By the 1930’s Hollywood films had made a major transition from silent pictures to films with sound. This was an historic advancement that at times must have felt like one giant step forward and one step back. Progress can sometimes cause problems and this was the case in Hollywood. Production costs soared, technical difficulties multiplied, and many of the studio’s most popular silent film stars were unable to adjust to the new sound technology.
Opportunities for actors and directors to work abroad almost came to a standstill. Hollywood owned the patents on the new sound system and the costs to European film makers to purchase and use the system for the production of their films was extremely expensive.
With the five major studios, Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM, RKO, and Twentieth Century Fox, controlling Hollywood, the industry was now being run by a monopoly. In1934 another problem surfaced as certain religious organizations insisted that the studios follow a strict code of decency forcing Hollywood to implement a censorship code for all productions. This would be known as the Hays Code, insisting that all film productions would omit bad language, sexual innuendos and deviancy, drug use, excessive violence, and a host of other perceived improprieties.
And if that wasn’t enough, the country was still reeling from the economic effects of the Great Depression. Then a collective light bulb went off among the Hollywood studios as they realized the need for pictures that would help the public to temporarily escape from this negative reality. A door opened and Hollywood stepped in.
The Golden Age of Hollywood was about to begin. The studios began to produce motion pictures that served to lift up their audiences during this very tough American economic period and the public loved them.
The Hollywood musical enchanted the public during this period and proved to engage audiences with a fantasy based realm far from the realities of the depression. Films like ’42nd Street’ (1933) and ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’ lifted audiences with their whimsical, upbeat, and exhilarating song and dance numbers, and the new gallery of stars that performed them. A particular pleasure was the classic anti-depression song We’re in The Money.
One of the most successful directors of the Golden Era was Frank Capra who created a series of films based on capturing the New Deals optimism in America. His pictures injected a dose of liberal politics by depicting everyday common people trying to go against the injustices of their social system. Two excellent examples of this are the motion pictures ‘Mr. Deeds Goes to Town’ (1936) and ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939). Both proved to be extremely popular.
Capra’s contributions to Hollywood’s Golden Age would continue into the 1940’s and included a series of very well-produced social dramas and comedies. Two stand out as classics including the very enjoyable comedy ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) and one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ (1946), a film that to this day continues to be one of the most watched movie classics during the holiday season.
While the innovation of sound, and soon the development of technicolor film-processing, caused some initial financial production cost concerns, the rise of the Hollywood musical during 1930’s had opened the door to a Golden Era of unparalleled and historical success for both studios and audiences alike that would continue for decades to come.
Source by Carl DiNello