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Movies in the 1930's

The 1930s decade has been nostalgically labeled "The Golden Age of Hollywood" (although most of the output of the decade was black-and-white). The 30s was also the decade of the sound and color revolutions and the advance of the 'talkies', and the further development of film genres (gangster films, musicals, newspaper-reporting films, historical biopics, social-realism films, lighthearted screwball comedies, westerns and horror to name a few). It was the era in which the silent period ended, with many silent film stars not making the transition to sound. By 1933, the economic effects of the Depression were being strongly felt, especially in decreased movie theatre attendance.

The American film industry was dominated by five major corporate-style studios in the 1930s. Some of them had originally rebelled against the MPPA (Motion Picture Patents Company). The Hollywood studios with their escapist "dream factories" and their "Front Office" studio head, production chief, producers, and other assistants, were totally in control and at full strength. They exerted their influence over choice of films, budgets, the selection of personnel and scripts, actors, writers, and directors, editing, scoring, and publicity: 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO Radio, and minor studios like: Columbia, Universal, United Artists, Republic Pictures  and Monogram.


Black and white movies, some of them get colored (manually).

Sound challenge was hard at the beginning.

Limitation of sound equipment.

Musical films was born: The Jazz Singer (1927)

Dialogue based stories.

Some actors and directors ended their careers because of the sound

Beginning of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.

Prebelic movies, with a patrotism style.


Movie Star

Mae West: I'm no angel (1933)

Errol Flynn: Captain Blood (1935) & Robin Hood (1938)

Shirley Temple: Bright Eyes (1934)















         Mae West                                    Errol Flynn                                    Shirley Temple



Musical movies

Actors: Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers: Roberta (1935) & Shall we dance? (1937)

Director: Busby Berkeley: 42nd Street (1933) & Gold Diggers (1933)

Techniques:Tapping dance.


Comedy Movies

It was a genre that began in the 20's

Use of non-sense dialogues.

Mime and slapsticks as the 20's.

Musical numbers.

Errol Flynn Tribute

Shirley Temple - Just around the corner

Fred Astaire - Shorty George

Marx Bros.

The Marx Brothers were a family comedy act, originally from New York City, that enjoyed success in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949.
The core of the act was the three elder brothers, Chico, Harpo, and Groucho; each developed a highly distinctive stage persona. The two younger brothers, Gummo and Zeppo, did not develop their stage characters

Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx
American comedian and film and television star.
He is known as a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era.
His distinctive appearance included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, glasses, cigar, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows.

Leonard "Chico" Marx
American comedian and film star as part of the Marx Brothers.
Charming, dim-witted albeit crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin.
He played the piano.

Adolph "Harpo" Marx
American comedian and film star.
His comic style was influenced by clown and pantomime traditions.
He wore a curly reddish blonde wig, and never spoke during performances.
He played the harp.

    - Duck Soup (1933)
    - A night at the Opera (1935)
    - A day at the races (1937)
    - At the circus (1939)
    - Go west (1940)


Duck Soup

Produced in 1933.
USA movie.
Starring Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont
Directed by Leo McCarey.
Genre: Comedy.

The movie developes in two imaginary places: Freedonia and Sylvania.
The time is unknown.
It seems everything occurs at daylight, because of the black & white effect.
The background is not really important for the develope of the story.

The small state of Freedonia is in a financial mess, borrowing a huge sum of cash from wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale. She insists on replacing the current president with crazy Rufus T. Firefly and mayhem erupts. To make matters worse, the neighboring state sends inept spies Chicolini and Pinky to obtain top secret information, creating even more chaos!
The story is told by chronological order.
The movie is structured in twelve scenes. The most important sequences are:
Firefly introduction (1st scene)
Peanuts fight (5th scene)
Mirror image (9th scene)
The suspense is not important.

The conflict is in the war threat along the movie. At the end, the war is inevitable, so the tension changes to the war victory.
The tension is always between two characters: Firefly, the freedonian president and Trentino, the sylvanian ambassador.

Firefly is the president of Freedonia. He is a selfish, tyrant and greedy person. He is always well-dressed, try to be elegant, and use a lot of quick word wit. In public, he is always presented by the national anthem. He is dressed with a suit.
Chicolini is a spy in the sylvanian army, and also the war minister in the freedonian goverment. He is a mischief-maker, talking too much and too quickly. He’s always speaking with italian accent.

Pinky is a spy with Chicolini, but also the driver of the president Firefly. He is a foolish person, always trying to use the scissors on everything. He is sometimes also a pocket thief. He is mute, so he uses a horn set. He is the one who uses the mimic all along the movie. He is dressed like a tramp. He has also a lots of tattoos.
Mrs. Teasdale is a wealthy woman, who tries to save the country from war. He is in love with Firefly.
No one of the characters has a develope.

There’s no narrator on the movie. The movie is presented from a third person point of view.
The national anthem is a symbol for Firefly.
The movie is a parody about the war and a criticism about politicians.
A lot of popular songs appears in the movie: Disney’ songs, gospel songs… The main characters always take part of the songs, but the antagonist Trentino.

Use of the camera:
All the movie has been shooting at a medium distance, showing the background, and upper half of the actors.
Full shots and long shots are also used in the movie, specially on the musical parts.
It’s remarkable the use of the camera at the mirror scene, without cuts.
The main characters has always the light on them, and also appear in the middle of the shot.
There’s no other intentions on the use of light.
The scenes are joined by a black curtain.


