Vernon Stallings and James Tyler
coming to collect
Oscar E. Soglow (writer of original comic strip), Vernon Stallings and James Tyler (directors) The Little King: Marching Along / 1933 [7 minutes]
The purposely crude cartoons of Oscar E. Soglow were presented as a series of 10 short animated films between 1933 and 1934, with Marching Along being the second in the series, released on October 27, 1933.
This film was the only one of the series to actually reference current events of the day, presenting President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s NRA (the National Recovery Program) as the possible solution to the bankrupt country’s problems.
So downtrodden is the country that the only successful business is the pawnbroker, described as the loan shop in this short film.
As the little King sits pondering his situation a series of men representing royal accounts come to collect on credit unpaid. Given the crudeness of the cartoons, one shouldn’t be surprised that all are presented by racist and sexual stereotypes, beginning with two Italian furniture collectors who come, with outrageously bad Italian accents, to “take-a back-a” the table and chairs at which and upon the King and his advisors sit. The Royal Coat Maker, a willowy swish of a sissy, comes to pull off the King’s top coat and push his tush in the face the King’s crier, after which two Jewish “Heb’s” arrive to pull away the Little King’s pants.
Anyone who feels any delight by the gay stereotype need only to contextualize it within the racist commentary that comes before and after to see this was not a friendly satire, but a mean put-down of the types it reiterated for the viewer’s “comic” pleasure. As the editor of Queer Cinema Archiveobserves, “It really hasn’t aged well.”
It takes the Queen, a far larger force than her rotund little hubby, to announce Roosevelt’s National Recovery Program as being able to resolve all the country’s problems, as the citizens, suddenly finding jobs march off to work and are sent, via the royal cannons, food and commodities.
As historian William E. Leuchtenburg argued in 1963, the NRA, however, did not live up to its expectations:
“The NRA could boast some considerable achievements: it gave jobs to some two million workers; it helped stop a renewal of the deflationary spiral that had almost wrecked the nation; it did something to improve business ethics and civilize competition; it established a national pattern of maximum hours and minimum wages; and it all but wiped out child labor and the sweatshop. But this was all it did. It prevented things from getting worse, but it did little to speed recovery, and probably actually hindered it by its support of restrictionism and price raising. The NRA could maintain a sense of national interest against private interests only so long as the spirit of national crisis prevailed. As it faded, restriction-minded businessmen moved into a decisive position of authority. By delegating power over price and production to trade associations, the NRA created a series of private economic governments.”