Out Of Work On Screen

On Friday, Day to Day goes off the air — and staff members lose their jobs. Can Hollywood help the show work through the layoffs with some film therapy?

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with Day to Day. The end of our program means saying farewell to certain radio traditions we've created here, traditions like Summary Judgment. For years, our movie guy Mark Jordan Legan has brought a roundup of films coming out each week. On this, his final piece, he brings us a bunch of movies with a most appropriate unifying theme. Here's Mark.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: I've so enjoyed being part of the NPR family and bringing you Summary Judgment every week, and other special segments on strange and forgotten cinema. And once it really sunk in that all of us here at Day to Day were truly out of a job, we began discussing movies that had the best scenes of someone getting fired or laid off, canned, pink-slipped, kicked to the curb. You get the picture. Well, fortunately or unfortunately, there are plenty of movies that deal with this all-too-common human experience. We start with the 1983 comedy "Mr. Mom." Michael Keaton stars as an auto plant engineer who fears being downsized. Here, he discusses his worries with his carpool buddies, which include Christopher Lloyd and Jeffrey Tambor.

(Soundbite of movie "Mr. Mom")

Mr. MICHAEL KEATON (As Jack): You heard anything, Jinx?

Mr. JEFFREY TAMBOR: (As Jinx) If I did, wouldn't I tell you guys?

CHRISTOPHER LLOYD (Actor): Not necessarily.

Mr. KEATON (As Jack): That's right.

Mr. LLOYD (Actor): You didn't tell Lou(ph) until after he chipped in for gas money.

TAMBOR (As Jinx): Hey fellas, I'm telling you, it's as simple as this. You can't sell cars, you can't pay people. Now, come on, come on. Relax. I like splitting gas money four ways.

LEGAN: Later, Michael Keaton comes upon his co-worker attacking the boss after hearing the bad news.

(Soundbite of movie "Mr. Mom")

Mr. TAMBOR (As Jinx): Are you crazy? What did you do that for?

Mr. LLOYD: Why didn't you tell me this morning I was being canned?

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) You fired these guys after all they contribute…

Mr. TAMBOR (As Jinx): Jack.

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) Uh, don't "Jack" me after the support...

Mr. TAMBOR (As Jinx): Jack.

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) Oh, man. After the devotion they gave you…

Unidentified Man: You're fired, too.

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) Now, you fire me. I'm - I'm fired?

LEGAN: Luckily, his kids and his wife, played by Teri Garr, try to be supportive.

(Soundbite of movie "Mr. Mom")

Mr. JUSTIN HENRY: (As Billy Kramer) Heard you got fired.

Ms. TERIE GARR: (As Caroline) Laid off. He's just laid off, honey, remember?

Mr. MICHAEL KEATON: (As Jack) Technically furloughed, sport.

Mr. HENRY: (As Billy Kramer) You're not a bum, are you, daddy?

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) Nah, but I'm working at it.

Ms. GARR: (As Caroline) OK, come on everybody. Let's eat dinner. We're having a special dinner tonight.

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) What are we having?

Ms. GARR: (As Caroline) Colonel chicken.

Mr. HENRY: (As Billy Kramer): Yey!

Mr. KEATON: (As Jack) We can't afford that.

Mr. HENRY: (As Billy Kramer): Let's enjoy it. It may be our last.

LEGAN: We now go to the 1979 Academy Award winning drama "Kramer vs. Kramer." In this scene, Dustin Hoffman begs his boss not to let him go.

(Soundbite of movie "Kramer vs. Kramer")

Unidentified Man: Now look, Ted. This is a very painful thing for me. You don't know how badly I feel but I - I've been getting a lot of pressure from the guys upstairs, there wasn't anything else I could do. Well, listen, I thought about this a lot, it's really better this way. I mean, if I was to take away your stripes, if I was to put you on some schlock account, you'd hate it. You'd hate me for doing it to you. This way it's a clean break and believe me, that's the best thing.

Mr. DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (As Ted Kramer) You know that my wife is - is fighting me for custody. You know that we're going to court. Do you know what my chances are if I'm out of a - if I'm out of the job?

