Culture and Recreation


When was Hollywood’s golden age?

Hollywood had its heyday in the 1930s: In the same decade that the Great Depression crippled the world economy, the American film industry enjoyed its golden age. The era was marked by technical innovations: “talking movies” had made their debut in 1927 with the first full-length film with sound, The Jazz Singer, and by 1932 all films were “talkies”; the first Technicolor film, Becky Sharpe, debuted in 1935, and by 1939 was perfected when Gone with the Wind was released; and special effects were brought to the screen in 1933 with King Kong, which was the result of painstaking stop-motion and rear-projection photography.

In the meantime, movie stars such as Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, and the Marx Brothers achieved public followings that were “the envy of political and business leaders.” The MGM, Warner Bros., and RKO studios led Hollywood production, but other studios, including Fox, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, and United Artists, also fared well during these difficult times. In 1939 Hollywood had what has often been called its greatest year: Among the top releases that year were the classics Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Gunga Din. By the end of the decade Hollywood had become a “major contributor to popular culture, an occasional contributor to high culture, and a dynamic, if unsteady, force in the nation’s economy.”


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