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The Towering Inferno and A Conservative Bill Holden


TomJH
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I watched The Towering Inferno for the first time in years yesterday. A rather typical slickly produced, all star "disaster" film without a lot of depth in characterization, with a lot of the cast largely wasted in their roles.

 

I was amused that it was the fire chief himself (not one of his many men) who puts his life on the line in a daring rescue of the passengers of a elevator stranded on the outside of the burning skyscraper. The script did this, I fully assume, so that Steve McQueen, who played the fire chief, had the opportunity to play hero in the film, much as Paul Newman's character had done earlier in the film.

 

I also idly wondered about the competition that must have taken place between Newman and McQueen (and their agents) over billing in the film. As it turns out, during the opening titles both stars names appear simultaneously, with McQueen's name on the left hand side of the screen (traditionally regarded as top billing) but placed a little bit lower than Newman's on the right.

 

One of the more interesting aspects of the film, however, was seeing the casting of third billed William Holden (wearing thick rimmed glasses) in the role of the filthy rich conservative owner of the skyscraper, who, the screenplay clearly implies, turned a bit of a blind eye to the activities of contractors who, in cost savings measures, skimped on the quality of the wiring used in the structure, thus resulting in the fire that occupies the film, along with all the deaths incurred.

 

It's quite a contrast to the Bill Holden role of twenty years before in Executive Suite, in which he played a corporation man who still had integrity and was willing to challenge management's sacrifice of quality of product done in the name of cost savings. Now, in The Towering Inferno, Holden is management wanting to save that buck (okay, quite a few bucks, actually).

 

Newman's role in the film is that of the building's architect who is horrified to find out that Holden (and, in particular, his son-in-law in the film, played by a strutting, vain Richard Chamberlain) took those material short cuts, resulting in the disaster.

 

As I watched the film, however, it struck me how a young Bill Holden (by that I mean the Holden of the '50s, the Holden of Sunset Blvd and Executive Suite) could have aced Newman's role of the architect. In fact, superficial as Towering Inferno is, I think that it would have had a little more gravitas as a film if it could only have had that young Holden in one of the film's two key male starring roles. This is to take nothing about from Newman who is quite adequate in his part.

 

But Holden, at his best as an actor, brought a wonderful edge to his screen cynicism (he is, in my opinion, one of the GREAT cynics of the cinema, easily Bogart's equal, except one hell of a lot sexier) and a large part of me was a little saddened at seeing a middle aged actor (who clearly, I admit, couldn't have been as physically active as before) reduced to playing the role of a corporation man, even if he is a corporation man with more personality than most.

 

images1_zps00f4c06c.jpg

 

There he is, with suit and tie, Bill Holden as Corporation Man. How I wish the young Holden had been around then to play Newman's role of the architect incensed at the material shortcuts taken. He would have been marvelous in the role, bringing a little more depth to the production, I strongly suspect.

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What makes him a conservative??  The fact that he's unethical?? That he cares more about money and power than about people??  I have news for you....

So sensitive. This was a film review, and William Holden was a Republican and had no squall about playing a character like this. The Republican Party of the 1970s was not what it was like today. Even Holden had enough backbone to not be turned off by exploring a truth about corporate greed. He also had no problem confronting the sensationalism in news media in Network either. He also had no problem confronting corporate ethics (or unethics) in Executive Decision either. Context is everything here. 

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What makes him a conservative??  The fact that he's unethical?? That he cares more about money and power than about people??  I have news for you....

Sounds like what passes for a "conservative" these days to me.

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What makes him a conservative??  The fact that he's unethical?? That he cares more about money and power than about people??  I have news for you....

 

I hope Tom answers your question because I think it is a good one.   Just because someone is rich and runs a corporation,  wears a suit and places profits above all else doesn't make him a conservative in that era.     Today?  Well that is a debate I'm staying out of but back in the era the movie represents,   things were not as black and white or polorized as they are today.

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I hope Tom answers your question because I think it is a good one.   Just because someone is rich and runs a corporation,  wears a suit and places profits above all else doesn't make him a conservative in that era.     Today?  Well that is a debate I'm staying out of but back in the era the movie represents,   things were not as black and white or polorized as they are today

You are right on that, James. 

