One of the characteristics of the Roaring Twenties is the emergence of the mass culture. This was due to many factors: more widely circulating newspapers and especially magazines, the radio, the wide spread of car ownership, the risen attendance to colleges among other causes.
Films were another of the many components of this phenomenon. Going to the movies in the Twenties was one of the most popular past-times for all classes. It was inexpensive, so people went at least once a week, but twice or three times a week wasn’t uncommon. People (especially young people) would enjoy the same stories across the country, across social classes, even across the colour line. They would watch the same beautiful actors on screen, they would watch and learn the same behaviour and slang. Ultimately, they would nest the same hopes and dreams and need for the future.
It’s little known that the greatest output of featured films in the US occurred during the 1920s and 1930s. Previous to this time, films had mostly been produced in New Jersey and Long Island, but in the 1920s the industry moved to Hollywood, because of its inexpensive land and its dry, sunny climate that allowed to film outdoors the year around.
The Big-Five studios had vast studios with elaborate sets. They owned their own exhibiting theatres, as well as production and distribution facilities. They also built luxurious picture palaces that were designed for orchestras to play music to accompany projected films. Sound appeared in films the first time n 1923, but only in 1927, when The Jazz Singer came out and was a huge success, did the industry really take up the ‘talkies’.
There was also a broad array of genre, the most popular being melodrama, western, gangster movies, historical stravaganza and horror.
Here’s when stardom was born. Actors became hugely popular. They were young, beautiful, rich, successful and every young person wanted to be like them. And it didn’t seem that impossible, since most of these actors were very much like the viewers watching those films. Stories and characters took up looks and behaviour from real life and then popularise them and propagate them to a wide audience that would try to repeat those behaviour and looks, so that widely different people ended up aiming for the same goals. Films were creating a beautiful dream that everyone wanted to share and achieve.
FilmSite – The History of Film The 1920s – The Pre-Talkies and the Silent Era
The History of Film – 1920s
BBC – The era of the silent movie
The Old Shelter – Films (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)