What’s Your Favorite Movie Profession?

Executive Suite, the 1954 classic about an inter-business struggle among a company’s board of directors over who should take over the company, airs on TCM today.  It’s a fine piece of filmmaking though not really a personal favorite.   I like it just fine but, frankly, the profession doesn’t do much for me.  No, not furniture makers, although that probably wouldn’t do much for me either, but board directors squabbling over power.  The sharp, incisive script by Ernest Lehman makes it work because it’s, obviously, about the fight itself, not their jobs.  Still, if I had to choose my favorite movie profession, business men on company boards would be pretty far down the list, even considering Michael Palin’s stirring speech to his board on not enough people wearing hats, in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.  But there are so many professions portrayed in the movies it’s hard to pick just one.  Also, they have little to do with real life so while I might love a movie profession, I may hate its actual counterpart in real life.  For instance…


In real life, astronauts get to go up in rockets, dock on a space station, and conduct experiments for six months.  And, you know, that’s okay.  But in the movies they get to go Mars, or fake going to Mars.  They get plant nuclear bombs on asteroids and become world heroes.  They get to re-energize the sun so the earth doesn’t die or travel through space and time to the Vega system and talk with an alien that looks like their dad.  Of course, a lot of the time they die doing these things, too.  Come to think of it, they also have to deal with aliens coming aboard their ship in the stomach of a shipmate and stalking every last crew member until only one is left.  And they get left behind on Mars.  And no one believes them about going to the Vega system.  Or they have to battle Monsters from the Id.  You know what, on second thought, I’ll take the six months of experiments.

What about spies?  In real life they spend lots of time reading files, listening to transmissions, reporting information back, and filling out paperwork.  They analyze and interpret.  In the movies they drink vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred, and have members of the opposite sex falling all over them every time they walk out the door.  They eat fine foods and visit the most exotic locales on earth.  They also forget their identity sometimes and almost always have tons of people trying to kill them.  The upside is, those people appear to be very bad at their jobs.  Oh, and they usually have pretty cool cars.  Except when they don’t.  And sometimes they do just interpret and analyze.  In fact, the spy may have the deepest range of any profession in the movies. Think of the distance between George Smiley and James Bond.  Or Harry Palmer and the Condor.  Or Alec Leamas and Jason Bourne.  I mean, they range from the realistic to the hyper-fantastic.  Well, I’d be a fool not to choose the James Bond one for me even though I’m more Harry Palmer’s speed.  But honestly, if I had to pick a spy profession, I’d take J.K. Simmons desk job in Burn After Reading.  Get a briefing every two weeks or so on what everyone has screwed up, tell them what to do, go back to your lunch. 


Some professions are so much more exciting, and dangerous, in the movies that I much prefer the real world equivalent.  Take archaeology.  I took some course in archaeology years ago and loved it.  I loved the digs and the careful classification of artifacts and fossils (crossing over into paleontology).   But I have no desire to go through a life or death situation just to discover an artifact and I certainly don’t want to steal anything.  Sorry, Indy, it doesn’t belong in a museum, it belongs right where you found it.  And that paleontology work they’re doing in the beginning of Jurassic Park?  That’s the stuff I’d love to do!  Sure, I love watching everyone get chased by dinosaurs, but give me the dig in real life anytime.

Other professions make it look so much better, or at least the appreciation and respect.  Everyone in the real world, at least I hope, respects teachers for all they do but if I had to choose between being a real teacher and being a movie teacher, I’d choose the latter.  In the movies, they have these tremendously heroic successes at their schools, where students practically lavish praise and love upon them, from Mr. Chips to Mr. Holland.  They have an impact in real life, too, hence those movie stories but it’s so much more glorious on film.

Speaking of glory, does anyone really think being a private eye is as cool as it looks in the movies?  I saw a special once on private eyes.  Good grief it’s a dull profession.  Searching for addresses, hanging out for hours waiting for the right moment to snap a photo, checking hotel records.  Yawn.  In the movies, though, they get whistling lessons from Lauren Bacall and enjoy party after party while their terrier looks on.  Heck, Myrna Loy alone is enough to convince me the movie private detectives always have it better.

