From Promising Young Woman to Rebecca Hall‘s Passing to Resurrection, a forthcoming thriller in which a mother (Hall again) tries to protect herself and her daughter from an abusive ex-boyfriend (Tim Roth), movies today are leaning heavily on a dependable villain trope — the quietly seething, morally indifferent white guy, otherwise known as the gift that keeps on giving.

White guys who are racist, misogynist, entitled and/or corrupt…Anglo Saxons have it covered.

And who can blame filmmakers for repeatedly drawing water from this fair-skinned well? Angry, older and especially rural white guys represent the most socially incendiary douchebag element in society today — Trump supporters, reportedly ready for armed insurrection, sociopathic D.C. legislators (Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, “Gym” Jordan).

In the ’80s and ’90s the bad guys were arrogant white teens, greedy Wall Street traders, conniving yuppie scumbags (James Spader in Wolf, Paul Reiser‘s “Burke” in Aliens, Jay Mohr‘s “Bob Sugar” in Jerry Maguire).

But post-#MeToo all-purpose white-guy shitheads have taken the lead. And they don’t even have to be a bumblefucks as long as they’re palefaced. Cold-eyed whiteys of any profession or position or motivation will do….#whiteguysblowchunks.

One of the first impactful social dramas featuring ignorant white guy baddies was Mervyn LeRoy‘s They Won’t Forget (Warner Bros., 7.14.37).

But the table was mainly set between the late ’40s and the mid ’50s by three award-calibre dramas about racism, and two of these, both produced by Dore Schary, about racially-motivated killings. They were seminal films — the original racially woke trio.

First came Schary and director Edward Dmytryk‘s Crossfire (’47), about an anti-semitic murder. In Richard Brooks‘ 1945 source novel, “The Brick Foxhole“, the victim wasn’t Jewish but gay. The Crossfire killer was played by Robert Ryan; the good guy was played by Robert Young.

Next was Mark Robson and Carl Foreman‘s Home of the Brave (’49), about black-white racism among American troops in the South Pacific during World War II.

The third and arguably the most penetrating was Bad Day at Black Rock (’55), produced by Schary, directed by John Sturges and starring Spencer Tracy. The subject was a covered-up murder of a Japanese-American by a group of angry, resentful white guys, the leader of whom was played by Ryan.

Anne Francis Chilling in Black Rock” posted on 1.28.22:

Bad Day at Black Rock (‘55) is a good, strong John Sturges film except for one thing. Nobody in that tiny little desert backwater was romancing Anne Francis, and all it takes is 10 or 15 minutes before the average viewer is saying “wait a minute…”

It makes no sense that Francis would even BE there, as a woman this fetching would never settle for a grim existence in a dinky little ghost town like this. Life is short — you have to go for the gusto and the goodies.

But even if you accept that Francis’s “Liz Wirth” would be content to live in this dusty hell hole, human nature dictates that someone in that miserable hamlet would’ve stepped up to the plate and said to her, “I’m your lover, my lovely…I’m your man and we can make beautiful music together and have all kinds of nice plants on the patio.”

Someone always steps up and seals the deal in these situations. It happened in each and every cave settlement in prehistoric times, in every village in ancient Judea, in every clay-hut, grass-roof settlement in medieval Europe. Not that a knockout like Anne Francis would’ve rubbed shoulders with everyday European villagers or Judeans or cave-dwellers.

If I was Spencer Tracy, I would’ve sized things up and sauntered over to Robert Ryan or Lee Marvin or Walter Brennan or Wirth’s brother Pete, who works at the hotel, and said, “Are you telling me that no one’s making it with Anne Francis, or at least trying to? Because that really goes against basic human nature.“