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20

FRIDAY

The Depression both energized and confounded Hollywood, which responded with escapist entertainments set among the moneyed classes—and Hallelujah, I’m a Bum, an oddball 1933 musical about a Central Park vagabond who accepts a job only because he’s fallen in love. Al Jolson plays the rebellious leader of a troupe of tramps who has not only amour on his side but also a Rodgers & Hart score and cynical dialogue from S.N. Behrman and Ben Hecht. Although Jolson was not exactly a Depression-era Brando, the social themes work better than the romance, which turns on a device that was tired even in the ’30s: The heroine develops amnesia. Curiously, Jolson (who grew up in Southwest D.C.) and credited director Lewis Milestone were both born in Russia, but that didn’t guarantee a rapport: Milestone was forced out, apparently by Jolson, and the picture was completed by Chester Erskine. The film screens at 7 p.m. at the Library of Congress’ Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-5677. (MJ)