The thing is, the movies have to glamorize every subject, even if by glamorize that means showing the noble struggle involved.  Take my profession, writer.  The movies have portrayed dozens of different ways and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one that feels like what it feels like to me to be a writer.  And that’s okay.  I imagine there are so many different ways people in any given profession perform and act that the movies can take their pick at which to portray.  Some professions, like being a spy or a detective, probably have the most obvious glamour treatment.  Others, like a policeman or politician, range from generic to good guy to bad guy with every shade in between.  It’s always interesting to see your profession, or even hobby, portrayed in a movie, and usually it doesn’t look all that right to you.   We look to the movies to escape from our everyday lives so when we see our own profession up there, it can cause us to get lost in critiquing the details rather than watching the movie.  That’s why, if they ever make a movie about classic movie bloggers, I’m not watching it.  They probably won’t understand how strong, selfless, and heroic we are.  I guess I just have to live with that.

20 Responses What’s Your Favorite Movie Profession?
Posted By Erich Kuersten : June 24, 2016 2:39 pm

zeppelin pilot

Posted By Flora : June 24, 2016 5:30 pm

Hey, I totally agree with the movie version of professions being much more exiting than the real life equivalent. And no, I would not want to risk my life for an artifact either.

If we are talking about movie professions regardless of what they are like in real life, then I would pick either a Bond girl spy or Nora Charles of The Thin Man series.

However, in the real world I have NO interest in being a spy and I am able to avoid getting accidently mixed up in murders that happen while I am supposed to be on vacation.

Regarding movie professions that might actually interest me, in the real world that is – if you look at movies about movie making – I would enjoy being someone who could be part of that life in, say, the makeup department – you know, I would not want to the star so people leave me alone when I was in public.

Posted By Flora : June 24, 2016 5:33 pm

Oh, and by the way I have been on the Board of Directors of a Music organization and I had thought that it would be great and everything would focus on artistic issues. Boy, was I wrong!

Posted By Marty : June 24, 2016 5:37 pm

My favorite movie profession is that of Jonathon Shields — head of Shields Productions played by Kirk Douglas. Or as Don Walling as he ascends to Chairman in Executive Suite played by Bill Holden. Or as Vic Norman as Account Director on the Beau-tee Soap account at the Kimberly Advertising Agency as played by Clark Gable.

Posted By Emgee : June 24, 2016 7:06 pm

What about the movies themselves? How many people would love to be actors or directors? They see the glamorous parties and award ceremonies. Who wouldn’t love that? What they don’t see is the endless waiting onset or on location for the right weather, the right sound and camera angles, the endless retakes, the temper tantrums and power struggles. The end result as seen on a movie screen is mostly a fraction of all the effort put in by hundreds of people over weeks and months, and a lot of that effort ends up on the cutting room floor. And then there’s the hope that people will actually go out and watch it. Still that appealing?

Posted By Flora : June 24, 2016 7:55 pm

I know exactly what you mean Emgee.

I am the daughter of professional musicians.

I have down a lot of stage work.

You know what?

I love actually being on stage itself for a live audience – but it is the live audience I love.

I’ve been an extra in a couple of TV shows and I am telling you – waiting around all day is boring.

In stage, when you are not needed you can go eat, or sit in the seats and watch the rehearsal.

Stage is no way to make a living mind you. You can’t pay your bills.

Posted By AL : June 24, 2016 10:08 pm

Marty–a big YES on Jonathan Shields !

Posted By AL : June 24, 2016 10:13 pm

How about Boris Lermontov?

Posted By Doug : June 25, 2016 12:30 am

Movie profession? Easy-defender of the weak and helpless, such as Clive Owen as Smith in “Shoot Em Up” or Clive Owen as Dwight in “Sin City”. Also great defenders: the Hanson brothers ala “Slap Shot”.

Posted By George : June 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Most people would be bored silly by a realistic depiction of most professions. Alfred Hitchcock said drama is “life with the dull parts left out.” There are a lot of dull parts in real life.

The lives of writers especially don’t translate well to film. But there was a ’40s movie called THE LOVES OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, which climaxed with Poe reading “The Raven.”

One film historian (forgot who) wrote: “Can you imagine a movie today where the dramatic high point is the reading of a poem? Well, maybe if the poet was being chased by a rolling fireball.”

Posted By Flora : June 25, 2016 9:17 pm

LOL! Have I mentioned that when I am not singing that I am a writer? I have plenty of things to do September to June but the summer?

