The last and best movie that shows the rich as good.
But as this is a more obscure movie let me give you some details. The movie is a romantic-comedy that follows millionaire (eh, this is 1959, in 2013 dollars it’s probably billionaire) (and perceived playboy) Cash McCall, played by James Garner as he attempts to woo Lory Austen (Natalie Wood). The story is boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl , boy chases, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It’s sweet, but nothing spectacular.
What makes this movie stand out is the title character and his business dealings. Cash has a reputation:
“Cash McCall. I know the type. Vultures. Jackals. They prowl around looking for a good company that’s having a little difficulty buy it up for practically nothing and then start pulling it to pieces. Close the plant down, spin it off for a tax loss. They throw a whole community out of work just to make a fast buck.”
This is the opinion of consultant Gil Clark whose sees McCall as only someone who buys up companies and liquidates them for profit. Now I have previously gone over why there is nothing wrong with this, why a healthy economy needs this form of creative destruction to survive (yes it would be better for the original owners if they could realize their company is already dead and sell it off in a way they want to, but usually a company only gets in that state when sentimentality supplants reason). However when Clark first meets Cash McCall not only his resentment clears he learns some interesting things about Cash McCall.
Cash: I’m sort of a second hand dealer. I buy old tired companies, whip them into shape, then sell them again. What’s your line of work.
Gil Clark: Corporations Associates. We’re management consultants.
Cash: That’s a prissy way of saying efficiency experts, isn’t it? I mean you go out to a company with a slide rule and Ouija board, sit off to one side, in the shade, and tell them how to run it by the book.
Gil: We can usually see more from the sidelines than they can from the middle of the field.
Cash: Well that’s nice, it’s like going to a ball game and having the player pay you. They pay you pretty well I hear.
Gil: Sure our fees are big. But when we charge our clients thousands we usually save them millions. And we have a waiting list a mile long because my firm operates strictly on the level.
Cash: And do you know why it operates that way. … Because I own it.
And this is our first introduction to the businessman that is Cash McCall. From here we see that yes he makes money, he likes doing it. But he doesn’t just do it by buying bad companies and liquidating them.
The tax structure we have nowadays sets everything up like pins in a bowling alley. You take your small manufacturer like Mr. Austin—the only way that he can cash in is by selling out. And the tax situation, or rather because of it, the country is full of Mr. Austin’s. I’m sorry Gil, I don’t make the rules, I just play the game. “I get a wallop out of taking a shaky company and bracing it up. Taking it apart and see that it runs again…but then after six months all the fun’s gone out of it.” So he runs a business of consulting, of management, that takes good ideas that need help, gives them the help they need (maybe selling off the parts that are beyond help to those who can make use of them) and then leaving the company again to go forth and make profits. If that sounds a lot like Bain Capital, and its former President to you, then you might understand why I’ve had such a hard time getting back to this series of blogs and finishing it when this should have been done back in early November.
Throughout the movie we see a businessman who is frank with the people he is dealing with, always honest with people, always gives them a chance to back out, and never takes advantage of someone. Yes he will hold information back, that’s called business, in business information is worth a lot and you don’t just give it away for free…but it is never information that he acquired through illicit means and was always there if someone else wanted to get it, they just didn’t have the foresight to do so. And because of this he constantly gets blamed for somehow being underhanded as seen in this conversation.
Gen. (ret.) Danvers: I consider you a pirate and a blackguard
Cash: I’m well aware of how you feel about me and I just can’t find it in my heart to blame you.
Danvers: In your what?
Cash: Because I don’t have any particular affection for you either.
Danvers: Is that why you’re out to ruin me. Is that why you’re out to destroy the Scofield Instrument Corporation?
Cash: No one has to ruin you or your company General…not as long as you’re around to save them the trouble.
Danvers: You managed to get your hands on a company I practically supported for years. Sixty percent of its product. And the minute you’ve got it you refuse to supply me with molding parts. What are you up to McCall? Extortion?
Cash: I hope you won’t mind my saying it General but for a military man you don’t have either a logical mind or a very good memory. You do have one very good military talent though, you’re very good at passing the buck.
Danvers: Now just what’s that supposed to mean?
Cash: This isn’t the first time it’s happened. About a year ago I sold you a cabinet factory, Padua Furniture Company, a first rate shop you got it at a good price. Now if I remember correctly, you thanked me warmly for letting you have it.
Danvers: Indeed I did. I don’t always recognize a thief the first time I see him.
Cash: But when you found out you’d been offered the same shop a year before at half the price you started shooting off your mouth about how you’d been robbed by Cash McCall.
Danvers: You’re damn right I did.
Cash: Of course you didn’t recognize the fact that a year before it wasn’t worth half the price you paid me for it.
And this is typical of reality. Good businessmen create wealth where none existed before in a very short amount of time…but because other people can’t understand how a little intellect and a little hard work can make something that was previously worthless worth a fortune, they assume that the only explanation is something underhanded and deceitful. That they’ve been robbed. And while this is a common tale (again see the election of 2012) only idiots don’t understand that it is actually virtue and ethics that create value in the long run. That it is only honest people like the character of Cash McCall, who when accused of being a crook stands his ground and will not merely conform to what the public or his advisors want, the consequence be damned he has his own personal integrity to consider first and foremost (still this sounds very familiar). And this is why I love Mitt Cash and this film. It shows that all too often the people who produce things are seen by the public as crooks, that the ones who create wealth are only seen as stealing it by the envious people, that those who bring prosperity to the most are derided falsely as taking from others.
“I get a wallop out of taking a shaky company and bracing it up. Taking it apart and see that it runs again…but then after six months all the fun’s gone out of it.”