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The Power and the Prize

(1956 b 98')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Adapted from Howard Swigett’s novel, a vice chairman of a big company is sent to London to negotiate a take-over of a project; but he falls in love with a European refugee, and the take-over strategy fails. He returns to New York and tries to resolve things.

         At Amalgamated World Metals in his office Cliff Barton (Robert Taylor) is talking on the phone to Joan Salt (Nicola Michaels) about their coming wedding on Saturday, but he is interrupted by his boss, George Salt (Burl Ives), about an upcoming mining deal. Salt calls Cliff and others into his office for a meeting about their West African project. Cliff explains that they plan to make a deal with the British company Carew that has a new coal-smelting process. Salt tells Cliff that he is going to England this week to negotiate their investing $40 million in their mining project. Others leave, and Cliff complains to Salt that he was planning to marry his niece that weekend. Salt explains that she will be a good wife for him in his public life with the company. Salt says she has to find out now that what is good for the company is good for her. Cliff asks why they have to move so fast, and Salt says that he expects Cliff to succeed him as chairman. Salt says this is a big prize that he can pull off and get others to fear him. Salt asks Cliff to send in Chutwell (Ben Wright).

         Lester Everett (Richard Erdman) is quarreling with his wife Elia who is upset that he is going to London. Cliff comes in and eases the situation by flattering her.

         Cliff rides in a cab with his father, Rev. John Barton (Cameron Prud’Homme), and they talk about wives. John says he is praying that Cliff will never meet the woman besides Joanie that he would really like to marry.

         Cliff is having dinner with the Salts, and Mrs. Salt (Mary Astor) asks him to check into a charity she contributes to in England for artistic refugees from central Europe. Joan says she did not know that Cliff was going to London and asks when. George says he is going tomorrow. Joan acts as if it does not matter about her wedding.

         George instructs Cliff to limit his negotiation to costs, giving them a low figure. Then on the last day he is to tell the English that their American company must own the project. Cliff wonders what his father would think of this. George says the men who run the world are not limited by the ten commandments.

         Cliff has arrived in London and meets Mr. Carew (Cedric Hardwicke) and his associate Pitt-Semphill, who helps Cliff to find that charity. Carew talks about their new process and says he likes Cliff. Carew says the English have pride even though they have blundered half an empire away. Carew apologizes for his chauvinism.

         Cliff calls Salt and says he is concerned about their strategy, but Salt says the English are swindlers. Cliff meets with Carew and Pitt-Semphill who is concerned about costs. Cliff says he is busy on the weekend. Everett tells Cliff to come into Chutwell’s office to learn about the charity. Chutwell says that the lady refugees have extra talents in entertaining. He advises Cliff not to go to Mrs. Linka because she is a Communist. Chutwell invites Cliff to join them with three ladies. Cliff declines, and Chutwell feels snubbed.

         Cliff finds the Artists Refugee Organization is on the fifth floor, and the lift is not working. He climbs the stairs, knocks on the door, and walks in. Miriam Linka (Elisabeth Müller) is sitting behind a desk. She knows he is a millionaire and gets him to give her a pack of cigarettes. She says they find work for refugee musicians, but they get them menial jobs. Cliff is concerned they are shaking down rich Americans by masquerading as a charity. She resents this. A worker comes in, and Miriam tells Cliff that the rumors are true because the women have little choice. Cliff writes a check for $1,000 to contribute to the legitimate work. She says he is doing it to feel better. Miriam admits she is a nasty person. He asks for her report, but she says it may not be done on the next day which is Saturday.

         In their room Everett finds Cliff reading a book on Mozart. Everett asks permission to go out with Chutwell.

         Cliff goes back to the office, and Miriam says the report is not ready. Cliff says he is there to make her laugh. He invites her dinner, and she says no. She does not like Americans and businessmen. He says he has been reading about Mozart, and she laughs. She trips on the stairs, and he catches her. She asks where they would go. He suggests Claridge’s, and she says his room would not be proper. She says Americans burned witches, and he says they stopped that long ago. She says he gave to subtract it from his income tax. She will meet him at Claridge’s and will not give him her address. She gets on a bus.

