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Hollywood in the 1920s


Hollywood in the 1920s: Warren Harding was the 29th American President who served in office from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923. One of the important events during his presidency was the rise of Hollywood in the 1920s.

Definition and Summary of the Hollywood in the 1920s
Summary and definition:
The rise of Hollywood in the 1920s was due to the economic prosperity during the Roaring Twenties Era. People had more time to spend on leisure and Americans fell in love with the movies. The movies were a cheap form of entertainment and Hollywood in the 1920's was a booming industry.

The black and white silent movies progressed to color productions in the 1920's and in 1927 the first talking picture was made. Movie stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Greta Garbo were idolized by millions. By 1929 were 25,000 cinemas and an average of 100 million Americans went to the movies on a weekly basis.

Hollywood in the 1920s Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Hollywood in the 1920s.

Where is Hollywood? Hollywood is situated Los Angeles, California. The climate and location of Hollywood was ideal place for outdoor filming. 85% of U.S. movie production was made in or around Hollywood in the 1920's.

What were the major studios of Hollywood in the 1920s? The 'Big Five' studios in the Golden Era of Hollywood in the 1920s were Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, RKO Radio Pictures and 20th Century Fox and were challenged by the establishment of the United Artists studio.

Why was the Hollywood sign built? The Hollywood Sign was originally 'Hollywoodland' as shown in the picture and was erected in 1923. It was built by Harry Chandler as billboard for his Hollywoodland real estate. The Hollywood sign is now a landmark and American cultural icon.

Facts about Hollywood in the 1920s
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Hollywood in the 1920s.

Silent Movies: The first silent movies in Hollywood in the 1920's were predominantly in black and white and the story of the movie was conveyed by a melodramatic acting style with overstated body language gestures and exaggerated facial expression.  Title cards were also used to explain the movement of the plot.

Silent Movies: Silent Movies were accompanied by music that conveyed the drama and emotion of each scene. The music was played on a piano or an organ.

Silent Movies: Occasionally color tinting was used as a special effect and to set the mood for feature length movies. 

Silent Movies: The first major feature length silent movie was the highly controversial 1915 'Birth of a Nation'. Its running time was 133 minutes and it was directed by D. W. Griffith. The inflammatory movie brought protests by the NAACP and there were riots in Philadelphia and Boston.

The reaction to the 'Birth of a Nation' movie brought the full realization of the power of the movies. The success of the full length feature, and the massive profits the film made ($10,000,000), led to the making of many epic movies in Hollywood of the 1920's.

Silent Movies: Epic silent movies made in Hollywood in the 1920's. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) grossed $4,000,000. The Covered Wagon (1923) - $3,800,000. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) made $3,500,000. The Ten Commandments (1923) made $3,400,000. Ben-Hur (1925) grossed $5,500,000. The Gold Rush (1925) - $4,250,000 and The Big Parade (1925) made $6,400,000.

Movies were Big Business and Hollywood became a Mecca for all would-be movie stars and the movie studios vied with each other to make the most profits. The studio system evolved and was essentially about long-term contracts for movie stars, that prevented them being poached by rival studios.

In 1921 Rudolph Valentino starred in the "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and caused a sensation starring in the major role as "The Sheik"

In 1922 the first all-color movie called 'Toll of the Sea' was released starring Anna May Wong.

The first 3-D movie to be shown in front of an audience called The Power of Love was premiered at the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel in 1922.

Cecile B. De Mille's made his 2½ hour epic "The Ten Commandments" in 1923 which cost $1.5 million.

In 1925 the first movie with sound effects and music, called Don Juan, was made by Warner Brothers. It starred John Barrymore and Mary Astor.

Charlie Chaplin's silent comedy, in his Little Tramp persona, called 'The Gold Rush' premiered on August 16, 1925 and made $4,250,000 for United Artists.

The 'talkies' started in 1927 by Warner Brothers when Al Jolson starred in 'The Jazz Singer' consisted mostly of music with only a couple of hundred spoken words. However 'The Jazz Singer' and the talkies were an immediate success and brought about the demise of the silent movie and its world wide audience with no language barriers. The last silent movie was released in 1931. First talking movie - The Jazz Singer. By 1930 40% of the nation's cinemas had sound systems installed.

In 1927 Clara Bow made a film called "It" which became synonymous with sex appeal and she was immediately dubbed the “It” Girl by the Flappers of the Roaring Twenties.

Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie premiered on November 18, 1928, introducing the world to animated film and Mickey Mouse.

The Hays Code and Censorship: In 1930 Will Hays and the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) passed a list of guidelines called "The Don'ts and Be Carefuls" which became known as the Hays Code. The Hays Production Code set moral standards and introduced voluntary self-policing in the movies industry banning the use of profanity, nudity, immorality and the role of the "vamp" in the Hollywood movies of the 1920s.

The goal of Will Hays was to also improve the image of the Hollywood movie industry which had suffered from a series of scandals involving famous movie stars of the 1920's.

The most famous scandal involved "Fatty" Arbuckle and the alleged rape and murder of model and actress Virginia Rappe. After three trials "Fatty"Arbuckle was found not guilty and was acquitted but his career was in ruins.

Scandals: Other scandals involving Hollywood in the 1920s involved famous movies stars such as Rudolf Valentino who was gay or bi-sexual. The licentious  behavior of Clara Bow and Tallulah Bankhead. Other scandals relating to drug abuse and alcohol addiction involved Mabel Normand, Wallace Reid and Barbara La Marr.

Will Hays subsequently created a list of 117 names of actors and actresses whose personal lives he believed made them unfit to appear in Hollywood movies.

The first Oscars (Academy Awards) were given in 1929 in a short 15 minute ceremony at a private hotel. Charlie Chaplin won an honorary award for 'The Circus'.

The Studios: Paramount Studio was founded in 1914. Paramount's  major director was Cecil B. de Mille and its famous movie stars included , Marlene Dietrich, Clara Bow, the Marx Brothers and WC Fields.

The Studios: MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) was formed in 1924 by the merger of Marcus Loew's Metro Pictures with Louis B. Meyer Productions and Goldwyn Pictures. Producer Irving Thalberg was its 'boy wonder' . MGM is famous for producing the greatest of all musicals. Its famous early movie stars included Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford.

The Studios: 20th Century Fox started as the Fox Film Corporation in 1914 and headed by William Fox. (It merged with Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century Pictures in 1935).The Fox Film Corporation acquired 300 acres of land west of Beverly Hills in 1926 and built "Movietone City", the best equipped movie studio of its time. Its famous movie stars were Janet Gaynor, Will Rogers and Shirley Temple.

The Studios: RKO was established by Rockerfeller's Radio Corporation of America in 1928 at the start of the sound era. Its most famous movie stars were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

The Studios: Warner Brothers was  founded in the 1920s and with General Electric developed the sound system used in 'The Jazz Singer.' Its movie stars included Al Jolson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Refer to First talking movie - The Jazz Singer

The Studios: The United Artists studio was established by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith in 1919 to enable them to gain control of their own interests rather than depending upon the five major Hollywood studios.

The Studios: Columbia Pictures was founded in 1924 by Harry Cohn, along with his brother Jack and Joe Brandt.

In 1929 the mood of the nation moved from the exuberant era of prosperity and revelry to the dark days into the hard times of the Great Depression when 25% of Americans were unemployed. 100s of 'picture palaces' closed as ticket sales dropped dramatically. attendance dropped to roughly 60 to 75 million by 1933 and enticements and promotions such as the 'Dish Night giveaway' were introduced as a desperate ploy to avoid bankruptcy.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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