Unidentified Man: Now, look, I understand that you're upset…

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Ted Kramer) I mean, I'm…

Unidentified Man: For God's sakes.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Ted Kramer) I don't want to beg. I'm asking you, please, as a friend? Huh?

Unidentified Man: Ted.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Ted Kramer) I'm asking you.

Unidentified Man: Teddy, look. I know you may be a little short of cash right now. No big hurry about paying this back.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Ted Kramer) Shame on you.

LEGAN: And in 1999's "Magnolia," Alfred Molina fires William H. Macy from his electronics-store salesman job, and Macy doesn't handle it too well.

(Soundbite of movie "Magnolia")

Mr. ALRED MOLINA: (As Solomon Solomon) I trust you with so much. Keys to my store, the - the codes to my locks, the life and blood of my business in and return you, you, you smash in 7-Eleven. And late, always late.

Mr. WILLIAM H. MACY: (As Donnie Smith) Solomon, please.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Solomon Solomon) Please?

Mr. MACY: (As Donnie Smith) I am so (bleep) if you do this. This is the worst timing - the worst timing I could ever imagine. I need to keep working. I - I have so many debts, so many things. I have, I have, I have, I have my surgery - my oral surgery coming.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Solomon Solomon) What surgery?

Mr. MACY: (As Donnie Smith) Oral surgery - or corrective teeth surgery.

Mr. MOLINA: (As Solomon Solomon) What is that?

Mr. MACY: (As Donnie Smith) Braces.

LEGAN: In 2001's little-seen but wonderful "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing," Alan Arkin gives a tremendous performance as a sad, bitter manager of a struggling insurance company who has to let someone go for budgetary reasons. And he picks the happiest, most optimistic guy in the office because the guy's cheerfulness irritates Arkin to no end.

(Soundbite of movie "Thirteen Conversations about One Thing")

Mr. ALAN ARKIN: (As Gene) I'm sorry to have to tell you this but believe me, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.

Unidentified Man: I don't know what to say. I thought things were going so well. Gene, I have to ask, was it me? Was it something I did?

Mr. ARKIN: (As Gene) No, it's not you at all. Company's falling onhard times, and I have a feeling that a lot of other heads are going to roll before this is over.

Unidentified Man: Well, that makes me feel a little better. I mean, not that I would wish it on anyone else.

Mr. ARKIN: (As Gene) Yeah. Well, I'll see to it that you stay out the week, and I'll see what I can do about a nice severance package.

Unidentified Man: Thanks, Gene, I appreciate it. You know, maybe I should look at the upside of this. I can take that vacation I've always wanted, spend some time with my kids before they leave the nest.

LEGAN: And we'll close with 1987's Oscar-winning comedy "Broadcast News," where low ratings force a network news division to make drastic cuts. Jack Nicholson is the star anchorman making a rare visit to the newsroom as heads begin to roll.

(Soundbite of movie "Broadcast News")

Unidentified Man: Well, this is hard on all of us. No time for compliments. But I think it's extraordinary of you to come down here for this.

Mr. JACK NICHOLSON: (As Bill Rorich) Well, if we're not here for one another during the tough times, we're not a news organization.

Unidentified Woman: Bill. Welcome back to Washington, Bill.

Mr. NICHOLSON: (As Bill Rorich) Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I forget, is she on the list? This is a brutal layoff, and all because they couldn't program Wednesday nights.

LEGAN: And this terrific script, written by the legendary James L. Brooks, has one of the best retorts ever made by someone who has just been canned.

(Soundbite of movie "Broadcast News")

Unidentified Man: You know, I'm just old enough to be flattered by the term early retirement.

Mr. JACK NICHOLSON: (As Bill Rorich) That's wonderful. What a lovely line. Now, if there's anything I can do for you.

Unidentified Man: Well, I certainly hope you'll die soon.

LEGAN: And the list of movies about people unemployed or down on their luck goes on and on. And to those in our listening audience who are going through a similar situation, I just want to say keep your spirit positive, and to quote Winston Churchill: Never, never give up.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living and moving on here in Los Angeles. Thanks for all the celluloid memories, Mark.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now, my daughter, Zoe, will do the show close.

ZOE (Madeleine Brand's daughter): Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with the contributions from Slate.com. I'm Zoe D. Murray(ph).

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