The 1930s: The Rise Of The Film Industry And The Great Depression

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The year is 1930. Thousands of Americans find themselves penniless, waiting in lines outside of soup kitchens for their one meal of the day. At the same time, actors like Clark Gable, Mae West, and Carole Lombard find themselves making thousands of dollars for their on-screen talents. The 1930s are remembered primarily for the Great Depression, a time of poverty and desolation, but despite the economic decline, this was a bustling era that saw many fantastic changes in the film industry, many of which are reflected clearly in the film The Wizard of Oz. To truly understand what the film industry was like in the 1930s, one must first understand the Great Depression and the effect it had on the movie business. The summer of 1929 marked the start…show more content…
Due to the recent installation of new sound systems in cinemas across the nation, the movie studios as a whole were in around $400 million of debt. Due to the Depression, theater attendance had dropped by 40%. Thus, the survival of the industry seemed a tentative thing at best (Price). However, the movies managed to draw people in even when they had almost nothing to spend. One way they did this was through the use of cut prices and other ploys to attract customers. Other theaters offered “bank nights” where one lucky customer went home with a cash prize (Price). Financial lures aside, another reason the film industry survived was its psychological appeal. Attending movies provided an escape from the dreary suffering of everyday life (Price). Movies of the decade also tended to be of a more realistic nature than the films of the 1920s. They accepted the reality dealt with by Americans of the time but also gave them hope for a better future (“Hollywood”). Classic plotlines “kept alive a belief in the possibility of individual success, portrayed a government capable of protecting its citizens from external threats, and sustained a vision of America as a classless society” (Price). Other, less realistic films, such as The Wizard of Oz and Busby Berkeley 's extravagant musicals, gave people the opportunity to escape their lives for a while. In his article, “The Impact of Hollywood During the Great Depression”, Patrick Price theorizes that escapism and the need for distraction were among the primary reasons cinemas prospered even during the lowest years of the Depression. Movies of the Depression painted happy endings against the familiar Depression backdrop in a way that lifted America’s spirits and gave people hope for a better tomorrow (“Hollywood”). While the film industry soldiered through the effects of the Great Depression,
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