Hail, Caesar!

coen bros

Although the film is a romp through the Hollywood in the 50's and portrays real characters, such as Hedda Hopper and Eddie Mannix, while combining several singing cowboys into Toby Doyle and several sword and sandal heroes into Barid Whitlock, it is also an allegory. Exactly what all the references are only the Coen Brothers know for sure, but this is my modest attempt to deconstruct the movie.

The Capital studio sort of represents the Catholic church  (First  Corinthians 21).  Mannix is to the studio as Jesus is to the Church. Mannix gives succor to the talented fools and sinners in dream factory Capital films, which is  fueled by, of course, capitalism.  This system is challenged by a communist cell composed of  discontent film writers seeking to take over Capital studio and perhaps, under the leadership of the USSR, the US government and replace capitalism with Marxism in the name of the "little man."

 Their plot is doomed to failure for two reasons. First, divine intervention: Mannix receives a  phone call from the big boss in New York who directs him to put Hobie Doyle in a movie being directed by one of the conspirators. Although he seems all wrong for the movie, Hobie will foil the director and eventually save the day by rescuing the kidnapped Baird Whitlock in time to finish the important movie, thus avoiding a binary apocalypse or at least a setback for Capital.

Second, the intellectual communist writers holed up in Burt Gurney's modern Malibu ivory tower, a beautiful modern house far removed, like academic egg heads, from the hustle and bustle of the studio. Burt, their Washington-crossing-the-Delaware hero, a Soviet plant, drops the ransom money in favor of a drop-kick dog, indicating the writers are little more than dupes or stooges of the Comintern. Another revelation comes when two of the writers are attempting to place the final piece into a monochrome puzzle and realize the pieces don't fit. Like countless other Communist believers who wasted years of their lives and corrupted themselves before realizing that dialectical materialism fails.  The pieces don't fit, the theory does not work in the real world. Perhaps Bernie Sanders is the last socialist who has not gotten the message.

There are other references, some ambiguous some obvious.  Mannix is tempted by Satan (the Lockheed executive) with cigarettes and big dollar contracts.  There is a odd, reference with the DeeAnna Moran/Ester Williams actress, who seems to incorporate both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene  (when asked who is the father of her  upcoming baby  names somebody and then adds "maybe" and ends up married to a "real person" named Joseph). The clueless Whitlock is a combination of several sword and sandal stars including Charlton Heston and Victor Mature. The communist writers may represent actual writers, but I have no idea which of the black listed bunch is which. Several bit parts captured my attention. One was the totally nonplused Malibu Maid with her droopy stocking and dangling cigarette, the very picture of an exploited worker, but not employed by a capitalist but a communist.

 This all makes a great story, but not such a great movie. It will join the pantheon of Coen Bro's movies, but will rank somewhere south of Fargo and Oh, Brother.