BRYCE ON LIFE
- What the “Flim Flam Man” teaches us.
I recently happened to see the cult classic, “The Flim Flam Man,” a favorite of mine produced back in 1967. The movie features George C. Scott as Mordecai C. Jones, a notorious con man from the South. He meets up with Curley Treadaway, played by Michael Sarrazin (his first movie), who has gone AWOL from the Army and is being sought by the Military Police. The two form a partnership with Mordecai playing the role of teacher to Curley as a willing young student. They drift through the South conning people in various games of chance and swindles. It’s an enjoyable comedy which I highly recommend.
At first, Curley is unaware of the identity of Mordecai, but after pulling a few scams he realizes he is working with the famed, “Flim Flam Man,” whom he had heard about since his days as a youth. This impresses Curley who becomes fascinated with his partner. Throughout their travels, Curley asks Mordecai as to how and why he chose this line of work.
Mordecai: “Greed is my line lad, greed. 14K ignorance, will never let you down.”
Curley: “I don’t hold with cheating Mr. Jones.”
Mordecai: “Only the cheaters. You can’t cheat an ‘honest man.'”
This is an important premise; an honest man cannot be cheated simply because he resists temptation, but a cheater cannot resist. It is like the old proverb, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” From this perspective, Mordecai’s conscious is clear and he holds no regrets knowing it is impossible to cheat an honest man. He also recognizes greed is an inherent part of temptation, as he explains to Curley:
Mordecai: “One day it come to me. If everybody so determined to be greedy and being ignorant, maybe what they need is a little old liberalized education. So, in order to teach them, I qualified myself with an honorary degree: Mordecai Jones, MBSCSDD.”
Curley: What does all that mean?
Mordecai: “Master of Back Stabbing, Cork Screwing, and Dirty Dealing” (laughs). “Ours is a society of goods and services, and I think I’m performing a service. Cause after meeting up with me, maybe they ain’t so eager for the edge next time. Son, you would be amazed at the hundreds of satisfied students I have matriculated over the last fifty years” (laughs).
From this perspective, Mordecai is correct, he is providing an important lesson to the people he cons, something they won’t likely forget. After being stung by this southern scalawag they may become angry at first, but will be less likely to be tempted a second time. In short, greed and ignorance are Mordecai’s tools, without them he would not have a profession, but since there is still plenty in supply we will likely have Flim Flam men for time immemorial.
Towards the end of the movie, the two are captured by the police who imprison them pending trial. To escape, Curley calls upon the lessons he has learned from Mordecai and devises one last con job. I do not want to spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, but let’s just say Curley learned his lessons well.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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