|Lights, Camera...Action! The Ultimate Guide to the Golden Age of Hollywood|
|Date : Feburary - 28- 2010|
|Author : Lowell Bradford|
In the late 1920’s there was an explosion in Hollywood. It was an explosion of power and success for the five major studios. With the release of “Talkies,” thus ending the silent film era, the motion picture industry was more lucrative than it had ever been and was producing classic films and actors and actresses that would be celebrated for generations. The surge of iconic success would continue right into the late 1950’s. During Hollywood's Golden Age, thousands of movies were released from MGM, Paramount, RKO, Warner Bros., and Twentieth Century Fox; films that are still treasured today.
Films of the Golden Age
It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night was first released in February of 1934. The film was a romantic comedy that starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It was one of the last films to be shot before the Motion Picture Production Code started to be enforced in 1934. The Code would have prohibited any sort of suggestive behavior between the two leading characters. The film was directed by Frank Capra and luckily, the film dodge The Code and his romantic comedy remains a classic to this day.
A Synopsis of It Happened One Night
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz was first released in August of 1939. Judy Garland starred in what would arguably be her most famous role as Dorothy Gale. The film was also groundbreaking in the use of Technicolor with the switch from black and white to color when Dorothy gets to Oz. The film was also directed by celebrated director, Victor Fleming, who also directed Gone With The Wind.
A Wizard of Oz fan site.
Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind was first released in December of 1939. It was directed by MGM’s noted director, Victor Fleming. Clark Gable played Rhett Butler, after movie star Gary Cooper turned the role down. Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara and she won an Oscar for Best Actress for the role. Gone With The Wind was the first movie in color to win an Academy Award.
A Gone With The Wind review.
Citizen Kane was first released in May of 1941. The film was directed by Orson Welles, who also starred in the film. This film is considered to be such an artistic masterpiece that many organizations, including The American Film Institute, have dubbed it the best film of all time. The film is also renowned for the innovative use of miniatures to shoot scenes, such as the title character’s home, Xanadu. The make up that transformed Orson Welles from a young man to a man at the end of his life also set an industry standard.
An analysis of Citizen Kane.
Casablanca was first released in November of 1942. It was directed by Michael Curtiz. It was a rushed release, as the film’s plot had to do with an Allied invasion and the studio wanted to capitalize on the publicity from the real life Allied Invasion of North Africa that happened weeks prior. It starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Their performance in this classic film spawned some of the most memorable movie quotes in history, such as “Here’s looking at you,kid.” The line wasn't originally in the script. It was a line often used by Bogart as he would teach Bergman to play poker between scenes.
A review of Casablanca.
All The King’s Men
All The King’s Men was first released in January, 1950. The film was directed by Robert Rossen and starred Mercedes McCambridge and Broderick Crawford. Crawford’s role of Willie Stark had originally been turned down by John Wayne because he thought the film was un-American. Crawford won an Academy Award for the role later that year. The film is also noted for using local residents of the film’s location in California as extras. This was not a common thing to do in Hollywood that that time.
A review of All The King's Men, originally published November 9, 1949.
Singin’ In The Rain
Singin’ In The Rain was first released in March of 1952. The movie starred Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and the iconic Gene Kelly. Kelly did choreography for the film also co-directed the film with Stanley Donen. The film portrays Hollywood at the end of the silent film era in a comedic fashion, but the plot is not necessarily what made the movie so famous. With the legendary dance scenes and musical numbers, the film is regarded as one of the best musicals of all time.
Film notes for Singin' In The Rain.
Around The World In 80 Days
Around The World In 80 Days was first released in October of 1956. The film was directed by Michael Anderson and was the adaptation of the famous novel by Jules Verne. The movie starred Robert Newton, Shirley MacLaine, Mario Moreno "Cantinflas," and David Niven. The term “cameo” was popularized by this film because of all the famous actors and actresses that made appearances in various scenes. A few of the celebrities that made some of the appearances were Buster Keaton, Cesar Romero, and Marlene Dietrich.
More info on Around the World in 80 Days.
Bridge On The River Kwai
Bridge On The River Kwai was first released in October of 1957. It was directed by David Lean, who would go on to direct 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia. The film starred William Holden and Alec Guinness. Guinness would take home an Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson. The film was seen as so artistically and historically significant that it is being preserved by United States Library of Congress National Film Registry.
Info and resources on Bridge on the River Kwai.
Ben Hur was first released in November of 1959 and directed by William Wyler. This film came towards the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age but it still captured a record 11 Academy Awards. Only two other films in history, Titanic(1997) and The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King(2003), have ever done that. One of those awards was for Best Actor, and that went to Charlton Heston, who played the film’s star and title character. In 2008, The American Film Institute named Ben Hur as the second best epic movie of all time.
A modern review of Ben Hur.
Actors of the Golden Age
Humphrey DeForest Bogart, more affectionately known as “Bogie,” was born in New York City on December 25th, 1899. His father was a fairly wealthy surgeon and Humphrey had a solid, but incomplete education as he was expelled from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. After leaving school he enrolled in the Naval Reserve. But in 1920 he began managing a stage company owned by a family friend; taking stage roles and started his acting career. His break-out role was in The Petrified Forest in 1936. The leading lady of the film, Leslie Howard, threatened to quit if Bogart was not cast, and thus a legend was born. Humphrey continued to make successful movies, won an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in 1951’s African Queen, and he joined other famous actors in speaking out against the House Un-American Activities Committee. Bogart died in 1957 from complication from throat cancer.
A tribute to Humphrey Bogart.
