I recently watched “Cash and Carry,” a Three Stooges film from 1937, and was surprised by its political message. The Stooges live in a city dump (which alone makes this short worth watching—the trash is almost all tin cans with a few tires and some broken wagon wheels). After an absence they return home to find a teen-age girl and her little brother, who has one leg in a brace, living in the Stooges’ shack at the back of the dump.
The Stooges dig around in the trash and find money in a tin can. When they find out it’s what the girl has been saving for the boy’s leg operation, the Stooges say they’ll put it in a safer place—a bank—and the boy asks “But will they give it back to us?” Curly replies, “Oh sure, they didn’t used to but now they do.” This is clearly a reference to the bank runs of the early 1930’s before the FDIC was created by Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. At that time if a bank run happened and the bank closed you lost whatever money you had deposited (hence the panic that caused bank runs).
When the Stooges go to a bank they discover it would take 100 years to “grow” the money from the $62 they have to the $500 needed for the operation, so as they leave a couple of con men grab them and promise they will take them to a place where treasure is buried.
They’re dropped off at a nice home and the Stooges proceed to tear it up. When they’re digging in the basement they end up breaking into the U.S. Treasury vault. They’re caught as they attempt to leave with gold bars and bags of bills. The last scene shows the Stooges and the girl and her brother in the Oval Office with President Roosevelt. The President says he will make sure the boy gets his operation and will extend executive clemency to the Stooges. Of course Curly misunderstands and says “No way!” so Moe bops him on the head and explains that means they’re free. Curly turns toward FDR and says, “Gee Mr. President, you’re a swell guy!” and Moe adds, “You said it,” as all three look gratefully towards the president.
People today take the protections provided by the federal government so for granted. That’s why it’s easy for conservatives to make the argument that federal regulations hurt the economy. The Three Stooges provide a pleasant history lesson.