Don’t Be a Sucker – The War Department’s Anti-Fascist Film of 1947

Like The House I Live In, this film warns that Americans will lose their country if they let themselves be turned into “suckers” by the forces of fanaticism and hatred. This thesis is rendered more powerful by the ever-present example of Nazi Germany, whose capsule history is dramatized as part of this film. There’s a great deal of good sense in this film and more than a bit of wartime populism: “Let’s not think about ‘we’ and ‘they.’ Let’s think about ‘us’!”]
It’s interesting to think of this film in the light of Cold War anti-Communist politics, which really came into their own in the year this film was made. Were the witch-hunting politicians and citizens of the late Forties and early Fifties protecting the people, or were they themselves acting like “suckers?”

Ken Smith sez: Everyone has something that can be taken away, explains the narrator of this film, and so does average everyman “sucker” Mike — he stands to lose “America.”
Mike watches idly while a street corner soapbox orator rants against Negroes, “alien foreigners” and Catholics. Mike thinks this is pretty agreeable, until the rabble-rouser adds “freemasons” to his list. Hey, wait a second, Mike says, I’m a freemason. Over wanders an elderly man with a Hungarian accent (so he says) who proceeds to set dizzy Mike straight.
The Hungarian reminds Mike that Germany was “a nation of suckers” who allowed “crazy people; stupid fanatics” to use prejudice to “cripple the nation.” “We must guard everyone’s liberties, or we can lose our own,” he declares. “Let’s not be suckers! Let’s be selfish about it; let’s not think about ‘we’ and ‘they’. Let’s think about ‘us’!”
Good direction and an obviously decent budget make this film very watchable, and it’s interesting to hear the old man appeal to our “good, hard, common sense” in that Bugs Bunny/blue-collar worker colloquial slang that was the accepted voice of Average Joe in postwar America. “America is minorities,” the old man proclaims, “and that means you and me!” This populist New Deal view would disappear as quickly as evil German references in the Republican 1950s.