Golden Age of Hollywood

The Golden Age of Hollywood began roughly in 1915 in Hollywood California, and lasted until its eventual decline during the post-World War II era. During this time Hollywood and the films, it produced underwent a drastic evolution which resulted in the development of a “Hollywood style”, technological innovation, fame for actors and actresses, and film becoming the single mass medium of the period. The success and prosperity of the film industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood is unrivaled throughout time.

Veronica 1The Golden Age of Hollywood emerged in part out of the studio system that developed during the early 20th century.  Hollywood’s studio system allowed for film to become a major industry and the dominant mass medium of its time. Hollywood’s studio system established the vertical integration of the film making process and turned the film industry into an oligopoly.  Subsequently, the film industry became dominated by a small number of studios known as the Big Five.  These studios included Paramount, MGM, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox and RKO.   Three other studios known as the Little Three were able to maintain relevance but did not maintain a vertical integration model of operation. These studios were Columbia, Universal and United Artists (Campbell).

The Golden Age of Hollywood was a time in which more movies were produced each year than at any other time in history.  However, this era is most importantly known for being the time in which Hollywood developed its own style that eventually became a standard for cinema globally. The three components to the Hollywood style involve the narrative, which includes the story and how the story is told.  The genre, which is a category that the narrative would fit into.  Some of the popular genres of the time included comedy, adventure, action, thriller/ horror and musical.  And finally, the authors, or the directors whom are credited to be the primary authors of the film.  This style of film making emerged during the Golden Age of Hollywood and ultimately served as a model for cinema globally (Campbell).

Part of one of the distinguishing factors of the Golden Age of Hollywood is the technological advances that occurred during this time.  Film became popular among American audiences during the early 20th century during the silent film era.  However, as audiences grew, so did interest in creating new technologies to improve the quality of motion picture.  One of the most progressive technological advancements to film was synchronized sound (Salem).  Warner Brothers Studios led the way for this technological advancement with their break through film The Singing Fool (1928) which established synchronized sound as the next best innovation for film.  The synchronization of sound to moving pictures increased movie audiences dramatically (Campbell).

Other technological advancements during the time that contributed to the success of films during the Golden Age of Hollywood were special effects and color.  Special effects in the first half of the 20th century was mostly rare and crude.  However, when a movie did possess quality special effects, it was received greatly be audiences.  The film King Kong (1933), was a film revered for its special effect during the time.  Color also was a major innovation of its time.  The Technicolor Corporation began working and developing color photography and projection by 1915 but did not improve and perfect it until the late 1930s with the release of Gone with the Wind (1939).

The film industry ironically flourished during one of America’s most troubling periods, The Great Depression. Despite the economic turmoil of the nation, both upper and lower-class Americans flocked to movie theaters to watch feature films, while industry was releasing record high quantities of films.  This in part has to do with the fact that during this time, film was the most affordable form of entertainment for Americans, which allowed it to become an unrivaled mass medium.  People began to use films as a way to escape their unfortunate realities in life and watch movies that portrayed happiness and American values (Salem).

Veronica 2Actors and actresses became influential figures during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  For example, Mary Pickford was an actress that acted in numerous films and eventually earned herself the reputation of “Americas Sweetheart” (Campbell) and people began to invest their own interest in in her personal life and waited on lines to see her films.  Her influence and fame grew so extensively that she even earned higher wages for acting in films. Other influential actors and actresses of this time included Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Greta Gable Chico Marx and Harpo Marx (Salem).  These people began to acquire fame at both national and international levels.

References

Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Movies and the Impact of Images. In R. Campbell (Author), Media and Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age (11th ed., pp. 221-234). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, Macmillan Learning.

“Hollywood Enters Its Golden Age.” Great Events from History: The Twentieth Century (Online Edition). Salem Press. 2013.

Image Attributions: “Montage of Golden Age” Henry B. Goodwin et. al Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0); “RKO” by Insomia Cured Here Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Written by Veronica Washington, 2018

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