Movie Musicals During the Great Depression

Sydney Huber


            In addition to the advent of radio and record production during the 1930s, the Great Depression saw a boom in the movie musical industry. Technology, popular culture, and the music and movie industries aligned during this decade to begin what would become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States—movie musicals.
            Politicians often allotted Hollywood the task of “cheering Americans up” during the Depression, hoping that the entertainment industry could play a key role in distracting Americans from the horrors of the economic downfall (Eckert). To this challenge, Hollywood passed with flying colors. While movies had already gained great popularity throughout the United States, this combination of Broadway-style music with the glamour of film became widely popular.
            Studios like MGM, Paramount, and Fox made great strides during the 1930s, producing movies like The Wizard of Oz, The Gay Divorcee, and Swing Time (Balio, 211,221). Meanwhile, the stars of such films came to represent the possibility of a glamorous lifestyle, giving hope to those suffering through the economic crisis. Among the most popular celebrities were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who starred in nine films together during the 1930s, and were known for their dance scenes together (Balio, 218). Another star that emerged during this decade was Shirley Temple, who starred in eleven films between 1934 and 1936. She led Fox studios out of their financial problems, bringing both the studio and their audience hope (Eckert). A movie-musical that made history during the Great Depression was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated feature, which was a huge leap for both the film and music industries.
            The emergence of the movie musical in the 1930’s was important in two respects—it created a whole new genre of film, while giving the suffering citizenry a way to escape their troubles, whether it be singing about animal crackers with Shirley Temple or following the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance in Swing Time.
 

Shirley Temple sings in Curly Top.

 
Judy Garland sings "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" in The Wizard of Oz.




Works Cited

Balio, Tino. Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. New York: Scribner, 1993. Print.
Eckert, Charles. "Shirley Temple and the House of Rockefeller." Shirley Temple by Charles Eckert. Jump Cut, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC02folder/shirleytemple.html>.

No comments:

Post a Comment