Why the Golden Age of Hollywood never goes out of style

Dedicated to the most passionate person about cinema I’ve ever met. Just like you, Hollywood doesn’t age. To my grandpa João, with all my heart.

Around 1910, briefly, after the crucial ending of World War I, the first signs of technology urged among the American People. Having Thomas Edison joining the team, one of the greatest personalities of the cinema industry-making certainly impulsed the United States of America to label its signature in the most glorious and famous productions of all time.

Mostly spent his life working on futuristic projects in the East Coast, Mr Edison was born in Ohio, suddenly moving on to New Jersey, the place where his drafts and sketches turned into shape. Famous for inventions like the phonograph, the kinetoscope, and the dictaphone, he founded his own cinema company, the “Edison’s Black Maria Studios.” Further, other branches took over the suburban of New York, commercialising titles as “Frankenstein” and “The Execution of Mary Stuart.”

Edison’s cinematography work became very popular and successful, making it difficult for young producers to raise their business since they would be sued once infringing on the motion-pictures rights. Filmmakers then discovered a better place to ran away from the bureaucracy and absurd taxes.

Edison Motion Picture Studio, Bronx (circa 1907)

Having its first registers around 1902, H. J. Whitley and his wife officially baptised the unknown land as Hollywood, which stories believe it was the couple’s idea during their honeymoon. The investments in the West helped to connected Hollywood and Los Angeles, which eventually became attractive to the filmmakers for two main reasons: cheap budgets, and welcoming scenarios.

In 1910 the first production “In Old California” marked the beginning of a new era. East Coast producers heard about the success and the possibility of independence and rapidly crowded the coolest place at the moment, founding The Universal Studios and the Hollywood Film Laboratory. Around 1930, all shootings took place in California, in which weather and diversity of landscapes conquered the heart and eyes of society. Edison’s companies lost prestige and popularity, being overwhelmed by West productions.

Hollywood Hotel (1905)

The Golden Age of Hollywood was a cinematographic period of glamour, beauty, and sophistication. Sources may assume different date times but the most accurate one is that it lasted from 1927, beginning with the release of “The Jazz Singer” to the mid-1960. However, critics believe it could have begun in 1915, due to the release of “The Birth of a Nation”, still in the Silent Movie Era.

“The Jazz Singer” release poster (1927) — The first talkie ever made

It’s noticeable that the addition of the sound in movies opened a wide range of genres and new possibilities for directors to work with. Musicals, dramas, love stories, terrors, thrillings, comedies, and mysteries, are perfect examples of how sound remodelled the plots and character’s personality. Directors could work with soundtracks, movement noises, singing, and speech articulations like accents and voice expressions, which was never seen on screen before. The pioneer studios at the time were friendly known for the “Big Five,” which stood for Warner Brothers, RKO, Fox, MGM, and Paramount. Other smaller and popular companies were Columbia and Universal Studios.

Unforgettable faces became the most adored icons of all time. The show-business allowed a hundred of artists to join the dreamy and marvellous cinema world, where the magic and fantasy took over the screens. The international prestige and fame boosted young actors and actresses careers. The most gorgeous and breathtaking women in Hollywood were recognised as sex symbols and deeply influenced female fashion, hairstyles, makeup, and attitude all over the globe.

Young girls were mostly spotted by local talent scouts, which through commercials and advertisements were encouraged to casting for movies. Women’s classic and timeless beauty only enhanced the almighty and fancy Hollywood status, which owned true desirable stars. In the movies, the feminine presence was intensely felt in all genres. The actresses played strong and bold characters, full of life and personality, doing a brilliant job of not getting off our heads. Some examples of the most famous feminine icons are Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, and Jeanne Crain.

Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe (top) Vivien Leigh, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall (bottom)

Male artists were dressed to look like bronzed-handsome charming men, frequently wearing a suit and tie and speaking with all confidence and charm. The construction of mysterious characters was also very common on screens, where men were represented as seductive and remarkable gentlemen. Also, smoking was considered extremely attractive at the time, being an intimist way to narrow relationships and court ladies. Some of the most famous masculine stars were Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, James Stewart, Gene Kelly, and James Dean.

Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant (top) Marlon Brando, James Stewart, Clark Gable (bottom)

The 1930s

The 1930s is without a shadow of a doubt, the most golden decade of the Golden Age, surprisingly contrasting to the chaotic atmosphere of the Great Depression, an unstable worldwide economic period. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 showed the initial signs of a deep-longing crisis, “the top of the iceberg,” which only normalised at the beginning of World War II. Businessmen and financiers had their empires ruined, declaring bankruptcy, as well as millions of workers that suddenly lost their jobs.

