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Remaking the Classics, Clinton-Style : Hollywood: Will Washington- struck movie-makers bring moral flexibility to the screen?

August 08, 1993|JOHN J. PITNEY Jr. | John J. Pitney Jr. is an assistant professor of government at Claremont-McKenna College in Claremont.

A few months ago, people feared that President Clinton was going Hollywood. Now that the White House image crew has sent the stars back here to California, our country faces an even greater danger: that Hollywood will go Clinton. The ways of this Administration might have rubbed off on Washington-struck movie-makers, to the detriment of American cinema. Just think what would happen if Hollywood remade classic films in the Clinton mold:

"The Ten Commandments"-- At a conference committee halfway down Mount Sinai, Moses agrees to amend the tablets with transition rules and administrative regulations. On reaching the base of the mountain, he gives a speech lauding the commandments as an expression of "the ordinary person's feelings and values." Afterward, he attends a reception hosted by the Golden Calf Manufacturers Assn., which has won an important exemption.

"Star Wars"-- Instead of blowing up the Death Star, Luke Skywalker decides to "send a message" by attacking the night maintenance crew on a distant satellite. At a fueling stop afterward, he meets his long-lost half-brother, H. Leon Vader.

"A Man for All Seasons"-- Sir Thomas More faces death if he does not endorse Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage. Upon careful thought, he issues the following statement: "I guess I would support the king if I had to. But I agree with the arguments the church has made." After his life is spared, he launches a campaign for Pope.

"The Bridge on the River Kwai"-- A plucky POW persuades his captors that they need to invest more in infrastructure. He deliberately underestimates the budget, and cost overruns eventually bankrupt the Japanese Empire.

"Raging Bull"-- While pummeling an opponent in the boxing ring, Jake LaMotta suddenly gets in touch with his inner child and exclaims: "I feel your pain." He hugs his foe, hangs up his gloves, gains a lot of weight and becomes a spokesperson for a hamburger chain.

"High Noon"-- Hearing that gunslingers are approaching on the noon train, the sheriff hastily schedules an out-of-town speaking engagement. When townsfolk criticize his move, he changes his mind and announces that he will arrest the villains as they get off the train. He falls behind schedule and arrives at the station at 1:30. Meanwhile, the gang loots the town.

"Patton"-- The Battle of the Bulge begins as enemy tanks roll through the Ardennes Forest. Patton is forbidden to counterattack, because the forest is home to endangered owls that get upset by really loud gunfire.

"Double Indemnity"-- An unscrupulous insurance salesman conspires with a wicked woman to kill her husband. Together they draw up a fiendishly complicated health-insurance policy. The husband, unable to understand a word of the policy, signs a contract to buy it. When the first bill arrives, he takes one look and drops dead of a heart attack.

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