Who Ya Gonna Call?
We can't imagine that Boolie Werthan's driver's license says "BOOLIE" on it, but we don't know him by any other name. He's Miss Daisy's only son, a successful Atlanta businessman. Even as a Jew, he's been accepted by the business community. In fact, he's elected the Businessman of the Year in 1966. He's married, but doesn't want children, although we're never told why.
Boolie's primary emotional state seems to be exasperation. He's got an impossible-to-please mother and has the miserable job of telling her that she can't drive anymore; he knows how fiercely independent she is:
BOOLIE: You backed the car into the Pollacks' yard.
DAISY: You should have let me keep my LaSalle. It wouldn't have behaved this way.
BOOLIE: Mama, cars don't behave. They are behaved upon. You demolished that Chrysler by yourself.
DAISY: Think what you want. I know the truth.
BOOLIE: The truth is you just cost the insurance company $2,700. You're a terrible risk. Nobody will issue you a policy now.
DAISY: You're just saying that to be hateful.
Boolie ends up constantly running interference between Daisy and Hoke, but his mother's not the only difficult woman in Boolie's life. He's got a social climbing wife trying to be something she's not. She celebrates Christmas, hangs out with her Christian friends, and tries to join exclusive clubs restricted to Jews. He doesn't hear the end of it from Daisy, who thinks that Boolie's under Florine's thumb.
BOOLIE: Don't start up with me, Mama. I can't go to Mobile with you. I have to go to New York for a convention. The convention starts Monday.
DAISY: And I know what else I know.
BOOLIE: Leave Florine out of this. She ordered the tickets eight months ago.
DAISY: I'm sure "My Fair Lady" is more important than your relatives. Those Christians will be impressed.
Boolie spends a fair amount of time calming Florine down. Back in the day, they might have called him "henpecked."
Boolie loves his mama, but you get the impression that she's more of a pain in the butt to him than anything else. He's got her best interests at heart, but he doesn't really give her the time and affection she gets from Hoke. He's paying Hoke not only to drive Miss Daisy, but to keep her company. He's a very busy guy.
Boolie's family has deep roots in Atlanta. His grandfather started the business in the 1890s. His community role as a successful businessman and prestigious citizen puts a lot of pressure on him to conform. So much pressure that he compromises his principles when it comes to his views on segregation. As much as he'd like to hear Martin Luther King speak, he refuses to go. He's worried about how people would see it:
BOOLIE: I want to go! You know how I feel about him.
DAISY: Of course, but Florine…
BOOLIE: Florine has nothing to do with it. I still have to do business here.
DAISY: I see. Werthan Bag will go out of business if you attend the King dinner.
BOOLIE: Not exactly. But a lot of men I do business with wouldn't like it. They might snicker a little. Call me Martin Luther Werthan behind my back. Maybe I wouldn't hear about certain meetings at the Club. Old Jack Raphael at Ideal Mills, he's a New York Jew instead of a Georgia Jew. All the really smart ones come from New York, don't they? Some might throw their business to Jack instead of old Martin Luther Werthan. I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't happen. But sometimes that's the way things work.
It's hard to know what's worse: being a racist, or having to act like one because of fear of the consequences of appearing tolerant. Well, being a racist is worse, but the other is just plain pathetic. It's particularly sad in Boolie's case, because from what we see of him he's a very decent guy. He treats Hoke with respect, gratitude, and fairness. He's an attentive son and husband and a hard-working, humble businessman. Peer pressure is a killer.