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Seven Great Films About Work

Goodman Picture
"Channel": A Photo of Boston's Big Dig ©Miriam Goodman.

Goodman Picture
"Tunnel Vents with Hancock Tower ": A Photo of Boston's Big Dig ©Miriam Goodman.

Beth Henson

It really shouldn't be surprising how few movies are made about work — after all, that's what people go to the movies to forget.

1. Modern Times. Charlie Chaplin's tramp is as much a slave to unemployment as to the factory. ("Modern Times," Charlie Chaplin, director. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard. Run Time 87 minutes. 1936.)

2. Red River. The cattle drive as a workplace; John Wayne takes a herd from south Texas to Abilene just after the civil war. ("Red River," Howard Hawkes, director. Starring John Wayne, Montgomery Cliff, and Walter Brennan. Run Time 125 minutes. 1948.)

3. Salt of the Earth. Made in the fifties about a strike in a zinc mine in southern New Mexico with a cast recruited among local workers; banned for some twenty years. While the work of mining is not shown, housework is, and the changing relations between the men and the women when the mineowners get an injunction against strikers picketing and the women take over the picketline. ("Salt of the Earth," Herbert J. Biberman, director. Starring Will Geer, Rosaura Revueltas, and Juan Chacón. Run Time 94 minutes. 1954.)

4. Blue Collar. Full employment was hell, too. Three autoplant workers take on the union and get screwed. ("Blue Collar," Paul Shrader, director. Starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto. Run Time 114 minutes. 1978.)

5. Carwash. Disco music, afros, the threat of prison, skateboarding kids — Los Angeles in the Seventies. ("Car Wash," Michael Schultz, director. Starring Franklyn Ajaye, Richard Pryor, Sully Boyar, and George Carlin. Run Time 97 minutes. 1976.)

6. Silkwood. The true story of a nuclear power-plant worker exposed to deadly doses of radiation and her battle against the company. ("Silkwood," Mike Nichols, director. Starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher. Run Time 131 minutes. 1983.)

7. Clerks. New Jersey in the Nineties. Slackers at work: clerks in a convenience and a video rental store play roof hockey and deal with hateful customers. ("Clerks," Kevin Smith, director. Starring Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson. Run time 92 minutes. 1994.)

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