The Depression was a time of financial uncertainty for many people, but the movie industry remained largely unaffected. In the mid-to-late ’20s, the film industry had accumulated debts of $410 million. In order to pay off their debts, they reduced salaries and production costs. As a result, nearly one-third of the nation’s movie theaters closed their doors.
In the 1930s, movies offered an escape from the reality of the time. Though few movies realistically depicted the Great Depression, one notable exception was the 1940 film adaptation of “The Grapes of Wrath”. The movie told the story of Dust Bowl refugees and was directed by John Ford. Henry Fonda played a key role. The film’s gloom and despair matched the Depression. In addition, many films of the time featured social problems.
While the Depression was a time of economic hardship, it helped the film industry by bringing color and sound to the screen. In 1927, theaters were wired for sound, which allowed for more creative experimentation with the medium. With the advent of sound, moviegoers were no longer limited to silent screen stars. Despite the low quality of the early “talkies,” many of these films were still wildly successful at the box office.
Some people criticized the popularity of gangster films during the Depression, because they perpetuated the idea that gangster films were dangerous. Others, however, saw these films as promoting traditional American values. Moreover, many gangster movies were aimed at young men and women, displaying both flamboyance and class-consciousness. The films portrayed these values in an implicit manner. If you want to find out more, read Andrew Bergman’s article!
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