This compilation documentary about the United States in the 1930s was written and directed by Philippe Mora, who earlier recreated scenes from the life of Hitler in Swastika. Brother Can You Spare a Dime? is an historical odyssey which takes the audience on a journey through the United States, beginning with the great crash in 1929. The film is compiled with extracts from the feature films of all the major Hollywood studios of the Thirties, as well as newsreels, short films, home movies and documentaries. Personalities featured include Franklin D. Roosevelt, James Cagney, Herbert Hoover, Huey Long, Orson Welles, J. Edgar Hoover, Billie Holliday, Paul Robeson, Humphrey Bogart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and a host of important figures from American social, cultural and political life. The two leading characters are Franklin D. Roosevelt and James Cagney, and they are used to illustrate changes in national mood and sentiment from the onset of the depression to the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Most of the ciips of feature films come from Warner Bros., including extracts from Wild Boys of the Road, Gold Diggers of 1933 and I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. The film emphasizes working class conditions and themes, so there is little material from the spectacular comedies of the period. Preparation for the film was carried out by five researchers in London, New York, Los Angeles and Washington. Over two thousand films and countless newsreels were viewed in the search for unusual, original and revealing material on one of the most crucial and turbulent decades in American history.
'...tends towards glibness at times, but has enough polish and wit to make that a secondary consideration.' Mack, Variety