         Miriam goes into a place and plays piano alone. Later in the rain she tries to get a taxi. Cliff finds her and guides her into a car. She asks how he found her. He says he broke into the office and found an address book. At a table she tells how she was in a concentration camp, and her parents and husband were killed. She has been in London for three years. She asks about his wife and children. She says she just resigned because of Chutwell. Cliff does not like him either. She cannot stand the humiliation any longer and must say what she feels. She shouts a little, and he encourages her. She says he is extraordinary, and he says she is joking. They go in the car, and she says the evening was a dream. He asks to see her tomorrow, but she says she has to look for a job. He says it is Sunday and asks to see her on Monday. He kisses her, and she runs into her building.

         Salt calls Cliff, who says he does not want to tell them at the end because they have pride. Salt tells him to stick to the strategy. Cliff meets with Carew and others.

         Cliff tries to get into her apartment but fails and leaves. He goes back to his room and asks Everett what he has been doing. Everett says he spent the weekend talking to a woman who can use a slide-rule. He says this happened to him too late.

         Cliff orders six dozen flowers. On the street Carew asks Cliff if they can wrap it up tomorrow, and he agrees.

         Cliff gets to her door and knocks. She tells him to go away and is upset by the cost of the flowers. He pretends to look through a crack in the door. He says he came to say goodbye because he is going back to New York soon. She opens the door and wishes him well. He waits for her to get her coat, and they walk in a park. She refers to his wife, and he says he has no wife. He asks her to sit still so that he can ask her to marry him. She says he is crazy, but she loves him. She says she is wrong for him and hugs him. He says he was engaged, but he will never marry Joan whether Miriam marries him or not. She kisses him and says she is afraid of him. She says she will go out with him and then runs off.

         Cliff meets with Carew alone, and Carew drinks a sherry. Cliff says that New York told him that they must have control of the joint corporation with a majority of the stock with Cliff as chairman. Carew asks Cliff his opinion of the demands. Cliff says he thought they were in order when he left New York. Cliff says he is representing Amalgamated. Carew says the proud seem foolish but die last. Carew rejects the deal and says he will forget it. Cliff says that is what he expected. He asks if Carew will come to New York soon and hopes that they may continue negotiations then.

         Miriam comes to Cliff’s room for dinner. He likes her dress and kisses her. Later they walk outside. She says she will never forget him but cannot marry him. She says there must be something more than love, or love is bankrupt. She feels she will lose herself with overwhelming Americans. He says he got a plane ticket for her, and he will get her a visa. He says he put $1,000 in her bank. He says she will come because she loves him.

         Cliff returns to Amalgamated and instructs his secretary that he wants to get a visa and buy a piano. He tells her to send a telegram to Miriam. Salt tells Cliff to come into his office. He wonders what fell on Cliff over there. Cliff suggests that Salt meet Carew, and Salt says he will have to put if over himself. He shows Cliff a model of the mine with an American flag. Cliff says it is perfect except for one detail. Salt says he gambled his life on Cliff to succeed him. Cliff says it is a difference of opinion. He changed his view because of pride. Cliff refuses to say what happened to him and goes out to do errands.

         Cliff asks a lawyer how to get a visa, and he says he will go to Washington. There he meets with Yale brother Howie (Richard Deacon). Cliff says he is in love and must get her a visa. Howie suggests he go to England. Howie says her late husband could have been a red. He can get her a visitor’s visa, and they can go to Mexico to get married. Howie says he needs a letter from Chairman Salt, and Cliff says he can get it.

         Cliff and Joan are walking on the beach, and she says Miriam sounds wonderful. Cliff says he loves her and did not realize he was acting like a heel. Joan says he bored her, and they did not want to marry each other. She loves him in a way, but she is happy now. She laughs and says he is in a jam with Uncle George.

         Cliff goes into Salt’s office and gives him the letter for his signature. Salt reads it, and Cliff says he loves her. Cliff says that Joanie said he made her happy. Salt says marrying Joanie was the right thing. Salt asks if he knows anything else about Miriam. Salt asks what his father and Carew think of her. Salt has guarantee her before she is admitted into the country. Cliff says this is a nightmare. The strategy was unprincipled and the demand unjustified.

         Cliff and his father are talking at a dining table. His father answers the phone and says that Salt signed the letter and mailed it. His father says she had better be good-looking.

         In a meeting Salt tells Carew that Cliff was not supposed to hold back the proposal. Salt says he did not want Cliff there. Chutwell laughs when Salt says Cliff’s mind was somewhere else. Chutwell says he knows Mrs. Linka and calls her a “Commie.” Carew ends the conversation and goes out.

