Hollywood Movie Memories Introduction
From the black-and-white silent screen classics of the 1920’s to the glorious color productions of the 1950’s – these were Hollywood’s greatest decades.
Explore early Hollywood film history and the wonderful Hollywood Movie Memories that were created, as this was a time when both Hollywood and its stars were their most glamorous.
Continue reading for a brief primer of each of the featured film decades, with the films suggested for viewing those that I feel offer an accurate representation of each film genre for each year during this historic period in Hollywood.
1920’s Hollywood Movie Memories – The Silent Era
Originating as a turn-of-the-century novelty, the motion picture business soon became a multi-million dollar industry. In fact, by the early 1920’s, the business of making movies had already become America’s fifth largest industry and would go on to become one of the most significant and influential communication and entertainment tools of the 20th century.
The large majority of motion pictures produced during the 1920’s were silent films. As the industry grew, and movie making became more costly, the various aspects of film production were divided into individual components such as; writing, directing, costumes, etc., and became almost assembly-line in their creation.
During the time that the First World War was taking place, the “studio system” evolved in Hollywood and would dominate the movie industry for a period of close to 25 years. Generally credited with the creation of this system were Adolph Zukor, William Fox, and Carl Laemmle. Essentially, the system provided a movie studio’s production chief with virtually total control over a films director and its stars.
With nearly 90 percent of America’s motion pictures being produced and distributed by five major studios, these studios were able to monopolize Hollywood for the next 50 years. These five studios were: Warner Brothers Pictures, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (renamed Paramount Pictures in 1935), RKO Pictures, Loew’s Inc. (later to become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), and Fox Film Corporation/Foundation (later becoming 20th-Century Fox).
Movie technology continued to advance during this decade, and with the development of the microphone the film industry was about to undergo dramatic change. However, this advancement was not entirely welcomed by all. Many of the silent era’s greatest stars would be unable to make the transition from the silent film to the “talkie”. Silent movie fans had in their minds their own idea regarding the ‘spoken sound’ of the actors and actresses they loved and found it difficult to accept the real sound of many of their voices.
Some of the greatest stars of silent films unable to survive this new partnership between movie sight and sound were Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, John Gilbert, and Mary Pickford. Fortunately, many other stars who were loved by the public did successfully survive. They included John Barrymore, Mary Astor, William Powell, Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Laurel and Hardy, Greta Garbo, and some time later, even Charlie Chaplin who strongly disliked the addition of sound to movies.
Sound had arrived, signaling an end to the silent film era, and it was here to stay.
1930’s Hollywood Movie Memories – The Golden Age Of Hollywood
The early part of the 1930’s provided less in the way of Hollywood Movie Memories, and more in the way of memories of the Great Depression. In spite of the decades slow start, Hollywood would go on to have one of the most creatively and financially successful eras in motion picture history.
It was during the 1930’s that Hollywood film making really started to spread its wings. The use of sound in film production, both as background and dialogue, continued to advance. New sound techniques were created and mastered with several competing sound options now available. These sound advancements along with the ability to film in color immediately caused a revolution in motion picture production.
The color film process known as Technicolor became the most widely used in Hollywood right up through the early 1950’s. The Technicolor process produced super-realistic, dazzling color that was used with spectacular success in films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Singin’ In The Rain, The Wizard of Oz, and the animated Walt Disney classics Fantasia, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The evolution of film genres began to expand and now included gangster films (including the first prison drama), musicals, westerns, screwball comedies, and monster movies. In addition, socially conscious reality films, historical biography’s, and newspaper reporting style movies were now being made. Many of the classic silent films of the 1920’s were being remade with sound, and 1930’s film production now included something called ‘sequels,’ and ‘spin-offs’. There even existed a psychological approach to movie making that produced a large number of adventure and fantasy films to help take the viewers minds off the Great Depression.
The 1930’s also produced probably the largest number of movie firsts than any other decade. A few of these would include little known prop man and B-actor John Wayne’s first starring role in a major motion picture (The Big Trail), the creation of the Motion Picture Production Code (setting film guidelines for violence, sex, crime and religion), The Hollywood Reporter (the first daily newspaper for the film industry), legendary child star Shirley Temple, Three Stooges comedy films, and the first drive-in theatre in Camden, New Jersey.
What started out as a luke-warm film decade suffering from declining attendance as a result of the Depression, finished on a sizzling note with what many consider to be the most Golden Film Year of all 1939.
The 1930’s truly were The Golden Age Of Hollywood.
1940’s Hollywood Movie Memories – The War Years
It was hard to believe that just after what was thought to be Hollywood’s greatest decade there seemed to be such lost promise. With the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the resulting outbreak of World War II, the American film industry suffered a slump during the early part of the 1940s. As it did following the Great Depression, Hollywood would have to again find a formula for survival.
