Tin Men (1987)

Tin Men (1987), written and directed by Barry Levinson.

A mostly comic tale of rivalry between two hard-working aluminum siding salesmen in 1963 Baltimore. A fender-bender escalates into all-out war. Danny DeVito has a wife (Barbara Hershey) he doesn't deserve. Richard Dreyfuss can steal her away in revenge, but what if he wants to keep her? He's not used to this "feelings" business. And what is she going to do when she discovers his original motivation?

Aluminum siding was a scam business back then. It is a tribute to the film that by the end we like the scamsters more than the regulators who are putting them out of business. I used to do tech support for salesmen, and they all loved this picture. It spoke to their grit and comic appreciation of the human condition.

What's in store for our heroes at the end? BB has been talking about a dealership for those new VW Bugs, and we seen a Golden Arch rising on the skyline. The age of franchising looms...

Great ensemble cast and a fine time capsule look at the period. The second of the director's Baltimore series, with Diner (1982), Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999).

Fine Young Cannibals provide several tunes and appear as a club band. Did they pick out the other classic songs, too? I've been meaning to pick up some Jo Stafford: which boxed set?

Available on DVD with an edited commentary track with cast and crew. It seems to have been a happy, creative experience. Levinson insisted on no rehearsals or line readings: everything is fresh for the camera. I suspect that wouldn't work in a lot of projects, but it looks great here.