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Well, in the movie Robert Vaughn plays Senator Parker and, I believe, at the red carpet festivities he is identified as the chairman of some committee on urban renewal and Duncan (Holden) intends to suck up to him with a rare vintage to get his aid in building other glass towers around the country but his party affiliation is never identified in the film. Hey, this is San Francisco certainly never a conservative town today or yesterday.  :)

 

Conservatives don't welch on construction costs, they pay for the whole thing.   :lol:

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Well, in the movie Robert Vaughn plays Senator Parker and, I believe, at the red carpet festivities he is identified as the chairman of some committee on urban renewal and Duncan (Holden) intends to suck up to him with a rare vintage to get his aid in building other glass towers around the country but his party affiliation is never identified in the film. Hey, this is San Francisco certainly never a conservative town today or yesterday.  :)

 

Conservatives don't welch on construction costs, they pay for the whole thing.   :lol:

Then about about some domestic infrastructure repairs? I am sure no one wants a Towering Inferno like incident to happen on a bridge or something. 

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What makes him a conservative??  The fact that he's unethical?? That he cares more about money and power than about people?? 

Precisely.

 

A corporate obsession with the bottom line no matter what the cost may be for others. I was not thinking of politics when I wrote conservative, by the way, though I realize that the two can feed together.

 

So many seem to get so easily touchy this days. A little surprised to see you getting so upset about my use of the word, Ray.

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Precisely.

 

A corporate obsession with the bottom line no matter what the cost may be for others. I was not thinking of politics when I wrote conservative, by the way, though I realize that the two can feed together.

 

So many seem to get so easily touchy this days. A little surprised to see you getting so upset about my use of the word, Ray.

 

If not politics what context were you using conservative in?   If values,  wouldn't that be a bigger insult to conservatives?  (as well as a gross generalization).

 

Hey,  I don't label myself conservative (or liberal for that matter),  but I really don't see what that label had to do with your otherwise informative and inslightful post.  

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If not politics what context were you using conservative in?   If values,  wouldn't that be a bigger insult to conservatives?  (as well as a gross generalization).

 

Hey,  I don't label myself conservative (or liberal for that matter),  but I really don't see what that label had to do with your otherwise informative and inslightful post.  

Wow, I can't believe the reaction of some to the use of the word conservative. Talk about overreacting.

 

So many so ready to feel so insulted so easily.

 

Good thing I didn't say liberal in my review or there would be double hell to pay, eh?

 

Again, I was thinking of the personal ethics of the character played by Holden, NOT politics.

 

But the way, you called my post "inslightful", James. I assume that was a typo. Considering the reaction of some to what I wrote, though, maybe they consider it to be an appropriate word.

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My reaction was because people's stereotypes of "conservatives" and "liberals" are often just that and the uses of the terms is often times kneejerk negative.

 

There are greedy, thoughtless creeps on all sides of the political spectrum I assure you.  And, usually in the political world, you can add in a heavy dose of cynical hypocrisy.

 

Actual conservatives and liberals who live up to those labels are to be admired.  But if you're a liberal you have to know what a real conservative is and vice versa.

 

That's why I get a bit ticked off at comments that blithely ascribe perfectly legitimate philosophies to scoundrels unworthy of wearing either label.

 

Nothing personal whatsoever against you, Tom, merely a challenge to the original statement.

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Wow, I can't believe the reaction of some to the use of the word conservative. Talk about overreacting.

 

So many so ready to feel so insulted so easily.

 

Good thing I didn't say liberal in my review or there would be double hell to pay, eh?

 

Again, I was thinking of the personal ethics of the character played by Holden, NOT politics.

 

But the way, you called my post "inslightful", James. I assume that was a typo. Considering the reaction of some to what I wrote, though, maybe they consider it to be an appropriate word.

 

To me your now being overly sensitive.    I wasn't insulted by the use of the term conservative.  I just wonder what you meant by using it since I failed to see how it related.

 

It appears you mean that the personal ethics of the character play by Holden was conservative (I used the term values instead of ethics) and that a core trait of someone with conservative ethics is that they are unethical,  by definition.    Isn't that a gross generalization?    Anyhow if that is what you meant to say,  I fail to see how you can't understand why making such a comment wouldn't insult those that define themselves as having conservative ethics.

