THE 1930S– New York and Hollyood

With all their glamour, the years from 1930-1940 were rife with change for the country. The stock market had crashed in ‘29, and at this point “the economy was hardly healthy and the depression continued”(Geisst 245). Though strife and poverty were prevalent throughout the country, though, there was still the American spirit, urging the young and old to do something and make something of themselves. The face of the country was changing, as were the people within it.

The country as a whole was dealing with three big issues during this time period: racism, class struggles, and politics. Race, though not as big of an issue as it had been in the 10s and 20s, still prevailed as one of the main causes of violence, especially in the southern states. Though the nation slowly was moving to a less racist society, the change was slow in coming any many still were suffering because of it. Class struggles became more of an issue after the stock market crash because the line between the wealthy and the poor became more clearly defined and reinforced by a lack of capital. The rich generally stayed rich (and displayed it) while the poor just tended to becoming poorer (and sicker and weaker). Politics were in a mess due to the presidency of Herbert Hoover, who has had most of the blame for the stock market crash placed upon in him. Though he fought tirelessly against it and the ensuing depression, Hoover was unable to combat the crash and bring affluence back to his citizens. Therefore, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to the scene, he became a hero simply by creating jobs that were not available before. Of course, he is credited with the most effort to end the depression.

New York—the biggest cultural blender in the U.S. at the time—was full of life and zest in the 30s.  Revolution was around every corner, and not just for Broadway and its stars. Throughout the 30s, America saw the dedication of the EmpireStateBuilding to New York and the opening of the GeorgeWashingtonBridge in ‘31 and in ‘35 heard the first telephone call to be routed around the whole world—starting and ending in New York. The first official plane meant for passengers began its service in ’39, and color television was publicized for the first time on CBS in ’40. New York teemed with a verve that drew many there, whether foreign or familiar. At the World’s Fair in New York, years 1939 and 1940, it was said “Their hearts were so open that they would devote the best years of their lives […] They dared to take inspiration from its conception and make it live vibrantly […] They did so that millions would feel their dream resonate, lose their bearings, and dream that they were dreaming too” (Findling 67). New York was a place where dreams could become a reality. And, as many began to realize, so was Hollywood.

“Since 1929, with the advent of the depression and the talkie, a marked change has come over the cinema capital. Ostentatious display of ermines and diamonds, expenditures for gold plumbing fixtures and platinum cocktail shakers, have declined. The talkie has retire the beautiful clotheshorse, whether male or female, and has demanded more accomplished and inspired players, better writers, more imaginative directors, and technicians with higher and more carried skills. These technicians—script writers, assistant directors, still men, score men, costumes designers, make-up artists, research workers. Electricians, set designer and builder, engineers, cameramen, cutters, and many others—are those who make the wheels go round. Extras and bit players constitute the largest group on the several movie lots and represent virtually all races and nationalities—from Chinese and Egyptians to Russians and Hindus. Here, too, gather men and women of highly diversified talents, all eager to capitalize on them while they may: composers, stage designers, flyers, skaters, baseball and football players, swimmers, novelists, poets, bronco –busters, tumbler and trapeze artists, crooners and swing kings, even symphony conductors.”

— Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels

In the 1930s, Hollywood was the place to be if you were interested at all in being in the pictures. Despite the Great Depression and the destitution it caused, Hollywood was entering its Golden Age and –thanks to new sources of media—it was all anyone could talk about. “Indeed, our first encounter with Hollywood rarely occurs at the physical level. Rather, we become acquainted with Hollywood through the legends about Hollywood” says David Halle, historian (423). And one can see how correct he is when one looks at the millions who flocked to Hollywood to see if they could get a lucky break. The glittering lights of Los Angeles companied with the possibility of being the next big thing was too much for many to resist, so they hitched a ride and found themselves in one of the newest and biggest booming industries in the states. Sadly, though, as many found out upon their arrival, not everyone had a place in Hollywood. In fact, many did not, and found themselves struggling for work of any kind. Charles Geisst says that “While fan magazines rose-tinted Hollywood into a Venice without canals, American literati have crafted a different image of Hollywood marked by desperation and loneliness” (245). This loneliness is apparent in the lives of those who were unable to make a name for themselves in the film business.

All information compiled by Brynn Nelson.


  1. Administration, Federal Writers Project of the Works Project, and David Kipen. “Hollywood.” Los Angeles in the 1930s the WPA guide to the City of Angels.. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 228. Print.
  2. Findling, John E., and Kimberly D. Pelle. “New York 1939-1940.” Encyclopedia of world’s fairs and expositions. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2008. 67. Print.
  3. Geisst, Charles R.. “The Struggle Continues (1936-54).” Wall Street: a history : from its beginnings to the fall of Enron. [Rev. and expanded ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 245. Print.
  4. Halle, David. “”Hollywood is a State of Mind”: New York Film Culture and the Lure of Los Angeles from 1930 to the Present.” New York & Los Angeles: politics, society, and culture : a comparative view. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2003. 423. Print.
  5. “1930 Timeline.” American Studies @ The University of Virginia. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <;.