Wall Street (movie)

From Academic Kids

Wall Street has been the name of two movies, one released in 1929 and the other in 1987. Coincidentally, these years featured the two biggest stock market crashes in American history (Black Thursday in 1929 and Black Monday in 1987).

1929 movie

The 1929 movie was produced by Harry Cohn and starred Ralph Ince, Aileen Pringle, Sam De Grasse, Philip Strange, and Freddie Burke Frederick.

1987 movie

Rated R, the 1987 movie was directed by Oliver Stone and features Michael Douglas in perhaps his most famous role. The movie has come to be seen as the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, with Douglas as the archetypal "Master of the Universe". Wall Street was written by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone. It won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Douglas).

The story involves a young stock broker, Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen), who is desperate to get to "the top". He settles on a plan to become involved with his hero, the extremely successful businessman Gordon Gekko (Douglas).

After succeeding in meeting Gekko, Fox gives him a stock tip based on insider information he happened to come across while talking to his father, Carl (played by Martin Sheen, Charlie's real-life father). Carl is a maintenance chief at a small airline, Bluestar and learns that they will soon be cleared of a safety concern after a previous crash.

Gekko uses the information Bud reveals to him about Bluestar to make a small profit when the stock jumps after the verdict on the crash is released. Fox quickly learns that this is the "secret" to Gekko's success—insider information—but the illegalities and ethical conflict involved bother him only slightly as he is quickly admitted into Gekko's "inner circle". Fox quickly becomes very wealthy and gets all the perks—the fancy apartment, the trophy blonde (Darryl Hannah), and the cars.

However this changes when Gekko decides to do a corporate raid on Fox's father's company. At this point he must choose between the rich insider's lifestyle offered by working outside the law, or his father's more traditional blue collar values of fair play and hard work. He chooses to try to preserve the latter by utilising what he has learned from Gekko. To achieve this Bud uses a business rival to break the deal, being indicted for insider trading in the process. He gets his last revenge by turning state's evidence against Gekko, going to jail himself in the process.

The movie is significant in terms of reflecting the public's general malaise with the current state of affairs in the "big business" world both in the late 1980s and in the wake of the late 1990s post-internet bubble scandals.

Carl's character represents the working class in the movie, he is the union leader for the maintenance workers at Bluestar. The conflict between Gekko's relentless pursuit of wealth and Carl Fox's leftward leanings form the basis of the film's subtext. This subtext could be described as the concept of the "two fathers," one good and one evil, battling for control over the morals of the "son." In Wall Street the hard-working Carl Fox and the cutthroat businessman Gordon Gekko represent the fathers. The producers of the film use Carl as their voice in the film, a voice of reason amid the destructive actions brought about by the unrestrained appetite for money of Gekko.

Gekko clearly represents the stereotypical corporate raider of the 1980s, whose dealings were being reported on daily. Stone was not trying to point out illegal dealings, but to illustrate the corrupt lifestyle of everyone involved in the financial system, legal or not. The system values "The Deal" more than what the deal represents, people and goods—a system Stone apparently believes is without value.

Perhaps the most remembered scene in the movie is a speech by Gekko to a shareholders' meeting of Teldar Paper, a company he is planning to take over. Stone uses this scene to give Gekko, and by extension, the Wall Street raiders he personifies, the chance to justify their actions, which he memorably does, pointing out the slothfulness and waste that corporate America accumulated through the postwar years and from which he sees himself as a "liberator":

The point is, ladies and gentleman: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge has marked the upward surge in mankind — and greed, you mark my words — will save not only Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

His catchphrase from the speech, "Greed is good", came to symbolise the ruthless, profit-obsessed, short-term corporate culture of the 1980s and 1990s and by extension became associated with unrestrained free-market economic policies.

The inspiration for the "Greed is good" speech seems to have come from a 1985 commencement address at UC Berkeley, delivered by stock speculator Ivan Boesky, in which he said, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."

Legal errors

Despite the authenticity of its portrayal of the trading floor and brokerage houses, "Wall Street" makes several errors concerning the legality of insider trading. Bud's conviction under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is incorrect; absent a provision of section 10(b) passed in 1993 concerning the liability of family members for misappropriated information, Bud would not be held liable for passing on news of his father's airline reorganization to Gekko. Nor could Bud be held liable for disclosing information of Gekko's rival raider to Gekko; except for the documents he seized from a locked office (while in the guise of a janitor), all the information he provided Gekko was publicly observable, and therefore outside the scope of the law. Even Bud's college friend (James Spader), a lawyer who profits off of his occasional stock tips, would probably be safe from SEC prosecutors, as he had no reason to believe that Bud's tips were anything more than the result of shrewd, legal analytical techniques.

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