Depression Lessons #1

Turn Back the Clock

"New Deal, huh? This fella' Roosevelt's just tryin' to get the banks out of a jam, that's all."

—Lee Tracy in Turn Back the Clock (Edgar Selwyn, 1933)

Early Talkies lift further out of the nostalgia bin like banshees proclaiming REALITY! Even MGM, with its ethos of ermine bathmats during America's Great Depression, will occasionally astonish us. Swap out "Roosevelt" for "Obama" and we are there—and guess what? It's another here and now. Tracy plays a loudmouthed know-it-all who gets knocked flat by traffic and, dreaming himself back in time, marries a different girl and tries to get rich on future knowledge in this nifty little picture, but we don't know any of that yet. His cynical comment flies at us without context (it's the first thing we hear). Screenwriters Ben Hecht and Edgar Selwyn belonged to a political milieu that would floor today's "left"...


Part of our on-going series Depression Lessons.

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  • Ray Davis

    From The Market Revolution in America by John Lauritz Larson:

    … Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury in Washington’s administration… responded with an interlocking program of public finance. By design, his policies favored commercial interests, creditors, and contracts… For wealthy individuals who had mothballed their “worthless” paper — or speculators who quickly bought it up as rumors flew — the windfall was tremendous…. Rumors flew that his funding scheme intentionally transferred wealth to the “paper jobbers” in order to strangle “country” interests (farmers, planters, artisans) before they gained control of their own governments. The design of the national bank, governed by a board stacked in favor of private investors, seemed proof of elitist intentions.

  • Daniel Riccuito

    Gotta read that one — thanks Ray!

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