'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?' [Blu-ray]
(James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Clarke Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1975) 2019 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?' is a nostalgic look back at the Great Depression with contemporary archival footage and film clips picturing James Cagney as an American Everyman.
Blu-ray Verdict: In what is, simply put, an amazing piece of work, and one where the material itself provides the narrative ie: there are actual speeches, songs and sounds from an era gone by, but no annoying narration or voice over.
Indeed, the years from The Great Depression up to WW2 come to life with this artful assembly of scenes from musicals, songs, newsreels and speeches.
By juxtaposing contemporary news and documentary footage with extracts from Hollywood classics such as 'Golddiggers,' 'Lady Killer' and 'Wild Boys of the Road', director Philippe Mora offers us an immediate, intricate and evocative scrapbook of the 1930's.
Somehow there are uncanny echoes of some of our current preoccupations: strikers at Ford's, mass unemployment, breadlines, vigilante gangs and failing fortunes … and then two heroes emerge: James Cagney, the rough diamond, hood-with-a-heart-of-gold star of the movies; the little man who won't be beaten, and Franklin D. Roosevelt himself: tough yet benign, stepping into the breach with confidence and determination; yet imperceptibly crumpling under the weight of responsibility as he leads America through her most difficult years until the final humiliation of Pearl Harbor.
All that aside, I particularly enjoyed the segment with Huey Long. What a terrific speaker he was and to see him on stage with Ina Ray Hutton, the woman band leader, was a real treat.
Considering it was produced by an Englishman and directed by an Australian, it has a remarkable sensitivity for its subject and so, at least from my point of view, is highly recommended for lovers of documentary / history documentaries; and all historians of America in the 20th Century. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of One Hour of Rare Pathé Newsreels from the Period.