Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Any Bonds Today" - Leon Schlesinger (1941)

Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of Treasury under Franklin Roosevelt; had a problem. He had come up with the idea of the Lend Lease program to help the British with the Battle of Britain in 1940 against the Nazi’s, but he needed to come up with a plan to pay for the goods being lent. There was also a possibility that we would not be paid back. Struggling; as we were to come out of the Depression; we could ill afford to lose the any money. The plan called for the creation of a public campaign to champion the cause.

To that end, he put together the idea of a promotion along the lines of what Al Jolson and Charlie Chaplin had done in the Liberty Bond program in the First World War in 1917. Even Irving Berlin got involved in the effort, penning the song “Any Bonds Today?” and copyrighting it to the US Treasury; ensuring that the royalties would go to the government rather than himself.  The song was based on his own song "Any Yams Today?” which had been sung by Ginger Rogers in 1938. That song was also a version of "Any Love Today?” which he wrote in 1931 but never recorded. By now it was July of 1941.

“Any Bonds Today?” became the theme of the CBS program “The Treasury Night”. On those nights the network would host various celebrities who would perform and ask for people to buy the War Bonds to finance the Lend Lease program. In the first month alone Americans bought over $440 million dollars of the bonds, which were the same as Savings Bonds. The song was also recorded by by the Andrews Sisters, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Dick Robertson and Kay Kyser and even and Gene Autry in the film "Home in Wyoming."

By July of 1942 the song was being used in a short film to promote the Bond Drive. It was called “Any Bonds Today?” and featured many big name performers, as well as a new cartoon character named Bugs Bunny, who caused quite a stir when he did a black face imitation of Al Jolson.  The cartoon was actually just about 1 minute long.  At the end Bugs is joined by Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. The cartoon is independent of the Merrie Melodies series and also not listed in the complete catalogue of the Looney Tunes series. It is an independent production done exclusively for the War Department. The entire film took 3 weeks to film and distribute.

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