Saturday, April 25, 2009

Little Orphan Annie crushes FDR

From Brian Doherty in Reason on Little Orphan Annie and her creator, Harold Gray (this blog posting is as close as Doherty comes, at present, to making available his description of Gray)...

The strip, launched in 1924, quickly became a huge success and a pop culture landmark. It was one of the few popular voices raised in opposition to the New Deal.

The treacly 1977 Broadway musical Annie and the film adaptation that followed five years later glorified lovable FDR. Annie creator Harold Gray (1894-1968) would have been appalled. "I...have despised Roosevelt and his socialist, or creeping communist, policies since 1932..." Gray once wrote.

Doherty continues by quoting "comics historian" Jeet Heer on the differences between Gray and Charles Dickens:

"Her goodness is not passive but active." [Then Doherty again:] When competitors try to drive her from the corner where she sells newspapers, she doesn't just cry "woe-is-me"; she smacks 'em with a survive, Annie counts not only on her own grit but on the direct kindness of stranger...disdain for the uplifters and professional licensing and child labor laws that stymie Annie's attempts to support herself and others who fall under her care.

Then from the blog:

One Annie storyline Schwartz described makes you wonder whether Ayn Rand had been reading the funnies with notepad in hand in the 1930s, when you think about Atlas Shrugged's Rearden metal:

Annie befriends a homeless scientist, Eli Eon, inventor of Eonite, a cheap, easy-to-produce, indestructible material. Warbucks envisions it ending the Depression. Millions will work to mass-produce it, creating materials for housing that millions more will build. A corrupt union, led by John L. Lewis look-alike Claude Claptrap and liberal, long-haired journalist Horatio Hack, demands Warbucks give Eonite “to the pee-pul” or they’ll strike. Their workers burn down Warbucks’s factory (he hadn’t gotten around to building it out of Eonite yet), killing Eon. The secret of Eonite, and to ending the Depression, dies with him.

Finally, back to the Reason article:

In the most vivid moment of FDR baiting, in August 1944, Gray killed off Warbucks with the moneybags moaning, "Some have called me dirty capitalist"...I guess it's time to go." A year later, with FDR now himself dead, Gray revealed that Warbucks' death bad been faked. The returning character slyly noted, "Somehow I feel the climate here has changed since I went away."


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