Accounting scandals, lavish pay increases, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, leveraged buyouts, spin-offs, and re-capitalisations conspire to turn the world against corporate leaders. Corporate greed in which fat cats award themselves all the cream from a company’s profit and give very little in return is a subject begging for hard hitting satire, however “Solid Gold Cadillac” written in 1953 by George S Kaufman & Howard Teichmann, is not it! This lightweight charade merely pokes fun at frivolous caricatures.
When the executives of General Products call the annual shareholders meeting they expect their plans to award themselves ludicrously high wage increases to go unnoticed. Unfortunately for them Mrs Laura Partridge, an ageing bit-part actress with a preposterous knack of asking pertinent questions has read her horoscope for that day and it told her to “Cultivate friends and attend to financial matters” and so attends the meeting! To silent Mrs Partridge they offer her a job and all seems to work in their favour until she is sent to Washington to petition Edward McKeever, the former chair of General Products, for lucrative government contracts.
This silly story of how Mrs Laura Partridge dislodges four greedy executives and unintentionally mounts a take-over bid of her own belongs to a distant age, one where deference was the most important virtue. Kaufman and Teichmann’s script is too tame in it’s criticisms and for the modern audience it is too tedious and insipid. We expect corruption to be met with scornful accusations not polite inquisitiveness.
The voice over during the play refers to “Cinderella and the four ugly corporate directors”, as if to remind one, if one needed reminding, that the characters in this play are as insubstantial as any you might hope to meet in a children’s pantomime. The four ugly corporate directors are incandecorous and farcical, Edward McKeever is an ageing eccentric fool and Mrs Partridge herself is a shrewdly maiden old aunt.
Patricia Routledge (Laura Partridge) and Roy Hudd (Edward McKeever) are undoubtedly the stars of the show, yet even their comical performances are not able to raise this dead script from the crypt of deceased comedies.
There is nothing solid gold about this Cadillac, and it will quickly jade all but the most adoring fans of Patricia Routledge and Roy Hudd
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "This limp, lame American comedy....musters no more impact than a clapped-out old banger...I was quickly driven to boredom and stranded there." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "although it is nicely performed, it doesn't so much satirise the greed and corruption of the American corporate world as give them a friendly poke in the ribs." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "The play is light, slight, mischievous, but not radical, not subversive." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "The Solid Gold Cadillac, in short, is a comedy about big business that proves entirely profitless for everyone involved – not least the long-suffering audience." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Bumper to bumper, he (Roy Hudd) and Routledge certainly know how to fill a stage, and their mischievous teamwork will give their fans a lot of pleasure. I regret to say that I found the fancifulness of the piece wearing."