         Salt goes to see Cliff and says he sent the letter in good faith. Salt says that Chutwell implied Linka is a prostitute and a Communist. He says Carew cut off communication. Salt has called a board meeting, and Cliff must resign. Salt says he is a creature of power and obeys it totally, but Cliff pursues it only partially and therefore must be destroyed. Salt says Cliff must resign by Friday, and he leaves. Cliff accepts a collect call from Miriam, and he says he is wonderful. She says she got the visa and will see him at the airport on Wednesday.

         Cliff and his father wait for Miriam at the airport. Cliff shows Miriam his apartment, and she says she likes his father. Cliff says she is beautiful. She says it is too much and embraces him. She sees a cut-out of a piano and is excited.

         Cliff and Miriam walk on the street and go to a restaurant. Cliff sees Carew and suggests they leave, but she wants to stay. She asks who is staring at him, and he says Dan Slocum is a competitor. Carew says his rejection had nothing to do with Mr. Barton. They go over to Cliff, and Slocum asks about the board of directors meeting, laughs, and leaves. Carew asks Cliff to call him at his hotel. Miriam figures out what happened and says she distracted him in London.

         In a car Carew and Cliff talk. Carew learns that Mrs. Linka does not know about his resigning. Carew says he will make no decision until he knows what will happen to Cliff.

         Cliff goes into the office of Guy Eliot (Charles Coburn), who asks him if it was his idea to hold back on the proposal. Cliff says no. Eliot says Salt lied. Eliot is not opposed to lying; but Carew did not believe it, and Salt lost ground. This is resulting in a bad financial loss, which he is very much against. Eliot says Salt is stubborn and is still chairman. Eliot tells Cliff that anything can happen tomorrow. Eliot asks Cliff if he investigated Miriam, and he says he did not.

         Mrs. Salt goes to see Miriam, and neither wants to talk about refugees. Mrs. Salt asks if Miriam knows about the accusations against her. Miriam does not. Mrs. Salt says she came to ask Miriam to insist that Cliff resign. Mr. Salt has asked for his resignation. Miriam says she did not know that. Mrs. Salt says the accusations are political and moral; but they are unanswerable and therefore not important. Mrs. Salt says her husband has not received Cliff’s resignation yet. She advises Miriam to persuade Cliff to resign so that they can stay away from business. She says it allows no private life. She substituted charities for love. Miriam realizes that Mrs. Salt loves her husband. Miriam says she is trying to protect her husband because Cliff may fight. Miriam says she loves Cliff and that he may win. Mrs. Salt says he cannot win because he destroyed himself by loving her. Mrs. Salt cries.

         Cliff asks the clerk where Mrs. Linka is, and he is told that Mrs. Salt came to see her. Cliff tries to find Miriam by making phone calls. He goes back to his apartment and hears her playing the new piano. He tells her that he resigned, and they will leave for London in a few days. She says she is in love with America and will only go to England alone. She says one refugee is enough for one family. She says he must not resign, and she kisses him.

         Salt tells Eliot to make a motion to accept Cliff’s resignation. Cliff walks in, picks up the letter, and rips it up. Salt accuses Cliff of planning this, but Cliff says he did not. Cliff says that Salt is not running the company in its best interest. He lost Cliff and Carew because he left no room for men. Cliff says Salt is weak because he disregards human beings. Eliot asks Cliff if there is anything subversive about Miriam, and he says there is not. Cliff admits he did not investigate her. Eliot says that he learned that Miriam came back to Vienna and was supposed to entertain American officers, but she refused. The Russians asked her to spy on the Americans, but she said no. The Americans asked her to be a counter-spy, and she rejected that. Salt says if the board does not act on Cliff’s resignation, then they must act on his resignation. Eliot asks where the future leaders are coming, and they will come from the honest, not the loyal vice chairmen.

         In the board meeting Salt asks them to accept his resignation with Cliff Barton replacing him. They all agree and end the meeting. Salt asks Cliff to walk with him to keep up appearances. They go out together. Outside Salt tells Cliff he knew that someday he would do something to show him who is boss. Salt says someday the same thing will happen to Cliff. Salt gets into the car with his wife.

         At the airport Cliff and Miriam say goodbye to Carew, and Cliff says they will be back soon. Miriam complains, but she sees a piano being loaded on the plane and is happy.

         This drama contrasts the pressure of big business with romance, and in the process of the conflict a man discovers qualities in himself that bring out both love and the respect for others that makes for good business too.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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