Sunday, 14 March 2021

"Ladies who do"

They showed this film on BBC2 a few weeks ago. I was interrupted while watching, so I set the Freeview box to record it. Unfortunately it missed the last ten minutes, so I've had to make assumptions on how it actually ends.

UPDATE: Derek has found it on YouTube.

Despite seeming really old-fashioned at first glance (filmed in black and white in 1963), it is as relevant today as it was then, and is a good template for all the similar films in the 1980s and 1990s ('Trading Places', 'Pretty Woman' and so on). The surprisingly sophisticated plot has two main strands:

1. The central characters are some cleaning ladies who raid waste paper baskets and pass the information on to 'The Colonel' who knows how to use it for insider trading. They end up very wealthy when the last company on which they took a punt (which had nearly gone bankrupt) turns out to have "valuable deposits" (we assume minerals, it's not made clear) on its land.

2. A highly leveraged and increasingly desperate land speculator (he ends up refinancing at 40% interest IIRC) wants to buy up the company which owns the row of houses in which the cleaning ladies live, evict them, knock the houses down and build an office block on the site. The main character discovers this while doing her general snooping and spying.

The strands come together at the end when the cleaning ladies decide to use their ill-gotten gains to buy out the land speculator and go ahead with the redevelopment themselves. The main character tells her co-conspirators (who are becoming increasingly aware of their own moral ambiguity, having started off as heroic underdogs) that it doesn't matter that they don't have enough money to finance the construction as well: the potential gain is so large that they can get a construction company to do the work 'for free' in exchange for a share of the finished project (now modified to be two blocks of flats with shops on the ground floor).

She actually uses the expression "other people's money" nearly thirty years before the film of that name was released while she is explaining all this, and also explains how you capitalise rental income to arrive at the value of a project.

So all this was common knowledge sixty years ago, and probably had been for centuries. What's changed? Have we learned anything from this? It would appear not, this is how the stock exchange and land speculation work today. Land Value Tax would have prevented all this (apart from the insider trading bit, that's a job for Deposit Funded Corporations).

Film highly recommended, as mildly depressing at it is.


Derek said...

Here you go. The whole thing available on YouTube.

Ladies Who Do

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, excellent, thanks.

James Higham said...

"The central characters are some cleaning ladies"


Mark Wadsworth said...

JH, the young Communist one was quite hot. Very passionate.