Trumpterpiece Theater #1 Ghosts Can't Do It
Trumpterpiece Theater is a monthly column exploring Donald Trump on film, from short, forgettable cameos in forgotten films to slightly more memorable cameos in slightly better movies.
Bo Derek wasn’t much of an actress. No, she was a sex God with a very limited range that was pretty much exhausted by her career-making turn in 10. 10 called only for Derek to be ravishingly beautiful and moderately hip, a gorgeous cipher for its hapless, frustrated protagonist to be utterly enraptured with, to his detriment and the detriment to the people around him, particularly his long-suffering wife.
After 10, Derek made the mistake of allowing her much older, extremely untalented but poisonously narcissistic and self-absorbed husband and Svengali John to not only determine the course of her career but also to write and direct all of her vehicles. The god-awful results constituted a curious, largely unwatchable form of dual vanity projects, for husband and wife alike.
As is generally the case, the chauvinist got the best of the deal. The promise of gratuitous Bo Derek nudity was enough to turn red lights into green for this struggling and stunningly talentless filmmaker but after the horrifying success of Tarzan, The Ape Man (which did so well at the box office despite universally negative reviews that it would have qualified for Forgotbusters, my old column on forgotten blockbusters), Derek’s luscious naked flesh ceased to be enough to trick audiences into paying good money for singularly bad movies.
Derek and Derek’s toxic collaborations concluded with the very first feature-film appearance of President Donald Trump, who is never referred to by name but who does everything short of wear an outsized golden sweatshirt crowing, “I am Donald Trump, famous real estate mogul, grabber of fine pussies, and author of the best-selling business manual/memoir The Art Of The Deal” to broadcast his actual identity.
Ghosts Can’t Do It finds Trump outside of his New York comfort zone, playing a charming and seductive shark of the business world who the heroine wows with the help of her late husband in a business transaction that feels overwhelmingly like flirting. She one-ups The Donald in this transaction but only because he allowed her to. As he later describes to the protagonist in a rare second scene (a single sentence proved more Trump’s speed), she beat the situation, not him, and, it is noted, she was only able to quasi-beat Trump because she both read Trump’s business bible, The Art Of The Deal, and also because she received posthumous tutoring from her late husband. So if a woman succeeds in business here it’s only because of the kindness and generosity of a pair of billionaire moguls who want to fuck her. And also her sexuality, which Scott advises her to employ to her benefit.
The film cast Derek as the much, much, much younger trophy wife of Scott, an eccentric billionaire played by Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn. The lovestruck protagonist doesn’t just admire and look up to the gruff, blunt billionaire: she treats him as a combination husband, lover, mentor and minor deity. She even refers to him as “Great One” which I imagine is one of the more modest things Trump angrily demands the people who work under him call him.
Then one day Scott does the only thing his worshipful bride cannot happily forgive or forget: he commits suicide. This of course devastates the younger woman until her husband shows up as a ghost in purgatory with an intriguing proposition: he wants her to find the body of a still-living man that he can then possess so they can have hot, hot ghost-sex.
The search for a body takes up much of the film and for reasons known only to the director, involves Quinn coaching her from some weird purgatory represented by very cheap, amateurish special effects. Since he’s almost never shown below his chest, Quinn probably could have filmed the vast majority of his scenes while sitting on his toilet. Given the nature and quality of the film, I don’t think anyone would begrudge that choice.
Since Quinn inexplicably doesn’t actually physically interact with the wife he’s constantly coaching, that means that Derek spends a lot of the film appearing to talk to herself when actually talking to her unseen ghost husband. Sharing many, if not most, of your scenes with someone who isn’t there would represent a formidable acting challenge for even the most accomplished actress, with the most exquisitely wrought screenplay.
Given the script and Derek’s talentlessness as a director (have I mentioned yet that he isn’t exactly gifted in the “talent” department yet?), this choice seems both perverse and sadistic. The perverse choices do not end there. Ghosts Can’t Do It has the title, and premise of an outrageous sex comedy yet if the film is in fact a comedy, which is a very big if, the filmmakers don’t seem to know that. Christ, when the despairing widow cries out, “Ghosts can’t do it, it’s that simple!” it’s supposed to be a cry of profound sorrow. Our protagonist is supposed to be emotionally destroyed. How on earth is she going to be able to face each morning without having a billionaire to worship like some manner of Trumpian man-God?
It does not seem coincidental that when given a choice between a virile young sex bomb at the height of his powers or a distinguished silver fox like, I dunno, John Derek, our not so merry widow chooses the older dude. Somehow, I imagine Trump would approve of her choice. Because what sexy, dynamic, endlessly desired woman wouldn’t choose age and wealth and power over youth and beauty?
In that respect, Ghosts Can’t Do It plays like a self-aggrandizing fantasy of how Donald Trump imagines Melania would ideally respond if he were to die. He would obviously want to continue to control her actions, particularly where it comes to business and opposite sex, but he also would want her to devote her life to honoring and revering his memory and also to try to find a way for him to continue having sex with her. A man like Trump isn’t constrained by social norms. Trump respects no one and nothing. Why should he respect something as minor as death?
While it may seem odd that a President who absolutely killed with evangelicals and Catholics despite starting beef with The Pope (who I understand is somewhat popular with Catholics) began his film career with a soft-core porn film about ghost fucking, with Trump it is absolutely on brand. Hell, this may be one of the classier endeavors he’s been involved with. At least this is merely an unspeakably awful film, and not, like, say, Trump University, a bona fide criminal endeavors, although it could certainly be argued that this represents a crime against cinema, and a third-strike felony at that.
Trump’s dialogue in its entirety:
Derek: Well, gentleman. I hope I was clear and not too vacant headed. Because, from the look of this room it isn’t woman’s work we’re doing here today, is it?
Trump’s Associate: It has been decided, that there is no point that can be argued. The point is based, as it is stated. It’s not ambiguous. There’s no room for any rhetoric. You must yield!
Quinn: You must? Who da fuck are you? I never saw you before!
Derek: Must? Who the fuck are you? I’ve never even seen you before.
Quinn: Don’t come down to their level
Trump: Where does that have a bearing on the point of issue?
Quinn: Tell them we’re going to the Indian Ocean, to put away their knives and go home.
Derek: I would suggest you put away your knives. You haven’t got one sharp enough to carve up a Scott. The Great Scott lives on in me. Believe me, the city will be reduced to dust before you will best me. Does Tai-Pan ring a bell?
Trump’s associate: This has been interesting. Tomorrow at eleven, we will vote and that will settle it for now.
Trump: But be assured, Mrs. Scott that in this room there are knives sharp enough to cut you to the bone. And hearts cold enough to eat yours as hors d’oeurves.
Quinn: You bet your sweet ass.
Derek: You’re too pretty to be bad
Trump: You noticed?
Quinn: You’ve got him, honey!
Derek: Did I win? I did, didn’t I?
Trump: You were good.
Derek: I read your book, and I won, I did. I beat you.
Trump: You’re very good. You played the situation perfectly.
Derek: So I beat the situation, but not you.
Trump: That’s what you did.
Derek: I think you like to make mischief
Trump: You noticed that too.