- Historic Sites
A critic looks at 10 movies that show how Americans work together.
June 2001 | Volume 52, Issue 4
A Cold War satire centering on an American Coca-Cola executive in West Germany (James Cagney, his energy barely diminished by an unremittingly strenuous film career that spanned more than three decades, in one of his last screen appearances) seems fresher and funnier today than The Apartment does.
There are numerous versions of Arthur Miller’s self-consciously classic tragedy out there, but it took the German director Volker Schlöndorff to finally get it right by shooting the movie within the confines of a single stage. (How to escape that usual filmed-theater sense of confinement? Through the adroit use of flashbacks, which also help to build emotional power to the climax.) Dustin Huffman is Willy Loman, with John Malkovich as Biff.
Francis Ford Coppola’s great epics of the American underworld have virtually nothing to do with the lives of real-life mob leaders and everything to do with America’s fascination with unscrupulous business magnates. When Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth tells Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, “We’re bigger than U.S. Steel!,” the line draws nostalgic sighs from both former steel executives and old Mafiosi.