I’ve mentioned a time or two on the ol’ blog that much of my classic movie mania—really, the entire content of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear—sprang forth from the nostalgia craze that swept the 1970s, which played host to my formative years. Hollywood looked to the past for moviemaking (Hearts of the West, Nickelodeon) and radio stations began rebroadcasting many of the great shows of Radio’s Golden Age like The Shadow and Fibber McGee & Molly. One of the more interesting features to emerge from that period is Brother Can You Spare a Dime?, a 1975 documentary directed by Philippe Mora and now available on Blu-ray/DVD from the good people at The Sprocket Vault.
In his 1975 review of Brother Can You Spend a Dime? the late Roger Ebert wrote: “We get a great deal more of Roosevelt than we really need.” Which is kind of silly—FDR was president throughout that era, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that he figures prominently in the movie’s content. (Now you know why I don’t place Rog on the pedestal that others do.) Other personalities that turn up in Brother include Huey Long, Joe Louis, John Dillinger, Winston Churchill, and Herbert Hoover along with “more stars than there are in Heaven” via the generous amount of film clips. (James Cagney gets the lion’s share of these, with nods to vehicles like Taxi! , Lady Killer , and ‘G’ Men , but there’s also footage from TDOY faves like Black Legion [1937—a very effective sequence that blends newsreel footage of the Ku Klux Klan with Bogart’s character’s initiation] and To Be or Not to Be [1942—“Heil myself!”].)