Great, Depression Movies!

Bruce Goldstein of Film Forum has come up with a very timely reminder of the Great Depression of the ’30s with a festival of 50 Depression movies running from Feb. 6 to March 5. The series will include vintage shorts, cartoons and newsreels, and a Tuesday BANK NITE! As a post–Inauguration Day special, opening-day admissions will be 35 cents (25 cents for Film Forum members)—the price of the average movie ticket in 1933. Onscreen will be an all-1933 program: Mae West in her scandalous pre-Code blockbuster, Wesley Ruggles’ I’m No Angel, plus a program of selected short subjects, including vintage trailers, a cartoon with caricatures of notables of the day (including Al Capone and Mahatma Gandhi!) and a Hearst Metronome Newsreel showing such highlights of the year as the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the repeal of Prohibition, the latter being the reason that my Republican father voted for F.D.R. against Herbert Hoover. I was 4 at the time.

The opening weekend double feature (Feb. 6-8) includes two rediscovered Hollywood movies that deal directly with the problems of the Depression: Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle (1933), with Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young as an unmarried couple living in a “Hooverville” (a Central Park shantytown), which Dave Kehr has called “a neglected masterpiece”; and Frank Capra’s American Madness, starring Walter Huston as an honest bank president who has to deal with a run on his bank. Also showing is Walt Disney’s The Three Little Pigs, a phenomenon of the day: Its theme song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” became a Depression anthem. More details on the series next week. Dare I say it? I vas dere, Charlie.