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24 December 2012

Babes in Toyland: Good-Natured Whites faced with a Jewish Usurer, Shyster, and Subversive

Some of what I say here is off the mark because it was based on the reasonable but false assumption that the story in Hal Roach's Babes in Toyland was at least vaguely similar to the story in Glen MacDonough's 1903 libretto. (Despite bearing the same name, they are utterly different.) For a better article on the same matter, see my post of 25 December 2015.
Silas Barnaby asks Little Bo Peep to marry him and is rejected. 
In retaliation he determines to foreclose on her mother's mortgage.
The frustrated usurer foments an insurrection of subhumans.


This 1934 film starring Laurel and Hardy was based on the 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland by composer Victor Herbert and librettist Glen MacDonough, written in a period when Jewish socialist and anarchist agitators were notorious in the United States. President William McKinley had been murdered only two years earlier by Leon Czolgosz, whose action had been influenced by a speech given by Red Emma Goldman. The association of Jewish immigrants with anarchist disturbances was such an obvious fact in the first decade of the twentieth century that it was openly discussed. 

What makes it certain that the villain of Babes in Toyland, the bushy-browed  Silas Barnaby, represents a Jew, is that in addition to being a subversive agitator he is also a usurer. He resorts to fomenting insurrection of the apelike, "half-man and half-animal" Bogeymen, after his attempt to exert power as a money-lender is thwarted.

In addition to being a banker  and a revolutionist, Mr. Barnaby makes crooked use of the legal system, framing Tom Tom the Piper's son. That's three negative Jewish stereotypes in one character.

While it may not be possible to prove that Silas Barnaby was intended as a composite of Jewish stereotypes, the combination of usurer, shyster, and subversive is hard to mistake for anything else.

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