Saturday, July 5, 2008


Family entertainment

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn beginning in some countries as early as 1928 in some countries stuggling to overcome the effects of the First World War. It hit the United States following the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 (so-called Black Tuesday) and continued until the onset of World War II in 1939. Scholars cannot agree on the exact causes and their relative importance except for one thing: debt.
For years consumers and businesses relied on cheap credit, the former to purchase consumer goods such as automobiles and furniture and the latter for capital investment to increase production. This fuelled strong short-term growth but created consumer and commercial debt. People and businesses that were deeply in debt when called upon to repay found they could not. Many drastically cut current spending to make payments, thus lowering demand for new products. Factory orders plunged and some 86,000 businesses ultimately went bankrupt. Massive layoffs occurred, unemployment rates soared from 9% to over 25% (about 15 million in the USA alone). More than 9,000 US banks that had financed this debt failed as debtors defaulted on debt. The savings accounts of 9 million people were wiped out.

Hobo is a term that refers to a subculture of wandering travellers who are homeless and willing to do work (whereas a tramp travels but will not work and a bum does neither). No one is sure of the origin of the term but it may have come from the term hoe-boy meaning "farmhand", or a greeting such as “Ho, boy”.

Abigail Breslin: 10-year-old aspiring reporter Kit Kittredge
Julia Ormond: her mother Margaret
Chris O’Donnell: her father, the owner of a car dealership
Wallace Shawn: Editor of the local paper
Max Thieriot: 16 or 17-year-old hobo Will
Willow Smith: his younger sidekick Countee
Zach Mills: Stirling, one of Kit’s school chums
Glenne Headly: his mother
Stanley Tucci: Mr. Berk, an itinerant magician
Jane Krakowski: a dance instructor
Joan Cusack: driver of the mobile library truck

Although the target audience would certainly be pre-and-teenaged girls it will appeal to anyone who likes a good story, told in a staightforward manner involving a likeable bunch of characters (well most of them anyways) all of whom are perfectly cast.

The acting is uniformly good and Breslin comes across as believable and entirely charming. The producers have gone to great length to recreate the period: the costumes are bang on and so are the autos (even to the point of having the correct 1934 Ohio license plate on all vehicles).

Not one swear word. How refreshing!

In 1934 a loaf of bread cost 9 cents not 5 as shown on the sign outside the grocery store.

It’s unlikely a young boy could have saved $40 just by doing odd jobs: that is equivalent to $636 in today’s currency.

The American hobo communicated to others using a basic system of symbols hand drawn in chalk or coal on a trestle, fence, building or sidewalk. Mostly they provided information such as “these people are rich” or “ill-tempered man lives here”. Other signs were warnings such as “dangerous neighbourhood” or “bad water”.

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