American Cinema of the 1930s: Themes and Variations

By Ina Rae Hark | Go to book overview

1930

Movies and Social Difference

AARON BAKER

In the year in which Sergei Eisenstein arrived in Hollywood and left six months later without making a film, it is fitting that three of the biggest inventions in the United States were products that would become corporate mainstays. In March frozen foods packaged by Clarence Birdseye went on sale. Birdseye had developed a method for quick-freezing food products in convenient packages without any loss of taste. Another food high on taste but low on nutritional value, the Twinkie snack cake, was also introduced by the Interstate Bakeries Corporation. At a time when many people had to repair broken possessions rather than replace them, an engineer working for the 3M Company invented the first transparent cellophane tape. Scotch Tape, as it was called, sold so well that it became a generic name for any kind of adhesive tape.

The music of Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Paul Robeson, Rudy Vallee, and Fred Astaire dominated the pop charts. One of Astaire's hits was his recording of Irving Berlin's Puttin' on the Ritz that was inspired by the fad of wealthy New Yorkers dressing up to visit jazz clubs in Harlem. This year also marked the debut of the radio program "The Shadow" in which the furtive crime solver would know what evil lurked in the hearts of men for a quarter of a century. On the stage Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, about a loveless marriage, and for which he had won a Pulitzer Prize, continued its long run. Noel Coward added to his string of hits with Private Lives, in which he also starred. The literary world saw the publication of three important novels: William Faulkner came out with As I Lay Dying, a stream-of-consciousness story— with fifteen narrators—about a poor Mississippi farm family;recently returned from a trip to Russia to study socialism, John Dos Passos published the first of his USA Trilogy, The 42nd Parallel; and Knopf released Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled detective novel The Maltese Falcon. Its story of a coolly detached detective with his own sense of justice fit perfectly into the Hollywood ideology of self-reliance and would be adapted three times for the cinema.

-25-

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