

         Matt drinks at a bar. A man puts punchboard tickets on a woman’s table, and the bartender tells her they cost ten cents each. Drunk Matt comes to her defense and hits the bartender. He gives her the necklace prize and leaves with her. He asks her name, and she says she is Lorry Reed (Gloria McGehee). He says she works there, and she says she is not pretty enough. He says she is pretty, and he wants to marry her tonight. She says he is the brother of the alderman. She says she will not marry him, but he asks her what she has to lose. She says he will wake up and hate her for the rest of his life.

         Matt wakes up in bed and sees Lorry sleeping in the other bed. He remembers what she said and finds their marriage certificate.

         Matt tells Bob he married a beat-up alley cat, and he asks him to tell Elsie that he is sorry. Bob says he will have lunch with her instead of going to meet Lorry. Matt goes back to his room, and Lorry asks if he knows who she is. She says she tried to stop him. He says to forget it because it is done. A man knocks, and Matt lets Tim in. Matt says she is his wife. Tim says Matt’s trouble is his business. Matt tells him to stop handling his life. Tim says he will be divorced in two weeks, but Matt says there will be no divorce. He tells Tim to get out and pushes him against the wall. Tim leaves, and Matt cries. Lorry asks who Elsie is. She says she will let him out today; but if it is not today, she will keep him for the rest of her life. An employee comes in and tells Matt that his brother just dropped dead.

         Lorry listens on radio as Matt Brady is congratulated by the governor. People notice that his wife is never seen with him. Ernie Jackson (Joe Flynn) tells Matt that he lost his bank, but he has a farm. Matt offers to put him up for district commissioner. In the car a friend tells Matt that Ernie will be a good commissioner, but he won’t play ball with them.

         Police raid gamblers, and one man shoots at a cop. At his desk Matt warns him never to do that again. Matt gets the charges against Johnny Mazia (Robin Morse) dropped. Johnny offers to make a contribution, and Matt declines. Johnny advises him to bet on Primrose. Matt tells his assistant they will wait to see who is top dog and back them. Bob Herrick comes in, and Matt says he now has a lawyer. Matt gets a call from Stanley Millard and offers to take half the stock to save his brother’s cement business. Matt has Bob draw up the contract and tells him to take ten percent. Matt says not to tell Elsie about their business. Matt invites Bob and Elsie to dinner. Matt learns he made $13,000 on the horse bet.

         At home Matt calls in Lorry and gives her a present. He opens it and shows her diamond jewelry worth a hundred grand. She says she never goes out where she could wear them. He tells her to wear them tonight because they have company for dinner. She is surprised because they never had people in before. He tells her to make herself as pretty as she can.

         After dinner Matt offers Bob a cigar and brandy. Matt says Stanley Mallard is the town reformer. Matt does not like reform that is bad for business. Matt asks how they like Lorry’s diamonds. Elsie says she will not have such things. Matt gives her $20,000. Later Lorry tells Matt that she wants a divorce. She says he is in love with Elsie, who loves him. She asks for a divorce for her own sake because she cannot live without love. He says no, and she says she will hire a lawyer to get a divorce. He says he will not allow a divorce. She says he is fighting his brother’s ghost, and he slaps her. She says she is stronger than he is, and he had better get to know her. He threatens to commit her to an insane asylum if she tries to get a lawyer.

         Matt calls on Bob at his law office and asks him how Elsie likes the new house. Bob says she does not know where the money came from. Bob says the fire insurance companies raised their rates, and the companies want their money back. They asked Bob as insurance commissioner. Matt says they are entitled to it, and it is better not to fight the government.

         Matt calls on Stanley Millard (Rhys Williams) and refuses to shake his hand. His brother wants to sell his part of the cement business because Stanley is going to ruin him. Stanley says they have more crime in their city than schools and good things. Stanley says he will expose his corruption, and they will form a managerial form of government. Matt offers to contribute $1,000. Matt asks how much they want for their share of the cement business. He tells him to write down their price. Millard writes it, and Matt says he will mail a check.

         Matt tells Bob the figure is $200,000, and he says it is worth more. Brady’s machine controls the politics. Matt meets with the governor, who agrees to appoint whoever he says. Matt introduces Bob as the best attorney in the US. Matt says there are newspaper reporters downstairs, and the governor goes out the back way.

