“The house of America — which we will guard against any enemy, within and without.”
In the 1930s, the burgeoning American labor movement is under threat from large corporations, which will stop at nothing to prevent unionism and collective bargaining.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Episodic Films
- Labor Movement
- Paul Robeson Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
This “legendary political film” — a series of historical reenactments based on reports from the La Follette Senate Civil Liberties Committee, and narrated by Paul Robeson — posits that “major U.S. corporations were involved in a large-scale conspiracy to undermine unionism through the systematic use of terrorism, labor spies, police, and blacklisting.” While the documentary now comes across as “a bit disappointing considering its reputation”, it nonetheless remains a salient example of progressive filmmaking in early 20th century. My favorite vignette shows a flirtatious young cleaning lady whose pastoral working existence is shattered when she discovers one of her clients lying murdered on the floor of his apartment. Indeed, the entire film is framed as a series of contrasts between the “natural” joy people experience in communal existence, versus the corruption, greed, and disloyalty of Big Business.
- Beautiful cinematography and powerful editing — especially in the Russian-inspired “Michigan sequence”
- The natural, unglamourized actors who portray the workers — what a contrast their faces are with those of Hollywood stars at the time!
Yes. While naturally one-sided and overly simplistic, this film holds a special place in documentary history.