'Other People's Money' (1991) Review: The Most Conservative Movie Ever Made

How this one slipped through, I will never know. But in 1991 director Norman Jewison and screenwriter Alvin Sargent (adapting a hit play) teamed up for what at first looks like just another one of those slick “Wall Street” type movies that condemns American capitalism and those who most effectively practice it: Wall Street tycoons.

While I am no fan of Wall Street tycoons (buncha corporate welfare queens), I am a fan of capitalism and a diversity of ideas in my Hollywood entertainment. For that reason, “Other People’s Money” is a real treat. Our protagonist is Larry the Liquidator (a perfect Danny DeVito), a charming, confident, and ruthless corporate raider who loves only one thing more than money: other people’s money.

 Our other protagonist is Andrew Jorgenson (Gregory Peck), the wealthy but down-to-earth, patriarchal  owner of an array of manufacturing businesses, one of which is a failing mom and pop cable and wire factory.

Oh, and the kindly, decent Jorgenson identifies himself as a Republican.

The story’s antagonist is the situation. Larry wants to perform a hostile takeover of Jorgenson’s company because it is a money loser for stockholders. The cable and wire division is unprofitable and being kept alive only out of a financially misguided (but goodhearted) sense of duty to the employees and community.

Eventually, everything comes down to a showdown where Larry and Jorgenson each get to the make their case to the stockholders who will ultimately cast the deciding vote on the fate of the company.  

Other than the fact that DeVito is hilarious in an unapologetic but charming kind of way, what I love about the film is that unlike most Hollywood films, DeVito’s character is actually allowed to make the best possible arguments for what he believes in and the way he operates. His defense of capitalism is not simplified into “greed is good” nonsense. He’s remarkably articulate and persuasive, and the movie (and character) are all the better for it.

The dueling speeches at the stockholder’s showdown are a perfect example:

Though unnecessarily R-rated (for language), “Other People’s Money” is available at the Warner Archives and highly recommended.

The transfer is in widescreen and looks great.

Sadly, other than a brief appearance in the 1991 “Cape Fear” remake (he starred in the masterful original), this would be Gregory Peck’s final starring role.

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