The world was in turmoil, and oddly enough, it would be this very same War that helped start Hollywood on its comeback. In an effort to support the national war effort, Hollywood studios began producing a large number of movies that became war-time favorites. One of the classic motion pictures of all-time was also a subtle wartime propaganda film Casablanca, was released in 1942. Many stars of the time enlisted in the Armed Forces, or provided entertainment for the troops, resulting in a large boost in morale for both the military and the general public.
These war related efforts showed immediate results, as major movie studio profits began to grow to record levels. As the war drew to an end, so did the number of films produced that were war related. However, the influence of World War II has a permanent residence in the history of the motion picture industry. Some of the most memorable war-time classics would include Guadalcanal Diary, Bataan, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, The Story of G.I. Joe, They Were Expendable, A Walk In The Sun, and a great many more. There were also a number of pictures dedicated to portraying life after war for the returning veteran. One of the most well-known of these stories is also one of the best films in motion picture history – The Best Years of Our Lives. This multi-Oscar winning picture (including Best Picture) touched the hearts and lives of all Americans.
The 1940’s also brought refinement to the art of film making, with technological improvements in sound recording, lighting, color usage, and special effects. These production advances made film-watching a much more enjoyable activity leading the way to record setting profits from 1943-1946. The light, escapist entertainment offered by Hollywood musicals during the 1940’s skyrocketed their appeal, and a new breed of directors and stars rose to prominence.
It seemed that once again Hollywood had withstood a great challenge and survived to flourish. Some however, realized that right before their eyes the greatest threat to Hollywood’s dominance of the entertainment industry was busily developing. The popularity of television was growing by leaps and bounds.
1950’s Hollywood Movie Memories – New Competition and New Markets
By 1950 it was estimated that over 10.5 million U.S. households had a television, and that number was climbing rapidly. Post-war affluence seemed ripe for the taking. However, with this affluence came a number of alternate leisure activities.
Not only was television grabbing a larger share of the entertainment pie, but there were also newly created opportunities outside the movie theater. A couple of examples would be; ‘fast food restaurants,’ and ‘drive-ins’. It didn’t take long for these to catch on and gain their share of the publics leisure time and dollar.
The motion picture industry needed to again change a large portion of its focus. Older viewers became the ones most likely to stay home and watch television. The younger market was growing in both size and spending power, and the youth-oriented movie goer had little interest in films produced to appeal to the older market. They demanded something fresh, and whenever possible a bit of a rebellious edge.
Hollywood found its creativity challenged in reaching for this new market. They tried the “bigger is better” approach, hoping to draw people away from the small-screen television and back into the full-color, large-screen motion picture theatre. They experimented with gimmicks such as 1952’s 3-D efforts ‘Bwana Devil,’ and ‘This is Cinerama’. 1953 brought to the big-screen lavish new color filming techniques such as 20th Century-Fox’s CinemaScope production of ‘The Robe,’ and Paramount’s Vista Vision presentation of ‘White Christmas’.
While these efforts worked to some extent, Hollywood realized that these newer color production methods were very costly and would not solve their problem. They had to be more topic specific to reach the teenage youth-oriented market by providing them with both stories and stars they could relate to.
Motion pictures were specifically produced to include the popularity of Rock and Roll music in their story lines and literally on the screen. Many of the most popular singers and singing groups of this time would appear in these films much to the delight of the younger fan. An example being; ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ featuring disc jockey Allan Freed, Bill Haley and His Comets (performing the title song), The Platters, and more. ‘Don’t Knock the Rock,’ a response to the older generations lack of acceptance of rock and roll music. There were biographical films like ‘The Buddy Holly Story,’ and ‘La Bamba’ which told the story of the careers of both Buddy Holly and Richie Valens as well as their tragic ending along with fellow star The Big Bopper in a 1959 plane crash.
Hollywood’s marketing efforts in this area proved very successful with the youth market reaching $10 billion per year. Hollywood hit a goldmine in its exploitation of this market and, with teenagers becoming more socially rebellious, capitalized on their sentiment with films like ‘The Blackboard Jungle,’ ‘High School Confidential,’ ‘The Wild One,’ and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’.
It wasn’t only the pictures portraying rebellion, it was also the stars. Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Elvis Presley provided enough personal controversy to be very successfully marketed to the young audience.
1950’s Hollywood produced a great many memories that linked to traditional movie making, but now also provided the foundation for the movie memories of a new generation.
In the coming months hundreds of additional films will be added, so remember to check back often and take some time to remember or discover those wonderful Hollywood Movie Memories created from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.