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Hollywood and the Great Depression

American Film, Politics and Society in the 1930s

Edited by Iwan Morgan, Philip John Davies

Paperback (Forthcoming)
eBook (ePub) i
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Examines how Hollywood responded to and reflected the political and social changes that America experienced during the 1930s

In the popular imagination, 1930s Hollywood was a dream factory producing escapist movies to distract the American people from the greatest economic crisis in their nation’s history. But while many films of the period conform to this stereotype, there were a significant number that promoted a message, either explicitly or implicitly, in support of the political, social and economic change broadly associated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme. At the same time, Hollywood was in the forefront of challenging traditional gender roles, both in terms of movie representations of women and the role of women within the studio system. With case studies of actors like Shirley Temple, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire, as well as a selection of films that reflect politics and society in the Depression decade, this fascinating book examines how the challenges of the Great Depression impacted on Hollywood and how it responded to them.

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Introduction: Hollywood and the Great Depression, Iwan Morgan

Section I: Hollywood Politics and Values
1: The Political History of Classical Hollywood: Moguls, Liberals and Radicals, Mark Wheeler
2: Columbia Pictures and the Great Depression: A Case Study of Political Writers, Ian Scott
3: Organization Women and Belle Rebels: Hollywood’s Working Women in the 1930s, J.E. Smyth
4: The Congressional Battle over Motion Picture Distribution, 1936-1940; Catherine Jurca

Section II: Stars
5: Shirley Temple and Hollywood’s Colonialist Ideology, Ina Rae Hark
6: Astaire and Rogers: Carefree in Roberta, Peter William Evans
7: The ‘Awful Truth’ About Cary Grant, Mark Glancy

Section III: Movies
8: Footlight Parade: The New Deal on Screen, Harvey G. Cohen
9: Our Daily Bread: ‘Cooperation’, ‘Independence’, and Politics in Mid-1930s Cinema, Brian Neve
10: Embodying the State: Federal Architecture and Masculine Transformation in Hollywood Films of the New Deal Era, Anna Siomopoulos
11: ‘We’re Only Kids Now,  But Someday … : Hollywood Musicals and the Great Depression ‘Youth Crisis, David Eldridge
12: Chaplin’s Modern Times: The Reception of the Film in the US, France, and Britain, Melvyn Stokes
13: John Ford’s Young Mr Lincoln: A Popular Front Hero for the Late 1930s, Iwan Morgan

Contributors and Editors 

About the Author

Professor Iwan Morgan is Professor of US Studies and Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History, University College London.

Philip John Davies is Professor in American Studies at De Montfort University.


'This stimulating collection energetically revisits and frequently revises the history of Hollywood’s political engagements during the height of its cultural influence in the 1930s, offering new insights into the responses of writers, stars, moguls and distributors to the Depression and New Deal, and their expression in some of the decade’s most memorable movies.'

- Professor Richard Maltby, Flinders University
'The articles in this collection serve to bring new information to light, challenge some ideas about Depression-era film and deepen readers’ understanding of other aspects of the film industry in the 1930s.'
- Richard Bodek, College of Charleston, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

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