At the peak of fame and success, the Golden Age of Hollywood turned to be the most expected amusement activity at the time, having proximally 80 million Americans each week at the cinemas. As said before, basically all studios were located in California, no longer in New York, promoting the curiosity of exchange experiences. European actors, actresses, directors, and producers made their names in the USA, gradually contributing with wonderful movies like “Psycho,” “The Pride and the Passion,” “Morroco,” and “A Double Life.” The most famous European contributors were Alfred Hitchcock, Sophia Loren, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, and Ernst Lubitsch.

Some of the greatest 30s movies selected titles are “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “ A Night at the Opera,” “King Kong,” “It Happened One Night,” “Swing Time,” “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” “Modern Times,” “Duck Soup,” and “City Lights,” all acclaimed in the American Film Institute list: The 100 Greatest American Films Of All Time.

“Monster movies” were also trending and were mostly produced by Universal Studios, which may include them in the horror genre. Some examples are “The Mummy,” “The Invisible Man,” and “Mystery of the Wax Museum.”

The decade displayed colour and black and white movies due to the simple Technicolor technology on time. Until the mid-1930s Technicolor, the most famous colour process in Hollywood worked with the “two-colour system,” which popped up on screens as red and green shades, mainly. Around 1935, Technicolor presented a new technology: the three-strip technique, also known for “process 4.” Considered a big step in the cinema’s evolution, Walt Disney was the first to negotiate the exclusivity of the technique, signing a contract until September of 1935. His animation “Flowers and Trees,” is known as the first short movie to fully adopt the three-strip technique, which gifted him with the first Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Dopey — Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Gone With the Wind — Behind The Scenes
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire — Swing Time

The 1940s

At the beginning of the decade, World War II had already influenced movie plots, and characters. The element in common in the most popular productions was the creation of the “American hero,” which can be spotted on “This is the Army,” and “Sergeant York,” a throwback to World War I, and “Casablanca,” “Air Force,” and “Hitler’s Children,” representing the World War II.

Cinema was extremely productive, conversely to the war tension. Outstanding pictures proof that perspective as “Citizen Kane,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Laura,” “Sullivan’s Travels,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Margie,” “State Fair,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “Pinky,” “Home in Indiana,” “Double Indemnity,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Best Year of Our Lives,” and “Leave Her to Heaven.”

Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain — State Fair (1945)
Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney — Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

The appreciation of places as Latin America was an important element for the construction of new and creative productions, which allowed artists to be more expressive and bold. Countries as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay were interested in tropical vibes, partying, and exoticness. “Gilda” was set in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Rita Hayworth herself had Spanish roots, being discovered by Fox while dancing in nightclubs in Mexico. Because of her Mediterranean look, Rita was encouraged to dye her hair to a dark red shade, which helped her to work in Hispanic background movies like “You Were Never Lovelier,” “The Loves of Carmen,” and “Blood and Sand.”

Rita Hayworth — “Gilda” (1946)

Walt Disney Studios was a reference for animated features movies, showing off outstanding children’s content. The releases of the decade are still watched nowadays, some of them have already been remastered, however, continue to tell the most enchanting and magical fairy tales. The most popular titles stood for “Pinocchio,” double Academy Award Winner, including Best Original Song, “Fantasia,” the first animated movie to use the stereophonic sound system, also double Honorary Award Winner. “Dumbo,” Best Music, and Scoring of a Musical Picture Winner, and “Bambi,” a three-time Academy Awards Nominee, mentioned in The 100 Greatest American Films Of All Time.

Other sets in Latin America Disney’s movies are “Saludo Amigos,” “Watercolor of Brazil,” and “The Three Caballeros,” released in 1942 and 1944.

Donald Duck and José Carioca — Watercolor of Brazil

The 1950s

The decade was challenging but successful in many aspects. The popularity of television threatened cinema’s profit and legacy, as well as the Cold War political tension, which spread fear due to the possibility of a World War III eclosion. Many strategies were adopted to catch the public’s attention, which involved widescreen processes, such as Cinerama, VistaVision, and Cinemascope, also 3-D movies, a revolutionary process of creating a third dimension illusion. The measures perfectly worked, crowding cinema sessions around America, but unfortunately, there was a fall of the weekly spectators’ number, estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau as 60 million people a week, proximally 30 million less than the 1946 peak.

Famous and unforgettable titles remarked the decade with fantastic and enchanting movies as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Searches,” “High Noon,” “The African Queen,” “On the Waterfront,” “Some Like It Hot,” “All About Eve,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Shane,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “12 Angry Men,” all listed in The 100 Greatest American Films Of All Time.