 

I admit I was very surprised when you replied to Ray with "Precisely".   But if I misunderstood what you were getting at,  I'm sorry.

 

(PS:  This type of generaliztion does get me going since,  as a secular agnostic I'm sick of hearing from conservatives that by definition I'm immoral). 

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My reaction was because people's stereotypes of "conservatives" and "liberals" are often just that and the uses of the terms is often times kneejerk negative.

 

There are greedy, thoughtless creeps on all sides of the political spectrum I assure you.  And, usually in the political world, you can add in a heavy dose of cynical hypocrisy.

 

Actual conservatives and liberals who live up to those labels are to be admired.  But if you're a liberal you have to know what a real conservative is and vice versa.

 

That's why I get a bit ticked off at comments that blithely ascribe perfectly legitimate philosophies to scoundrels unworthy of wearing either label.

 

Nothing personal whatsoever against you, Tom, merely a challenge to the original statement.

Ray, I appreciate the civility of your response, as well as your explanation.

 

Presumably you can understand my annoyance, however, that a simple review of a film has had a thread taken in an entirely different direction from that intended by myself.

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To me your now being overly sensitive.    I wasn't insulted by the use of the term conservative.  I just wonder what you meant by using it since I failed to see how it related.

 

It appears you mean that the personal ethics of the character play by Holden was conservative (I used the term values instead of ethics) and that a core trait of someone with conservative ethics is that they are unethical,  by definition.    Isn't that a gross generalization?    Anyhow if that is what you meant to say,  I fail to see how you can't understand why making such a comment wouldn't insult those that define themselves as having conservative ethics.

 

 

Yes, it is a generalization, a word I used as I wrote a quick film review. Obviously, it's unfair to some, just as some "liberals" have demonstrated a lack of ethics, as well. My thinking at the time was that of a corporate head making economically conservative moves, benefitting his bottom but at what price, his building catching on fire and lives lost.

 

But I wasn't parsing every word of my review, as other seem intent to do.

 

It's not sensitivity on my part but annoyance that a straight forward film review can turn into an unexpected minefield of reactions that have nothing to do with films - and everything to do with a word chosen in that review.

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Yes, it is a generalization, a word I used as I wrote a quick film review. Obviously, it's unfair to some, just as some "liberals" have demonstrated a lack of ethics, as well. My thinking at the time was that of a corporate head making economically conservative moves, benefitting his bottom but at what price, his building catching on fire and lives lost.

 

But I wasn't parsing every word of my review, as other seem intent to do.

 

It's not sensitivity on my part but annoyance that a straight forward film review can turn into an unexpected minefield of reactions that have nothing to do with films - and everything to do with a word chosen in that review.

 

Ok,  I get it.     I wasn't cracking wise when I said I enjoyed the straight forward review you gave and that it was inslightful and informative.   Yea,  certain buzzwords can set off a chain reaction.  Sorry if I may have added some fuel to that fire.  

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Ok,  I get it.     I wasn't cracking wise when I said I enjoyed the straight forward review you gave and that it was inslightful and informative.   Yea,  certain buzzwords can set off a chain reaction.  Sorry if I may have added some fuel to that fire.  

No problem, James. It happens.

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Ray, I appreciate the civility of your response, as well as your explanation.

 

Presumably you can understand my annoyance, however, that a simple review of a film has had a thread taken in an entirely different direction from that intended by myself.

Yes, I certainly do.  Sorry to have kicked over the kerosene!! 

 

Stan Laurel in HELPMATES:

"Well, I thought I'd build a nice fire to make it comfortable for you..THE HOUSE BURNED DOWN AND I COULDN'T HELP IT!!"

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Yes, I certainly do.  Sorry to have kicked over the kerosene!! 

 

Stan Laurel in HELPMATES:

"Well, I thought I'd build a nice fire to make it comfortable for you..THE HOUSE BURNED DOWN AND I COULDN'T HELP IT!!"

That's okay, Ray, but it certainly was another fine mess you got me in!

 

images11_zpsbcb3c1ab.jpg

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