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Summary

Based on a caricature of a Jewish businessman for whom fire was "our friend" and the fire company was "our enemy," a view rendered in iconographic form on a comic postcard of the period. The story itself is quite simple and clearly depicted but character motivation, narrative logic and audience comprehension of a few key pieces of information (that a piece of paper is an insurance policy, for instance) relies on highly specific anti-Semitic stereotyping. Present-day critics should not jump to simple conclusions here. Porter had many Jewish collaborators, from G. M. Anderson (Max Aronson) to Adolph Zukor. On the other hand, McCutcheon's films, both at Biograph and Edison, often display racial and ethnic stereotyping that is disconcertingly vicious.

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