Ted and Ricky are back with another episode of Establishing Shot’s Top Three segment with the return of September’s special guest Professor Dan Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program and author of a ton of cool online projects, including the Labor Song of the Month, Work of Art/Art of Work, and The Labor Question Today blog. Not scared off by the likes of Dr. Frankenstein’s Creature, Professor Graff is back with Ted and Ricky to discuss the Top Three bosses in film. Some of these bosses are inspirational, some are horrible, some are disgusting, but Ted, Ricky, and Dan will explain why they’re all tops in their own way.
Ricky’s Top Three kicks off with Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal of Chuck Lane, a hardline newspaper editor tasked with pinning down the unpopular truth in 2003’s Shattered Glass, which tracks the real-life journalistic fraud perpetrated by Stephen Glass at The New Republic during the 1990s. Moving from the writer’s room to the boardroom, Ricky next chats about 1988’s Working Girl and Sigourney Weaver’s performance of the shoulder-padded Katharine Parker who can only keep Tess McGill down for so long. Lastly, Ricky heads to the fashion industry to chat about Rose Lindsey (played by Buffalo Bill’s Joanna Cassidy), who unwittingly employs and mentors seventeen-year-old Sue Ellen at General Apparel West in 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
Dan’s Top Three also starts with a hardnosed editor from the tabloid trade from history, that being Jason Robards playing the Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee in All the President’s Men from 1976 (and then explains why Robards is the better Bradlee compared to Tom Hanks in last year’s The Post). He then skips to a decidedly worse boss, that being Dabney Coleman playing Franklin Hart, Jr., of Consolidated Companies in 9 to 5, who lets his employees dream just to watch them shatter while keeping them as steps on his ladder. Dan closes out his list with the greatest Hollywood labor comedy ever—The Devil and Miss Jones from 1941—and Charles Coburn’s portrayal of the richest man in the world (also known as J.P. Merrick (also known as the devil)), which is a film still available to watch for free online in the Paramount vault for people curious about a very class-conscious comedy from the 1940s.
Not missing out on the newspaper editor turn, Ted also begins his top bosses with Cary Grant’s Walter Burns in His Girl Friday from 1940. In Howard Hawks’ remake of the play/film The Front Page, Rosalind Russell plays Burns’ writer and ex-wife whose editor and ex-husband does everything he can to keep her on staff and around him. Ted then heads back to 80s sleepaway camp by way of 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer and exalts Janeane Garofalo’s performance as Beth, the camp director who oversees the last day of the 1981 summer at Camp Firewood. Ted’s trio rounds out with a dark flare with Compliance from 2012 and Ann Dowd’s role as a manager who gets pranked by a pretend police officer and leads to a modern-day Milgram situation.
Thanks to Dan Graff for lending his brilliance to the Top Three and, as always, big thanks to Kevin Krizmanich for his sound engineering and Staci Stickovich for her online engineering that allow Establishing Shot to come your way month in, month out.