Broadway and the Great Depression

Reeve Nettles

            The Great Depression started right at the beginning of the 1930s. This caused a shocking amount of Broadway people to be affected by the stock market crash. In an article by Pat Ryan it says, “Are you making any money?”(3). This was of course sarcastic because he knew that know one was at this time. He also knew that big banks near Broadway were not funding. Many big name producers shut down and moved on from Broadway to get jobs that were more dependable. Most people could not just come to many Broadway productions because they could not afford it. “The 1929-30 season produced 233 productions. The 1930-31 season was reduced to 187 productions. It has been calculated that the talent that Hollywood absorbed from Broadway was in the vicinity of 75%” (Rusie).

            The Great Depression marked many changes for Broadway in the future. This was not only because the economy was plummeting, but also because Broadway was losing its forefathers. “The creators of Broadway as it existed were passing” (Rusie). Even though it seemed like the end for Broadway, there was still a faint light, a hope for the future. There were new and upcoming stars wanting their shot at Broadway. “Maxwell Anderson's, Elizabeth the Queen, a biographical history of Elizabeth I of England, starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The play was heralded as a ‘fine poetic tragedy’”(Rusie). Another great actress to debut in the Great Depression was June Walker. She started out in the play, Green Grow the Lilacs. The last performer I will talk about is Ethel Merman. She first started out in the play Girl Crazy. Rusie says, “She made headlines for holding a note in I Got Rhythm for 16 measures.” This made her very popular, and she went on to sing and act in many plays.

            The Depression made a huge impact on Broadway. In that moment, it had horrible effects and almost did not let Broadway back to its feet. But as you can see, many great performers came from this era. Now today, Broadway is thriving and gaining more attendance and money each year. The Great Depression was rough, but ultimately made Broadway stronger!


Works Cited

RYAN, PAT. "Don't Put All Your Potatoes in the Same Jug." New York Times Mar.     

2009: 3. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.

Rusie, Robert. "Broadway 101 The History of The Great White Way." 1930-1940

Great Depression. Talkin’ Broadway, 1999. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.



Embedded Media:

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Elizabeth the Queen on the radio:


June Walker in clip from the movie, War Nurse. I know it is long, but I thought

It was cool that they actually still had the audio for this play!


Ethel Merman Tribute:


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