Saturday, June 21, 2008

Major Barbara (movie review)

I snagged this 1941 classic from Movie Madness owing to some recent discussions on Synergeo.

The film, based on the play by George Bernard Shaw, follows the career of a rebellious heiress who fights the establishment (her father), only to attract the worshipful attention of a classics professor (nicknamed Euripides) who makes no secret of his wish to hook up and be her #1.

In the mean time, Major Barbara eventually comes to see that her dad (nicknamed Machiavelli) sponsors a lot of positive assets, including her own Salvation Army. The transformation isn't easy though, plus future morphing seems likely in her case.

Bottom line: the Shaw era UK may export death and destruction (it still does), but there are enough benevolent ideologies at work to get Barbara through her dark night and into the right mood to stick with Euripides, who inherits the dad's arms business.

Back to the Synergeo context, I'd have to say the film reminds me of Laurie Anderson's concluding lines in O Superman (#2 on the UK singles chart in 1981), which I read as an ode to mother nature first and foremost, our ultimate sponsor:

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

According to commentary at IMDB, the arms merchant Undershaft (a dark father or "darth vader" archetype) was loosely based on Shaw's contemporary John Cadbury, the Quaker chocolate factory dude. However, for the purposes of this play, a Quaker Machiavelli would have been a less effective foil for our principled princess.