Charlton Heston was born John Charles Carter on October 4th 1924 in Evanston, Illinois. His childhood was rather uneventful and Heston did not begin acting until high school. He had a series of small stage roles, and later on a series of small film roles. The film that would put him on the A-List was 1952’s The Greatest Show On Earth. He later solidified his place in Hollywood by starring in blockbuster epics like The Ten Commandments in 1956 and Ben Hur in 1959. His acting made him famous and his strong conservative beliefs made him notorious. Heston was active in the NRA and often took criticism for his conservative political beliefs, despite being an advocate for civil rights long before it became to widely accepted to do so. Heston died in 2008 from Alzheimer’s disease.
A Charlton Heston biography.
Marlon Brando Jr .was born on April 3rd , 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska. He came from a very artistic family, but had a trouble childhood because of his mother’s alcoholism. He left Nebraska in 1943 and made his way to New York City to pursue acting. He began his career acting fr the stage rather than on film. He made a name for himself as a skilled stage actor and was criticized for moving to films, as many theater critics felt he was wasting his talent. The film that first made him and icon was Elia Kazan’s adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Brando would go on to star in many more iconic films and win 8 Academy Awards. Many debate that he is the best actor in history, rivaled only by Laurence Olivier, who was more stage oriented. Brando starred in The Godfather, which is seen as one of the best films of all time, and his mumbling, method-acting style as Don Corleone is one of the main reasons the film is regarded so highly. Brando remained a fascinating staple in Hollywood, and was a staunch civil rights activist. He died in 2004 from pulmonary fibrosis.
A biography of Marlon Brando.
Cary Grant was born as Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, Bristol, England, UK on January 18th, 1904. Grant had a troubled childhood because his father had is mother put in a mental institution when he was very young and was simply told that his mother was away on vacation. He did not see his mother again until he was in his twenties. Perhaps looking for a constant in his life, Grant began stage acting in the early 1930’s under his birth name. A big break came for him when he starred with Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus in 1932. His stardom rose even further when he starred with Mae West in She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel, both films were from 1933. His charming mid-Atlantic accent and dashing good looks made him a popular leading man until he retired from acting in the mid 1960’s. He died in 1986 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
A tribute to Cary Grant.
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was born on April 5th, 1900, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He had a simple upbringing, solid education, and appeared in his first stage production, The Truth, when he was at Ripon college. That role is what made him decide to pursue acting as a career. After a fairly successful stage career, Tracy was given his break out role in 1930’s Up The River. He went on to become the first actor to win 2 consecutive Academy Awards in a row for Oscars for Captains Courageous in 1937, and Boys Town in 1938. He had a notorious love affair with Katherine Hepburn despite being married to actress Louise Treadwell. He was a staunch catholic and never left his wife. He died of a heart attack in 1967.
Ripon College's Spencer Tracy page.
Actresses of the Golden Age
Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri on July 16, 1911. Her childhood was not ideal, as her mother left her father when she was born and was kidnapped several times by her father. She started performing at a young age and appeared in vaudeville acts until she was 17. She had more than a few bit parts in films and did not actually make her mark until she was cast alongside Fred Astaire in 1933's Flying Down to Rio. Her most notable parts would continue to be in films in which she danced and acted with Astaire. But 1940's Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman was arguably her best role. She died in 1995 of congestive heart failure.
The official website of Ginger Rogers.
Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 29, 1915. She first started acting at the age of 17 in Sweden. She had little more than bit parts until 1936’s Intermezzo. It was a Swedish film, but American producer David O. Selznick saw the film and had her reprise the role in the American remake of the film in 1939. She was known for being very talented and very beautiful and she also chose her roles very carefully. She would go on to star with Humphrey Bogart in 1942’s Casablanca and would continue acting right into the early 1980’s. She died in 1982 from breast cancer.
The Ingrid Bergman Collection from Wesleyan University.
Audrey Hepburn was born as Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4th 1929 in Ixelles, Belgium. Her family was relatively wealthy, and despite her parents’ divorce, she lived a life of privilege until the Nazi take over of Holland. She suffered with depression during that time but managed to start her career after the liberation. She dabbled in modeling, ballet and even had a bit part in film. Her first speaking role came in 1951’s Young Wives' Tale. She made a name for herself in American films and the greatest success was her starring role in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She went on to star in many other successful films, such as Two For The Road and My Fair Lady. She was also renowned for her beauty and sense of style and is style considered a fashion icon even today. She died in 1993 of colon cancer.
An Audrey Hepburn fan site.
Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino on October 17th, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was a dancer and she followed in his footsteps at a young age. Her dancing is what landed her a contract with Fox Studios, but Fox only gave her small bit parts and dropped her after a few years. It wasn’t until she starred alongside Fred Astaire in 1941’s The Strawberry Blonde and You’ll Never Get Rich that she had her first real successes. She was said to be very quiet and soft-spoken in real life, but in films like 1946’s Gilda she was an outgoing and sexual dynamo on the screen. She took a break from acting to get married, but returned to the screen in the 1950’s. She then had more successful straight roles, like in 1953’s Miss Sadie Thompson. She died in 1987 from Alzheimer’s.
The Rita Hayworth Exhibit from the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.
Ava Lavinia Gardner was born on December 24th in 1922. She grew up in the rural south and never had any acting experience as a child. Despite her lack of experience she was discover by MGM Studios, based solely on her beauty, when her photo was seen in the window of her brother in-law’s photo studio. She had a series of small roles, but her first successful starring role was in 1946’s The Killers, from Universal Studios. She was always very insecure about her acting ability, but despite that, she receive critical acclaim for her role in 1953’s Mogambo and 1956’s Bhowani Junction. She moved to Spain and did a series of small films there, and her last starring role was in 1964’s The Night of the Iguana. She moved to London after having financial problems in Spain and died from bronchial pneumonia in 1990.
A biography of Ava Gardner