Author Archives: Jon Garlock

About Jon Garlock

Jon Garlock chairs the Education Committee of the Rochester (NY) Labor Council. He coordinates an annual Labor Film Series, now in its 26th year, presented at the International Museum of Film and Photography at George Eastman House. He has published on 19th century US and local labor history, co-directing a video and developing teaching materials on Rochester's unions.

How Green Was My Valley

film stillIn 1939 when How Green Was My Valley was published in England, it sold fifty thousand copies within four months. When this novel by an unknown Richard LLewellyn appeared in the US, it went through fifteen printings and sold nearly 200,000 copies in 1940. It has remained in print ever since.The book is a sprawling tale of three generations of a Welsh colliery family, at once a sentimental novel about the lives of the Morgans and also the story of coal mining in the Rhondda Valley. On the surface a domestic chronicle of the family’s courting and cooking, their singing and schooling, the novel critically examines the transformation of the colliery in which the Morgan men work and depicts their response to these changes. Continue reading

Whores’ Glory

“Everyone believes they know something about prostitution,” writes director Michael Glawogger, “particularly when he or she has never been to a brothel… Prostitution is not to be condemned or defended,” he argues, “prostitution simply is… It’s a dead end to say simply that it is bad. It’s way more interesting to ask why it exists, how it works, and what it does to all of us.” Continue reading

Trash Dance

film still Tonight you are going to see an extraordinary film — extraordinary because it is not only about work and workers but because it shows workers doing work and because it celebrates both the workers and their labor. Unlike the work depicted in many of the labor films we’ve screened over the years — work in mines, fields, factories and other worksites — trash collection takes place on your own street. You have seen these workers and their vehicles moving in ways that might be imagined as dance. Continue reading

The Grapes Of Wrath

film stillThe night Woody Guthrie saw Grapes of Wrath he went home and composed “Tom Joad,” one of his most famous dust bowl ballads. He was moved not only by the film but by Steinbeck’s evident sympathy with migrant farm workers:

There was a feller that knew us Oakies … because early in the deal he throwed
a pack on his back and traipsed around amongst us, and lived with us, and talked
to us, and et with us, and slept with us,and he felt in his heart and knew in his
head that us Oakies was a lookin’ for a “Living with Labor.” Continue reading

The Gleaners and I

film stillHistorically, gleaning was a strategy to create small food surpluses for the poor. Mosaic law decreed (Leviticus:19:22) that “When you reap the harvest of the land do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.” Continue reading

A Grin Without a Cat (Le Fond de l’air est rouge)

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Tonight’s film is long and there won’t be time later to stay around and discuss the film. However, our September 20 Labor Lyceum program will provide an opportunity to consider Chris Marker’s take on the struggles of the decade 1967-1977 and the significance of those struggles to our own. (Lyceum details are on the flyer you should have received). Continue reading

La Danse

film stillMy comments tonight are those not of an expert on dance but those rather of a labor  historian interested in films dealing with labor themes. I will remark briefly first on Wiseman’s documentary technique, then on the structure of tonight’s film and finally on dance as work. Continue reading

Monsieur Verdoux

film stillI have admired Monsieur Verdoux since I first saw the film in the 1960s during one of its brief revivals. But I had not considered including Chaplin’s portrayal of a serial bigamist and lady killer in the labor film series. It’s a brilliant choice, however, because Monsieur Verdoux is all about the business and the work of a Blue Beard. “It was no life of ease,” Verdoux reflects. “I worked very hard for what I got.” Continue reading

Our Daily Bread

film stillIn 1932 King Vidor decided to make a film “inspired by the headlines of today.”  Many of those headlines described plant closings (idling 40% of industrial capacity and throwing  millions of men and women out of work); farm foreclosures  (ejecting millions of farm families from the land and reducing agricultural production); militant strikes involving increasing numbers of California agricultural workers; the veterans’ Bonus Army in Washington D.C. (camped near the Capitol and dispersed by  Douglas MacArthur’s troops);  FDR’s first campaign and election. Continue reading