A few years ago, exasperated by interviewers who viewed Season 5 of “The Wire” strictly as a roman a clef about The Baltimore Sun, Simon told a reporter that “the film template in his head” was actually “the most important political film of the 20th century, which is ‘Paths of Glory.’ ” Simon said it spoke more eloquently than any other picture “to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and … to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond.”
He said his dramatic models for The Sun’s top editors — and for key powers at City Hall and the port of Baltimore — were the generals in Kubrick’s movie. One, the urbane corps commander (played by Adolphe Menjou), decrees that the French must take the unattainable Ant Hill from the Germans. The other, the division leader, a self-consciously dashing field commander (played by George Macready), disdains the target as a waste of manpower.
He changes his mind when the corps commander dangles a promotion in his battle-scarred face. An order that is ordure becomes gold.