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Film Page: Boom Town

October 2, 2006

You would think that given how important commerce and entrepreneurship have been in America, there would be many films celebrating the entrepreneur. After several years of working on the film page and receiving hundreds of recommendations for films I had come up with a grand total of one on entrepreneurship: the wonderful Tucker. Thanks to an astute reader, I have now added one more, Boom Town. The paucity of films on this important topic, though, do not take away from just how glorious these two films are. What I love about both of them is that though they both highlight government oppression of entrepreneurship it is not their major theme. Instead the bulk of their running time as well as their tone is devoted to entrepreneurship itself: the joy, excitement, passion and genius.

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!

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