Celebrating the Entrepreneur in Film

4 October 2006 at 11:02 pm 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

Like other cutting-edge, deeply committed educational professionals, I use film clips in class wherever possible. When teaching entrepreneurship I show the courtroom scene at the end of Francis Ford Coppola’s fine 1985 film Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Jeff Bridges (as Preston Tucker) delivers a magnificent speech on the entrepreneur’s right to dream, to experiment, to take chances, and to be wrong. The scene moves me to tears. (Then again, so does the segment on the for-profit lifeguard in John Stossel’s “Greed” special.) In any case, Tucker, along with the 1951 Alec Guinness flick The Man in the White Suit, have been the only entrepreneurship films in my collection.

Now from Stephen Carson I learn of another film celebrating the entrepreneur: Boom Town (1940):

A marvelous and fun ode to entrepreneurship starring Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy as two wildcatters that take extreme risks hunting for oil in 1918 Texas. The roles of risk, capital and entrepreneurial insight are all portrayed wonderfully. The cherry on top is when competitors invoke the Sherman Antitrust Act to go after a company they can’t defeat fair and square in the marketplace (imagine that!)

The courtroom speech at the end includes an argument indicating how private owners of capital are motivated to wisely manage natural resources(!) and this wonderful tribute to entrepreneurs: “McMasters is a wildcatter. If it wasn’t for automobiles he’d be driving a covered wagon. It’s always been his breed that has opened up the country and made it what it is. So now, I’m wondering… Is it getting to be out of line in these Unites States for a man like him to make a million dollars with his brains and with his hands? Because if that’s true, then we’d better rewrite this land-of-opportunity stuff.” Did Hollywood really make this film? Wow!

It’s moving to the top of my Netflix queue.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Entrepreneurship, Teaching.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephen W. Carson  |  5 October 2006 at 10:02 am

    In listing films that focus on the entrepreneur in the Blog posting you link to I forgot about The Man in the White Suit. That is encouraging! That is 3 films about entrepreneurs instead of the 2 I listed. And a fourth if The Aviator checks out, (though I suspect it won’t have the joyfulness of these other films).

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  5 October 2006 at 10:05 am

    I haven’t seen The Aviator all the way through, but did catch a little snippet on TV the other day. The Senate investigation scene, in which the Hughes character ridicules the self-important Senator played by Alan Alda, to the delight of the crowd, is a winner. (Though, as I recall, the Hughes character at one point says something like “Sure I bribed Air Force generals to get them to buy our planes. That’s how you do it in our business.”)

  • 3. Teaching Economics through Cinema « Ricardo Lucas Blog  |  2 September 2011 at 3:35 pm

    […] wrote something a while back on the entrepreneur in film. Here’s a working paper on the use of cinema in economics education more generally. Gherardo […]

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