We interrupt our regularly-scheduled shameless self-promotion…
Setting aside the propriety of casting Mel Gibson in a movie called “Rothchild,” which seems to be all anyone is discussing about it, why is it that not a single article I’ve read so far notices that it’s almost certainly a remake of an old classic?
Here’s the plot summary from The Hollywood Reporter:
The black comedy will center on Becket Rothchild (Shia LaBeouf) — the bastard child of a mother, who in eloping with a jazz musician was cast out from the Rothchild family and its vast fortune — who was never given a fair lot in life. All grown up and armed with charisma, intelligence and a flair for opportunity, it does not take long for Becket to fully grasp the immense gap between his situation and the richest 1 percent, which should be his birthright. He has a plan.
There are precisely nine Rothchild family members who stand between him and his fortune, including Whitelaw (Gibson), his sinister grandfather. How hard could it be for them each to meet with an “accident”? With the unique advantage of being unknown to any of them, Becket penetrates the weird and twisted lives of his super-rich kin amongst frat boys, hipster artists and reality TV stars. The only thing that threatens to get in the way is love, both old and new.
Did you recognize it? Here’s a hint: Alec Guinness.
Not yet? How about: Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, Alec Guinness, and Alec Guinness.
The movie I’m referring to is Kind Hearts and Coronets, from 1949. In many respects its plot matches the above outline precisely, making allowances for an updated setting. The biggest clue is that there are precisely nine family members to bump off, as in the 1949 film. (Apparently the film was loosely adapted into a Broadway show in 2013, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. None of the discussions of “Rothchild” mention that one either.)
Interestingly, in one sense “Rothchild” might be more faithful to Kind Hearts’s original source material—a 1907 novel titled Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a Criminal, in which the titular criminal is half-Jewish and generally enacts the usual anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews.
I doubt I’ll see “Rothchild,” mostly because I don’t trust Hollywood to satirize “the 1%” without plunging into boring ham-handed preachy sanctimony. But it’s alarming that the classic movie it seems to have been ripped off of has apparently sunk without a trace, forgotten by the very reporters who claim to know movies.
(I suppose this is one more example of how institutional memory is being destroyed across industries by young know-it-alls who imagine that no one older than they knows anything worth learning. One of the most frightening things about Washington DC is that much of the government is run by twenty-something staffers who are ignorant and easily manipulated by outside interests.)
On the bright side, those of us who appreciate the classics have an opportunity to sell old wine in new bottles. What other classic movies or books are out there, waiting for a facelift in the hands of a determined modern novelist?