Why are CPAs always portrayed so unfavorably in the movies? Watch the film clip from “The Damned Don’t Cry” and see for yourself. Imagine a sexy, hot woman (Ethel Whitehead portrayed by Joan Crawford) tramping into your office with curves out of a Rubenesque painting wearing only a slip, blowing out the match you lit for her cigarette while making bedroom eyes at you, and then leaning over your desk in an obvious boudoir pose, revealing a decolletage as low as her navel, conveying that she is ready and willing for the asking ….And in this movie, how does Martin Blankford, the CPA (played by Kent Smith), respond to this blatant seductive invitation that any normal guy would jump over high hurdles for at the risk of strangulating a hernia? He gets all flustered, averts his eyes in embarrassment like a schoolboy, picks up his number 2 lead pencil, and goes back to work. No machismo here; in fact, if anything, his behavior is downright fruity. This CPA is even more obtuse than Ray Barone with women!
Later when they go out to dinner together (she asked him, no less), she orders squab with wild rice, asparagus with Hollondaise sauce, a mixed green salad with a touch of garlic, cherry jubilee for dessert, and a double martini to start things rolling. And what does he order? A chicken salad sandwich and a cup of coffee…a 30 cent meal back then in 1950. He not only looks at the prices on the menu (a definite no-no on any first date), but announces that the price of the meal equals a half of a day’s salary for him as a CPA! Now that’s the way to make an impression on a beautiful, hot, sexy woman who may have been interested in him for services other than those involving taxes. Do you think he just ruined his chances of scoring with her tonight? While watching this movie, I suddenly felt embarrassed that I,too, am a CPA. It was bad enough becoming a CPA and then having all of my friends ask me if I obtained my accounting degree from those correspondence schools that used to advertise “Be an Accountant” on the backs of matchbook covers. No wonder everyone makes fun of us.
But this is not the only movie portraying CPAs as “strange”. What about the film, “The Producers”? Gene Wilder plays a mousy CPA named Leo Bloom, who is auditing the books of Max Bialystock (played by Zero Mostel), a really normal guy who loves and appreciates life and women: recall the secretary he hires later on in the movie. In complete contrast, Bloom is portrayed as a pitiful creature, a very nervous accountant, prone to panic attacks, who keeps a security blanket to calm himself, like Linus of the comic strip, Peanuts. In Peanuts, Linus comes off as cute, since he’s a child; Bloom, on the other hand, appears as a certifiable nut case since he is an adult and it is no longer cute to carry a blanket around all of the time.
Don’t you just hate all of these negative stereotypes of CPAs?! Are we all this mousy and fruity with women? Do we all appear as maladjusted nerds to the public at large, unworthy of the respect bestowed upon other professionals, like attorneys and doctors? The media seems to think so. Truth may be stranger than fiction; however, fiction may just be the truth in this case. Don’t believe it? Try this the next time you go to the office (I say the office, because we never go to watering holes like normal business people): ask an attractive woman how CPAs appear to women, but first require her to be candid and truthful, assuring her that you won’t fire her if you are her superior. LOL! Be prepared for a reality check.
For all of those movie buffs, “The Damned Don’t Cry” is based on the story of Virginia Hill, Bugsy Siegel’s femme fatale. Like the film’s Ethel Whitehead, Hill worked as a sideshow dancer before hooking up with an accountant with mob connections, Joey Epstein. This led to an affair with New York gangster Joe Adonis before moving to the West Coast and meeting mobster Bugsy Siegel. Jerome Weidman was hired to write the script, but when he produced a 300 page screenplay, long enough for three films, it was compressed by the director and another writer, resulting in a less faithful portrayal of the events upon which the story is based. But if you are a fan of the film noir genre and of Joan Crawford, you will want to see this trashy film about a trashy tramp becoming a classy tramp.
By the way, I love the way Joan Crawford exclaims, “He’s a CPA!” Apparently, not many knew what the acronym CPA meant back in 1950. It’s hilarious watching a number of characters in the film pretending that they do know when, in fact, they haven’t a clue. I guess CPAs have come a long way since those days when correspondence schools were advertising “Be an Accountant” on matchbook covers!
This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice. For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant.
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