The Front (1976)
The Front, set during the McCarthy-era “witch hunts,” comically illustrates the affairs of cashier-turned-writer, Howard Prince (Woody Allen), who becomes “America’s Most Unlikely Hero.” Prince is comparable to Larry Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt because both characters emerge as unlikely free speech patriots in their respective films. One is also left to wonder at the end of each movie—were the main character’s actions motivated by patriotism or his own selfish purposes? After writer Alfred Miller (Michael Murphy) asks his old friend, Prince (who works as a restaurant cashier) to act as a “front” for him after he has been blacklisted from writing scripts, Howard enjoys much success. Not only does he earn extra income and acclaim as a new writer, he also secures the admiration of the lovely network employee Florence Barrett (Andrea Marcovicci). When Prince is seated before a panel of men from the entertainment industry to reveal names of communist writers, Prince responds by acting uncooperatively. He dodges the questions in a similar way to Flynt when when he refused to reveal the source of the Delorean tapes, stating “With all due respect, you don't have the right to ask.” After a good deal interrogation, Prince answers, “I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kinds of questions and furthermore. . . you can all go fuck yourselves.” After Prince is arrested, he earns the respect of Florence (who quit show business in disgust) and the admiration of many people who dub him a hero.
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Inherit the Wind is a film based on the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” that took place in Dayton, Tennessee. It is similar to The People vs. Larry Flynt for its stimulating First Amendment court room scenes, the biased judge and jury, and the boisterous conduct of the defense. After teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York) is arrested for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, havoc wreaks in the small conservative town of Hillsboro. The Baltimore Herald hires Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) to defend Cates, and the popular town politician, Colonel Matthew Brady (Fredric March), prosecutes against him. Throughout the course of the trial, Drummond grows angry with the judge and the townspeople, whom he perceives as blatantly narrow-minded. (This same feeling can be sensed in the Hamilton County Court scene through Isaacman, who believed he had an unfair and uptight jury.) In a state of fury, Drummond declares, “Can't you understand that if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it, and soon you may ban books and newspapers.” This line is very similar to Isaacman’s closing statements in Hamilton County Court where he remarks, “And if we start throwing up walls against what some of us think is obscene, we may very well wake up one morning and realize that walls have been thrown up in all kinds of places that we never expected . . . and we can't see anything or do anything. And, and that's not freedom.”
The Male Animal (1942)
The Male Animal is comparable to The People vs. Larry Flynt for its rebellion against the conservative authorities and its celebration of free speech in the ending scenes. The once serene world of English Professor Tommy Turner (Henry Fonda) is turned upside down when he announces that he will read a controversial letter to his class written by anarchist, Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Despite disapproval from his wife, colleagues, and friends, Tommy is determined to read the letter. When an overbearing right-wing university trustee named Edward Keller (comparable to Falwell) threatens him, Tommy states, “You can’t suppress ideas, Mr. Keller, because you don’t like them.” This statement is practically identical to Isaacman’s closing remarks in the Hamilton County Court. Isaacman professes, “We live in a free country. And that it a powerful idea. That's a magnificent way to live. But there is a price for that freedom, which is that sometimes we have to tolerate things that we don't necessarily like.” Also similar to the forthcoming contents of Isaacman’s speech, Tommy declares, “If I can’t read this letter today, if it must be suppressed before you even heard what it is—tomorrow none of us will be able to read anything or teach anything except what Edward K. Keller and the trustees permit us to teach.” After Tommy reads the Vanzetti letter, he is celebrated by the students and faculty for his patriotism.
Dispatch from Reuter's (1940), Storm Center (1956)
Copyright (c) 2003 Stephanie McElroy, Undergraduate Student at Lehigh University.
This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of the U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the author is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author.