The 1950s was also Alfred Hitchcock’s most productive and successful time. Known for unique thrillers with psychological character analysis, well-elaborated suspense, and memorable twist endings. Hitchcock’s directed “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “Rear Window,” and “Dial M for Murder.”

Also, the growth of the careers of notorious personalities popped up as new names of beauty standards and role models. Some of the most talented, worldwide famous and, gorgeous actresses gained fame in the 1950s. Perfect examples are:

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant — To Catch a Thief

Grace Kelly, after-known for Grace de Monaco due to her marriage to Prince Rainier III, was considered the most classy and sophisticated woman at the time. Did a marvellous job in “ To Catch a Thief,” “High Society,” and “The Country Girl,” which gave her the Best Actress Academy Award in 1954. Grace was one of Hitchcock’s muses, having significant clout in movies.

Audrey Hepburn — Funny Face

Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium and raised in the Netherlands before building her career in Great Britain. Considering her background, Audrey was able to speak five languages and faced hard times during World War II due to the German invasion of her country. Known as the star of “Sabrina,” and “The Nun’s Story,” nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. “Funny Face,” and “Roman Holiday,” her first major movie, which gave her the Best Actress Academy Award.

Alan Young and Jeanne Crain — Gentlemen Marry Brunettes

Jeanne Crain, the famous Californian actress, was spotted while an ice staking presentation in High School, invited by Orson Welles to do a screen test. Acclaimed for “Gentlemen Marry Brunettes,” “People Will Talk,” “The Fastest Gun Alive,” and “The Model and the Marriage Broker.” Also, known for “Hollywood’s Number One party girl,” Jeanne was the favourite guest of high society parties, owned of natural beauty and spontaneous charm.

Marilyn Monroe — Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Marilyn Monroe is probably the most desired and attractive woman that ever stepped in Hollywood. Recognised for her troubled romances and sexy performance, Marilyn was involved in most social events on time, including an affair with President John. F. Kennedy. The star of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “The Seven Year Itch,” “How to Marry a Millionaire,” and “The Prince and the Showgirl,” became a sex symbol, inspiring artists as Madonna and Mariah Carrey.

The 1960s (the end of an era)

This period is considered the watershed between the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the start of New Hollywood, a more critical and liberal wave of cinema. The decade is famous for musicals as “West Side Story,” 10 Academy Awards Winner, “The Sound of Music,” 5 Academy Awards Winner, “Mary Poppins,” 5 Academy Awards Winner, and “My Fair Lady,” 8 Academy Awards Winner.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood — West Side Story
The Sound of Music (1965)
Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison — My Fair Lady

Historical movies were also trending, naming big productions as “Lawrence of Arabia,” 7 Academy Awards Winner, “Spartacus,” 4 Academy Awards Winner, and “Cleopatra,” which almost ruin the 20th Century Fox, being the first studio to sign a 1 million dollar contract with a Hollywood star.

Elizabeth Taylor — Cleopatra

Moreover, Hitchcock’s most famous and glorious movie was produced in 1960. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards and owned an incredible box-office, “Physco” is among the greatest movies of all time, considered by critics the director’s best work. As well, the psychological-thriller “Wait Until Dark,” starring Audrey Hepburn, was recognised for its climax construction, being listed in The 100 Most Thrilling American Films.

Comedies as “The Apartment,” “Charade,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which immortalised Hepburn’s performance as Holly Golightly, were also well accepted by the public. The Golden Age farewell was done with class and glam, gifting us with extraordinary masterpieces before finally coming to an end.

Audrey Hepburn and José Luis de Vilallonga — Breakfast at Tiffany’s

But why do the Golden Age of Hollywood never goes out of style?

Well, that’s a simple question. It never goes out of style because it is the style in its rawest and blatant form.

The purity and lightness of movies made people fall in love again, dream again, laugh again, dance and sing again… The charm of the plots and the gradual love process, fascinated spectators around the world, contributing to the cultural personality of nations. In the middle of uncertainty, pain, fear, and sadness, people could escape from their realities, a least once a week, to enter into a fantasy world, where love always wins, virtues mend all issues, the world isn’t too tragic and everything is possible.

The elaboration of projects had a concern about making everything stunning and hard to be forgotten. It was authentic and talented, with no fear of changing or trying on new things. The colours were bold, the stories were magical, the artists’ breathtaking, and the nostalgia of living in those days is real.

I think we all need that big spoon full of optimism sometimes, we start dreaming to further accomplish what makes us happy. It doesn’t matter if you run away to the cinema to boost your confidence and your imagination, we probably have more style than we know.

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”

— Pooh, Winnie the Pooh


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