Historical Errors in Annie

I’m playing FDR in Annie, so I decided to do a little homework on the history of the Great Depression, the New Deal, FDR’s cabinet, etc.

The writer, Thomas Meehan, took care to use the real names of FDR’s cabinet members, including Frances Perkins (a woman!), Cordell Hull, Harold Ickes, Henry Morganthau and his close personal advisor, Louis Howe. Also, there are references to the FBI, Al Capone and other people and events of that general era. Meehan also makes it clear that the year is 1933, near Christmas.

If the year is 1933, there are a number of historical inacuracies in the script…

  • FDR is portrayed inventing the New Deal in the show. The New Deal was coined and promoted during his election campaign of 1932. Most of the implemented within the first 100 days of his inauguration in March 1933.
  • FDR settles on the phrase, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" during a scene in the show. FDR uttered this famous remark in is First Inaugural Address in March 4, 1933.
  • Henry Morganthau, Jr. did not become a cabinet member until 1934.
  • Warbucks and FDR mention the "FBI." The FBI was not called the "FBI" until 1935. Before that is was the Bureau of Investigation (BOI).
  • Warbucks calls Federal Investigators "G-Men." That term was popularized by the James Cagney movie of that name in 1935; however, Warbucks could have been up on the current gangster slang as the term was supposedly coined by George "Machine Gun" Kelly when he was captured in September 1933.
  • FDR says that the FBI haven’t caught Al Capone. Al Capone was indicted and tried in 1931.
  • Warbucks commands J. Edgar Hoover to take Elliot Ness off the Capone case. Elliot Ness was an American Treasury agent.