The Bizarre New Deal Comedy That Made Shirley Temple a Star

In honor of the late Shirley
, I give you one of the strangest political pictures of
the 1930s: Stand Up and Cheer.

Released in 1934, the movie—Temple’s first big hit—is a sort of
a New Deal backstage musical. I
summarized the story
in these pages a decade ago, and I’ll
recycle that precis now (spoiler alert, not that this is the kind
of movie where spoilers matter):

The president creates a new Department of Amusement
because Americans are so depressed, what with the Depression and
all. A Broadway producer takes the helm and, in a great feat of
central planning, organizes a massive entertainment drive. This
angers a cabal of evil businessmen, who somehow are profiting from
the bad times, so they conspire to bring the new agency down. The
noble impresario rebuffs their efforts; and the country, inspired
by his not-quite-Keynesian stimulus, emerges happily from the Great

Add some noxious racism to the mix—the movie features both
Steppin Fetchit and Aunt Jemima—and you’ve got more bad
politics here than in any ’30s Hollywood production this side of
Over the White House
. If you can’t bring yourself to watch
the whole thing, you can skip directly to the most gloriously
weird scene—the moment when the Depression abruptly ends—by going
to 1:03:09.

from Hit & Run

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