The top-grossing Gone With the Wind (1939) was the most expensive film of the decade at $4.25 million. It was also Selznick's biggest triumph (and after the film's success he spent the rest of his life attempting to repeat the feat), winning a record eight Academy Awards. He purchased film rights to the best-selling novel from first-time author Margaret Mitchell for $50,000 (an astronomical, unprecedented cost at the time), cast the stars for the film (gambling on Vivien Leigh as the fiery Scarlett O'Hara), conflicted with and bullied director George Cukor and finally dismissed him, and insisted on using the audacious words of Rhett Butler's farewell ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn") in defiance of the Hays Office - he was allegedly fined $5,000 for using the word "damn."

 Bela Lugosi - DraculaEscapist entertainment emerged at Universal, one of the minor film studios during the "Golden Age of Hollywood." Universal produced a Best Picture winner in the second Academy Awards ceremony - a serious anti-war polemic, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - the controversial, landmark film was denounced and banned in numerous European countries. It was a remarkable film that used 'advanced' sound dubbing techniques - incorporating sound effects, dialogue, and music on one soundtrack.

The studio had its greatest success with its cycle of classic horror films. Actually, the horror film releases were the first modern horror movies (a resurrected genre), beginning with Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) (expressionistically filmed by Karl Freund). The film starred Bela Lugosi in a star-making role as the vampire Count Dracula, a creation of Irish writer Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel Dracula. [Dracula would become the most frequently-portrayed character in horror films.]

Frankenstein - 1931Universal's next feature was James Whale's gothic Frankenstein (1931) with an unbilled Boris Karloff as the MONSTER, and then Karloff also starred as the unforgettable Egyptian corpse in German Karl Freund's directorial debut film The Mummy (1932).

The Decline - and Resurgence of Musicals: The Emergence of Busby Berkeley

By 1932, Hollywood studios had glutted the public's tired appetite and their overexposed song-and-dance epics (often sacrificing plot and character development) went into a commercial decline, coinciding with the height of the Great Depression. Audiences bypassed many of the musical films that were being cranked out, and preferred to watch other genre creations, such as the early gangster films. The novelty of sound had worn off and the popularity of musicals suffered.

The first of Berkeley's choreographed-directed musicals for Warner Bros. was Lloyd Bacon's backstage show 42nd Street (1933). The successful musical inspired the Gold Diggers series of films with more of Berkeley's trademark choreographing: Mervyn LeRoy's Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) (that included "We're in the Money" with coin-clad chorus girls, "The Shadow Waltz" with swirling chorines playing neon violins, and the moving, anti-Depression number "Remember My Forgotten Man"), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) (famous for Berkeley's "Lullaby of Broadway"), and In Caliente (1935).

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: The Dance Duo

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire's first teaming was in RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933), famous for its image of a plane wing holding dancing girls. From then on, their films combined light sophistication, misunderstandings and mistaken identity, stylish backdrops, witty wisecracks, and - of course, incomparable, expressive dance numbers.

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the most well-known and commercially successful adaptation based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The film stars was Judy Garland. Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best-known films and part of American popular culture. It was not a box office success on its initial release, despite receiving largely positive reviews. The film was MGM's most expensive production at that time, and did not recoup much of the studio's investment until subsequent re-releases. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture but lost to Gone with the Wind. It did win in two other categories including Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow."

Adventure Films, Epics:

 Tarzan and His Mate - 1934
1920s Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller portrayed a vine-swinging, jungle-calling ape man called Tarzan (the 10th incarnation) in the first of his twelve films as "Lord of the Jungle" in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), which was then quickly followed with Tarzan and His Mate (1934).

Adventure films stirred audiences like Best Picture Award winner Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (the first (and best) of three film versions), a commercially-successful film shot on location, brought a merciless Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton) into conflict with Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), producing the popular catch-phrase: 'Mr. Christian - Come here!' The most expensive serial to date, Universal's Flash Gordon (1936), starring Buster Crabbe, premiered its first chapter in 1936.

King Kong - 1933: One film had everything, and was perhaps cinema's most original creation - RKO's spectacular, campy adventure/fantasy film by producer-directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest G. Schoedsack King Kong (1933), a phenomenal film that raised the bar for special effects for many decades - due to the genius of special effects man Willis H. O'Brien. It utilized stop-motion animation and one of the earliest uses of back-projection, and it was accompanied by Max Steiner's emphatic score.

The film, the first to be heavily promoted on the radio, starred Fay Wray as the love interest - an attractive object of the giant ape's desire, held in his clutching hands just before he met his spectacular death in a last stand on top of New York's Empire State Building. The classic, futuristic sci-fi film from British producer Alexander Korda's London Films - Things to Come (1936), envisioned the future from the perspective of the 1930s.

Captain Blood - 1935
One of the greatest swashbucklers of all-time came in the late 1930s Technicolor adventure film - Warner Bros.' The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland playing Robin Hood and Maid Marian respectively - it was the costliest film ever made by the studio up to that time. Flynn was also featured in many classic costumed adventure films in the decade, including his star-making role in Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1938), and The Sea Hawk (1940).

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