Remembering The Golden Age of Hollywood

The Golden Age of Hollywood is said to have begun in the late 1920’s, during the end of the silent film era, and continued through the late 1950’s. The 1927 release of The Jazz Singer signaled an end to silent films and box office receipts started to climb. This new surge in film popularity gave Hollywood enough momentum for three decades of successful filmmaking.

During this magical era the big time studios MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and RKO Pictures gave birth to dozens of new stars. Many of these stars would go on to become Hollywood legends. A few of these familiar names would be Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman.

At the very beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age things were a little slow to start due to the financial troubles caused by the Great Depression, However, Hollywood still managed to produce outstanding movies. These films had a very positive effect providing an escape for audiences who were struggling with the tough times caused by the Depression.

American movie goers reveled in the entertainment of Hollywood’s new found stars who lit up the screen with great flairs of passion and glamour. They laughed with comedic actors W.C. Fields, Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers, and  fell madly in love with a dancing, singing curly haired little girl by the name of Shirley Temple.

Some of Hollywood’s most memorable classics were created during this Golden Age and included  “Gone With The Wind”(1939), “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) John Steinbecks “The Grapes of Wrath”(1937), and the debut of Walt Disneys “Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” (1937). In fact, it is a common opinion that 1939 was the greatest year in movie history.

The War Effort

After the outbreak of World War II, 1940’s Hollywood did their part for the war effort by producing documentaries, film shorts, news reels, and by holding a great many fundraisers in an effort to help Americans through such this tough and fearful time. Movies also began to take on more of a patriotic theme helping to lift the morale on the country.

Wartime stars like Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Bob Hope all made major contributions during this period and are some of the most patriotic and memorable performers of the era.

The 1950’s

By the early 1950’s, with most post-war American households having a television in their living rooms, the impact on the Hollywood movie industry was significant. It was time for Hollywood to get creative concerning their target audience.

One such creative was to satisfy the enormous appetite of the new teenage market. This was successfully accomplished with the producing of rebellion movies, younger leading actors and actresses, and the opening of a new way to go to the movies…the Drive In Movie Theater.

However, this was not the only notable adjustment made to filmmaking. Hollywood also became more edgy when it came to sexuality on the silver screen, with stars like Marilyn Monroe, the most infamous and legendary sex symbol of Hollywood, putting the essence of raw, yet playfully seductive sexuality back into film just as Jean Harlow did in the 1930’s prior to the censorship codes.

Once again the film industry was able to change with the times allowing the Golden Age of Hollywood to continue on a little longer.

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3 Responses to “Remembering The Golden Age of Hollywood”

  1. Tom Barnes Says:

    Why were the greatest Hollywood films produced from the 20’s through the 50’s. I could be in the minority, but I believe the Star System worked. The studio moguls of the day Adolph Zukor, L.B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn and others had time to groom talent that could draw an audience.
    Were the salaries unfair? Probably, but that could have been overcome with time, good lawyers and agents. Of course it wasn’t.
    And what we got in exchange for the Star System was a bunch of want to be stars that have little or no box office appeal outside a small circle.

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  3. admin Says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the repeat visit and the comment. You may be in the minority, but you are not alone. The Star System worked like a charm for the studio moguls that you have mentioned.

    Once Hollywood got a sense of just who and what the public wanted to see they gladly accomodated them. They were able to produce, in almost assembly line fashion, quality films with real stars that are still enjoyed today. It is true that salaries were unfair, working conditions could be demanding, and profits were generally grabbed by the studios.

    However, this Star System was also what kept some major studios alive, especially right after the Depression years. With the passing of the system came the addition of lawyers and agents. Production costs increased dramatically, salaries for proven stars became competitive between studios and fewer films were being produced.

    Fast forward to today and we find technological excellence on the production side and a talent pool that is mostly comprised of flavor-of-the-month film stars. While there certainly are many very good films made today and some great available talent , it just seems to me that something is missing. I guess I am just old-fashioned, or just old, but I will always prefer the older films and their stars.