I'm going to Europe, see?
It's not easy being selfless in a society that rewards selfishness and promotes individualism. Take Little John Sarto (Edward G. Robinson) for instance. He's a top-notch gangster who has always gotten what he wanted by elbowing his way towards the big prize. He leads a group of gangsters, including Jack Buck (Humphrey Bogart), in a racket that coerces companies, both sellers and buyers, into joining "protection associations". If any buyer wants to buy from a seller, both parties have to be in the association. That means both parties have to kick back a fee to the association for this so-called "protection". What a great scam. Sarto needled his way into an already existing market and found a way to make money without doing anything other than intimidating people.
Check out that halo!
So when everyone turns on Sarto and he find himself badly injured and in front of a monastery, he is taken in by selfless, charitable men who want nothing but to see him get well. They want no compensation in any form. Just to see him heal. What's with this racket? How do they make a profit? They grow flowers, sell them, and any money leftover after overhead goes to charities. There is one particularly heartbreaking scene which I was hoping to provide as a clip to you but alas it was not meant to be. The brothers are giving Sarto (now Brother Orchid) a haircut when Brother Superior walks in and proclaims that he shall give all of the brothers a special treat since they earned 2 extra dollars off of their rose sales. They'll have watermelon for Thursday evening's dinner. Oh swell! Sarto/Orchid looks on with disdain. Watermelon? Big flipping deal. Then a young boy, shoeless and destitute walks in. The brothers take pity on him and give him the $2 for a new pair of shoes and scoff at the thought of watermelon. That scene just tore my heart right out of my chest.
Milking cows is an okay racket.
It also makes me terribly ashamed. I used to do a lot for other people but have become a bit battle hardened over time. For example, I used to go out with a group of friends to parties, dinners, and other outings. They would drink, I wouldn't and I would always try to drive the ones I could home to make sure they got there safe and sound. Even though it was out of my way, I would always offer and wouldn't take no for an answer. It would make me happy to be of help. However, most of those friends never did anything for me in return. They never pitched in for gas. They never offer me any means of transportation anywhere. And at one point I got fed up. I started to see them as leeches and instead of denying them rides, I started to refuse to go on outings altogether. How can I be like the monks? How can I offer kindness to others when all I see around me are opportunists? How can I get joy from simply helping out another person? I wish I could be like that again. I wish I could find what Brother Orchid did.
This film touched me in so many ways. It very quickly became a top favorite and I proceeded to watch it two more times, even though I have so many other films to watch. I couldn't put it in my Bogie marathon because this isn't about Bogie. It's about Edward G. Robinson's character. That's all that really matters.