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 26, 2016 1:57 am

I wouldn’t mind being the bartender in 10. Played by Brian Dennehy, he seems to never have much business, gets to hang out at a beautiful resort all day long and read books while occasionally making drinks and chatting with customers. The first time I saw it I remember thinking it seemed like a sweet gig.

Posted By Murphy’s Law : June 26, 2016 3:08 am

college student as well. 99% of people who act like tv/movie college kids fail out within a year. The Paper Chase is probably the closest I’ve ever seen – students actually study!

Posted By LD : June 26, 2016 12:20 pm

Falling into the “more exciting and sometimes dangerous” category would be Hooper’s job as a marine biologist in JAWS. I know a few marine biologists and I think their jobs are equal to, or better than, portrayed in the film. Perhaps JAWS was an inspiration to many of them (and an episode of Seinfeld) to enter the field. So movies can trigger an interest in certain professions and lead to career choices.

Posted By George : June 26, 2016 7:00 pm

The guy in SHOWGIRLS who explains the importance of ice cubes in the art of topless dancing. Now, that’s a sweet gig!

Posted By George : June 26, 2016 7:23 pm

Burt Reynolds’ porn director in BOOGIE NIGHTS. Instead of actually directing, he just sits in a chair, smokes a cigar and watches, while his assistants do all the work.

Reynolds himself came up with this touch, no doubt based on some lazy directors he had worked with.

Posted By robbushblog : June 28, 2016 8:03 pm

EXECUTIVE SUITE actually is a personal favorite of mine. Not so much for the boardroom-sitting, but for the backstabbing deals and intrigue, and for William Holden’s rousing speech at the end. With that being said, I wouldn’t to sit in a boardroom in real life. Meetings bore me to sleep, without fail.

As far as movie professions go? Cowhand, small town sheriff, mild-mannered reporter working for a great, metropolitan newspaper, private eye, super-secret agent, violin-playing consulting detective, and adventuring archaeologist are all among my favorites. You mean…they aren’t as exciting in real life? Life ain’t fair.

Posted By Jenni : June 29, 2016 12:24 am

I jumped back into my profession in January, teaching. Most teacher films depict a struggling young teacher, inexperienced and naive, who with sheer determination, good will, and hard work, turns the tables on the students and in the end, the students have learned not only their subjects but how to treat their fellow students with respect, honor, etc. Being a teacher, I am extremely fond of Good-Bye Mr. Chips, To Sir, With Love, Mr. Holland’s Opus, etc. However, a couple years back, I did watch a foreign movie made in France, about a Jr. High teacher there, dealing with his classes in inner city Paris and it surprised me how similar those students acted to the American jr. highers I have taught and teach. It’s a semi-documentary, called The Class, made in 2008. Find it if you haven’t seen it.

Posted By swac44 : July 13, 2016 2:36 pm

As a mild-mannered reporter working for a metropolitan newspaper, until our newsroom went out on strike six months ago, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be either. But don’t think His Girl Friday didn’t help influence my career choice.

Posted By Flora : July 25, 2016 5:52 pm


I am using this block on Favourite Movie Profession because I just heard that Marni Nixon died and since I’m no longer on other sites I need to pay tribute to her.

Nixon was a voice over singer turned actress.

That me and that she literally provides the singing voice in films for people – in this case women – who either do not have the right type of singing voice for the part (ie: not operatic), cannot sing at all, OR as in the case of time constraints the singer is not able to record the music in time for the film to be released.

I have a close personal singing relationship with Marni Nixon who was the voice of Kerr singing in The King and I among others.

I am a singer.

I come from a long long of musicians on both sides of my family.

I won’t bore you with this list as I am really talking about Nixon.

See: Nixon finally MADE HER ONSCREEN DEBUT singing and appearing as herself in THE SOUND OF MUSIC opposite Plummer and Andrews AS SISTER SOPHIA.


In terms of professional STAGE productions:


So I had to talk her somehere and thiss topic was the best choice.

Because not everyone is a movie star.

But everyone involved is necessary to create a fabulous:
stage production

fill in the blank

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

As of November 1, 2017 FilmStruck’s blog, StreamLine, has moved to Tumblr.

Please visit us there!


 Streamline is the official blog of FilmStruck, a new subscription service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.