         Matt sits in the garden with Elsie, who asks him why he gambles so much. Bob comes out. Matt says someone else always walks off with the prize; Bob got Elsie. She tells Matt that Lorry loves him, and he should look at her. She goes in, and Bob says Matt was blackballed from the country club. Matt says he should have gone to college. He says he wanted somewhere for Lorry to go. Matt makes a call and plans sewage disposal by the country club. Bob says they will complain. Matt says he will have it condemned, and then he will build a highway over it.

         Matt gets a call that the stock market is crashing. Radio reports the worst day in Wall Street history. Matt gets a call and tells Barney he will get the money. Lorry comes in and says she heard. Matt says he is in trouble. Lorry is glad he told her, and she offers to help. She says they could help each other, and he agrees. She asks him to kiss her, but he pushes her away. She says she has value, but he has none at all.

         Bob tells Matt everyone is wiped out. He owes a half million dollars and cannot get a loan. Johnny comes in with his partner Lazetti. Matt says he is going to open up their territory, and he offers them 25% of the total. Matt asks for $200,000 in cash in the morning. Johnny says he will control all the police appointments. They shake hands and agree they will get along. Bob says he does not like it.

         At a political convention in a room Matt says they have the delegates, and they need the central valley dam project. Earl Bentley comes in and says it is a landslide. Matt says their delegation will hold out. Earl says he wanted it to be unanimous, and one of Matt’s men asks him to let them talk it over. Matt says he should have named the candidate for president himself.

         At a bar Bob tells Matt that the governor has to appoint a senator. Bob says he wants the job. Matt says he is not a politician. Bob asks who will fill it, and Matt says Ernie Jackson.

         At his office Johnny tells Matt his partner Lazetti was arrested in Hot Springs, and now he is not sure he won’t talk. Johnny says he is passing through town, and Matt says not to tell him any more about it. Matt says he does not want blood, just take Lazetti.

         Four men wait at the station for the train from Hot Springs. One pulls out a gun and tells the men to turn over Lazetti. They react, and he starts shooting. Several are killed.

         Johnny tells Matt it is bad, and Matt knocks him down. Matt tells Johnny he has 48 hours to turn in the man or it will be him. Matt drives a car and leaves Bob at his house, but men abduct him. Matt gets a call from Elsie who says Bob did not come home. Matt gets a call with a message from Johnny who wants to talk to him. Matt is told to go to his office at the cement works by himself.

         Matt comes into his office. Several men are there. Stanley Millard tells Matt that the police chief is going to restore law and order to the city. The chief offers to have two men guard Matt, who says to give them to Stanley who will need them.

         Matt goes to the cement business, and men take his gun away. Matt goes upstairs to his office where Johnny is waiting. Johnny tells him to take the heat off his boys, and he wants 75% of everything with protection. Matt agrees. Johnny says he gives all this for a pal and laughs. He would have settled for 50%. Johnny warns him not to double-cross him; he says he is the boss now. Matt asks when he gets Bob. Johnny says not until he knows he is not lying. Johnny goes out and sees his men under arrest. Johnny takes out a gun and shoots at a cop. Then he goes back in and shoots at Matt, missing. Johnny goes out another door. One of his men tries to run and is shot by a cop. Johnny shoots and goes up stairs. Matt follows him. Johnny is out of bullets, and Matt grabs him. Johnny falls to his death.

         A newspaper says that Millard is investigating to clean up corruption. Matt gets a call from Ernie, and Matt says he is an honest senator.

         Matt is indicted and holds a press conference. An older lawyer says that Matt will be acquitted, and then they will sue. Matt is confident that Bob will destroy their case on the stand.

         In the trial the prosecutor Millard calls Bob as a witness. Millard asks him about his meetings with him. Bob says insurance funds were released in exchange for a fee to Matt Brady. Matt says he never got anything. He goes up and shakes Bob, asking what he is doing to him. A newspaper headline says Brady is guilty.

         Lorry is packed and tells Matt she heard the news. She says she is leaving, and he says she has a life to lead. She says he lived in loneliness without her. She asks him to look at her, and he lets her kiss him. She says that Bob was never his friend; Elsie was never his love; and she was never his wife.

         In the final scene Matt is in prison and drops his cigar.

         This drama exposes the corruption of a political boss who wheels and deals to control political appointments and make money. The basic story reflects similarity to the Pendergast machine in Kansas City that appointed Harry Truman to the US Senate in 1934. Tom Pendergast went to prison for failing to pay income tax on a bribe he received to pay off gambling debts. In this drama Matt is shown as having a miserable marriage while he devotes his energy to politics and making money, showing how empty one’s life can be when one is only driven by ambition and greed.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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