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Actuary in Movie

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Oh no! Jack Nicholson plays a retired actuary.


I'm a retirement actuary. Nothing about my comments is intended or should be construed as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Occasionally, but not all the time, it might be reasonable to interpret my comments as actuarial or consulting advice.

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A great portrayal of an actuary in a movie was in "Sweet Charity" (1969). The original Neil Simon play used a tax accountant for the part, but in the movie Bob Fosse changed it to be an actuary. (This was Fosse's movie directorial debut and then went on to do "Cabaret" and other great musicals such as his autobiography "All That Jazz." There is currently a broadway hit called "Fosse" that documents his many choreographed routines to popular songs from his musicals.)

In the climatic turn of the movie (prior to this there are various great musical numbers that most people still remember such as "Hey Big Spender" and her singing "If My Friends Could See Me Now" in Ricardo Montalban's closet) : Charity (Shirley MacLaine) decides to get out of the dance hall career (turning tricks), so she goes to an employment agency where they say she isn't qualified to do anything. As she enters the elevator crying, a gentleman (John McMartin) tries to console her, but then the elevator gets stuck. He starts climbing the walls and the tides turn with her trying to console him. She tries to get him to talk and describe who he is while writhing in circles on the floor. He screams "I work at the XYZ Insurance Company upstairs...I am an actuary. I figure out the probabilities of something like this not happening!!!"

Well, obviously, to the uninitiated audience, they think he is claustrophobic. I figured he probably just completed some actuarial exam studying. I think Fosse's switch from a claustrophobic tax accountant to an actuary was just Fosse's excellent attention to every detail.

Oh, and of course, they live happily ever after (following some wild adventures such as with Sammy Davis, Jr. as the evangelical preacher/dancer).

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