This film is part of Free

Ten Little Dirty Boys

Ten boys discover that a good wash is step one on the road to health in this silent cartoon

Public Information Filler 1929 12 mins Silent


"Where there's dirt there's danger" is the message of this silent cartoon. What those dangers are is less clear; although dipping your hands in a horse trough after a currant bun is apparently enough to avoid the peril of a spanking. The Health & Cleanliness Council issued a variety of posters and pamphlets aimed at children and adults in the late 1920s and early 1930s – some of which are featured in this film.

The end of the film points at the racist roots of the children's rhyme, and the doubly offensive presentation of the "dirty boys" all in blackface becoming ten little clean boys all white. Originating in America in the 1860s Ten Little Indians had been quickly adapted as Ten Little Niggers, and its popularity and mainstream acceptance in the UK was demonstrated by the publication of Agatha Christie's bestselling novel of the same name in 1939.