The Painter and the Thief
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good drama ripped from the newspaper headlines
This movie only seems out of date if you've never worked for/with assholes.
In the 1930s, Warner Bros. was known for its controversial, violent film. But surprisingly, the only film they ever made about labor was [i]Black Fury[/i], a film based on a real coal miners strike. It was banned in several states and countries for it's sympathetic look at struggling coal miners, and with all the controversy around it, it's surprising it isn't better known today.
Paul Muni plays an immigrant coal miner who couldn't care less about the union. He's happy with his job and his fiance, Karen Morley. But Morley runs off to Pittsburgh with a police officer, leaving Muni drunk and angry, and soon he somehow finds himself the president of a fringe union. But sweet, slightly dumb Muni doesn't realize he's just being used as a pawn.
Paul Muni was a really interesting actor. He adapted incredibly well into his roles and was a master with accents. While I don't think this is one of his best performances, he's very good. Sometimes he plays up the stupid side of his character a little to much, to the point where it's unbelievable, but he has amazing control over his emotions. Karen Morley, though second billed, is only in about half of the film, but she's quite good. She seems rather boring and cliche as the guilty girlfriend in the beginning, but when she comes and sees what Muni has made of himself, she gives her love and admiration a real emotional punch. There are supporting performances that are pretty good, but nothing of note. Except for John Qualen as Muni's best friend who feels betrayed when Muni joins the fringe union. The acting really is the best thing the film has going for it.
The story drags a lot in the middle, and there are a lot of long scenes of Muni wallowing in self-pity, but the ending is pretty exciting, and there's a pretty good opening, though Muni's turnaround in behavior seems a bit too sudden.
[b]Final Grade: [/b]B
Excellent portrayal of the conditions faced by coal miners in the early 30's, and the forces at work driving wedges of distrust between labor and managment. In this case it was the fault of neither. Paul Muni is excellent as Joe Radek, a Polish miner who gets caught in the middle and fights to make things right. A must see!