It is commonly referred to as the “Great Depression,” a worldwide economic depression that occurred in the 1930s. Even though the exact date of the Great Depression varies from country to country, it began in the United States in 1929 and spread around the globe.
The arts were impacted by these events as well, particularly film, which is a pricey industrial art form and hence susceptible to market forces. The 1930s marked a major shift in Hollywood’s filmmaking style. During the silent film era, renowned talents like Buster Keaton were harmed by the introduction of sound. With this method, Hollywood developed a cinematic style based on action and dialogue that is still relevant today.
With an eye on American cinema from this time period, this list will also include modern films that deal with the era’s themes and issues.
The Great Depression is often not the primary focus, but rather the story of individual characters in the setting of catastrophe and hardship. In this way, filmmakers may simultaneously tell their own stories and delve into the historical context of the age they’re depicting. In light of current events, it will be intriguing to observe how modern cinema responds (circa 2007).
1. Seabiscuit (2003)
“Stand up and chase the dream” is a common theme in Hollywood films, and this film is no exception. Tobey Maguire portrays Red Pollard, the legendary jockey who rode Seabiscuit in the 1930s and became a symbol of the American West. Pollard is depressed that Seabiscuit isn’t regarded suitable for competition because he’s lame. They will succeed, though, in creating one of the most renowned sporting triumphs of the United States.
The historical reconstruction of the time period is more interesting than the athletic context. The wealth of the East Coast’s elite is contrasted with the plight of the West Coast’s working class, which has been hit hard by the recession.
In times of distress, one may only cling to legends and miracles for hope of recovery, which the film employs.
2. Bound for Glory (1976)
Woody Guthrie, a folk musician touring the South in 1936, opens a soup kitchen to serve the poor and fights for improved working conditions for everybody. In spite of his talent and accomplishment, he prefers to engage in trade union activism during difficult times for his country. When Guthrie arrives in New York, he begins to sing his most famous song “This Land Is Your Land” as a sign of optimism and recovery.
Committed to the idea of music as a means to promote social change, director Hal Ashby’s film, “Coming Home,” is focused on folk singer and muse to Bob Dylan of the 1930s. He is most known for his Vietnam-era film, “Coming Home.”
Haskell Wexler’s cinematography and a great soundtrack bring the period and mood of the South vividly to life in the movie (both Academy Award winners).
It’s worth noting that Garrett Brown, the film’s creator and operator, utilized his new Steadicam camera for the first time in Bound for Glory.
3. Cinderella Man (2005)
An injury to James Braddock caused him to give up his promising career as a boxer and work as an excruciatingly hard manual laborer. He gets a second opportunity at boxing because of his determination and talent. His naysayers throughout the world are shocked when he becomes a true legend.
Aside from the primary plotline, Ron Howard devotes as much attention to America’s thirties reconstruction as it does to its protagonist.
Because of the economic downturn and widespread poverty, sports legends like the one of Braddock, dubbed “Cinderella Man” by his admirers, have become increasingly popular.
Outstanding sets, costumes, and photography by Salvatore Totino earned the film an Oscar nomination.
Surely, Howard was influenced by the current financial crisis, and the picture sounds like a warning for the present.
4. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
With Miller’s Crossing, the Coen Brothers’ third film, they take inspiration from Dashiell Hammett novels and try something new on the big screen.
It is set in 1929 in an undisclosed city, and the plot revolves around two gangsters who have fallen in love with the same woman, Verna, and whose lives are forever linked.
There are numerous references to The Godfather woven into the picture. It begins as a tragic tale, but then transforms into a lighthearted comedy. Film genres are interchangeable, and human emotions are inconsistent in a movie where everyone betrays everyone else.
Although experimental and a mixture of cinematic genres, this picture may be considered an afterthought to the creative capabilities of modern cinema.
A stellar group, including John Turturro, Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne, and Marcia Gay Harden, delivers some of the best acting in the business.
5. Emperor of the North (1973)
A wanderer known as Number One takes on a notorious railway conductor, Shack, during the Great Depression. Crammed within their fight is Cigaret the young hobo who aspires to be Number One.
The film, which represents Aldrich’s raw poetry, contrasts narrative passages with brutality (a passenger falls off the train at the beginning and is broken into two pieces).
Since both Number One and Shack respond to the Great Depression’s misery by keeping firm in their values and dignity, the film does not focus on good or bad.
Even though it’s a social parable, the picture maintains a high level of credibility.
6. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Using Cecilia as a case study, Woody Allen provides his own perspective on this historical phenomenon (Mia Farrow). Life for her revolves around the laundry room where she works and her alcoholic husband, and the local cinema is her sole form of relief. He becomes her hero and she wants to go away with him in a movie.
The film is a comedy, yet it depicts the hardships of the middle class during the Great Depression with great accuracy. The moviegoers at the time just wanted a good time and a few laughs to get them through the tough times.
The golden age of the American star system is not a coincidence in the 1930s. In the case of Cecilia, who falls in love with the film’s character rather than the actor, it’s a perfect illustration.
7. Paper Moon (1973)
Moses, a kindhearted conman, is asked to transfer an orphaned girl named Addie to her aunt in Roosevelt’s America during the Great Depression. As they make their way across the country, they create an almost whimsy-like friendship.
Beautiful, bittersweet comedy by Peter Bogdanovich depicts the relationship between cinema and life with an easygoing, nostalgic perspective.
Lazy Kovacs has captured an America torn by crises in his black and white photographs in a way that’s impossible to miss.
Tatum O’Neal, who was just eleven years old when she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, is a standout performer in this film. An ancient song from the 1930s is included in the title as a reminder of the power of humour to make people think about critical issues.