Americana: Job Crashing

In the 1944 movie An American Romance, the destitute hero walks into an iron mine, begins working and is soon hired on as a regular hand. But, as Anthony Opat, 19, has found, life unhappily does not imitate art in this situation, at least not at the Ford Motor Co.'s stamping plant in Woodhaven, Mich.

Unemployed and desperate for work, Opat applied for a job and was turned down. Next day he went to the plant's gate, flashed an unemployment card as if it were an employee's ID and joined a production line. For three days Opat took his place among the...

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