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Edward Arnold Was The Master

The French have Alain Resnais’ elegant “Stavisky” and the Italians can count Francesco Rosi’s conspirational “The Mattei Affair.”

But no recent American film of note has been based on an actual case of business skullduggery. Oliver Stone’s 1987 “Wall Street” was more “inspired” by news stories.

Perhaps the most famous corporate malefactor profiled by Hollywood was the financier Jim Fisk in the 1937 romanticized bio “Toast of New York.” Edward Arnold, who played the Wall Street operator of the 1880s, also played powerful tycoons for Frank Capra, including the fascistic manipulator in “Meet John Doe.”

But the Arnold character that caused the most political ruckus was in the 1940 “Johnny Apollo.” Arnold played a convicted Wall Street businessman who chides his idealistic son (Tyrone Power) for not knowing how things really are. Advance word on the film aroused vocal protests from N.Y. brokerage houses, but businessmen were assuaged when the film was screened for them. Most of the movie is a prison film with both father and son in the slammer.

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