Friday 23 October 2009
"Buddy can you spare a dime", "Dancing in the dark", "Life is just a bowl of cherries", all phrases that were coined during the Great Depression and have remained in the American lexicon.
As fixed as the haunting images of migrant families captured by Dorothea Lange's unparalleled photographs.
The Great Depression shaped modern America, literally in the great skyscrapers, and metaphorically as the Depression gave way to World War II, the Cold War, and ultimately the greed of the Gordon Gecko years.
But has it taken this new crash to bring America to its senses?
In a special edition of Newsnight and Newsnight Review tonight live from New York, we explore the economic and cultural landscape that was created out of the Wall Street crash 80 years ago tomorrow, and ask if our present travails are anything approaching the same scale.
We have a stellar guest list. In the studio historian Simon Schama, queen of the internet and Republican-turned-Democrat Arianna Huffington, banker Liaquat Ahamed (whose book Lords of Finance points to the actions of four bankers in the 20s as central to the crash), and the novelist Hari Kunzru.
Already in the can, Jay McInerney, who has some extraordinary observations of his own, which he is working into a new book. Get this - he says people on the Upper East Side are pretending to have lost money through the Madoff scandal.
Meanwhile, Philip Roth speaks of this as just another dark time in a series of dark times in America.
Paul Mason has made two archive-rich films to kick off discussions.
First, he asks if the 1929 crash taught Ben Bernanke and others a lesson that helped avoid a depression this time.
And second a film on the cultural response to 1929 - the literature of Steinbeck and Henry Roth, the "talkies" which portrayed the underbelly of American life, and the state-induced saccharine of screwball comedies like Bringing up Baby.
Then we'll look at the cultural response this time around.
TV sitcoms now focus on family life again. In Hank, Kelsey Grammer is an entrepreneur who loses his job and moves to small town America. In the explicit Hung a teacher who is struggling to make ends meet becomes a male prostitute. Oliver Stone (who only last year said he couldn?t imagine revisiting Wall Street) is currently making Wall Street II, with Michael Douglas reprising the role of Gordon Gecko.
And, of course, like Banquo's ghost, Michael Moore has turned up with his own trumpet blast at the bankers with Capitalism, A Love Story.
The sparks will fly, so do join us live from New York at 10.30pm on BBC Two.