Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures' Greatest Year

Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures' Greatest Year

Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures' Greatest Year

Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures' Greatest Year

Synopsis

In Hollywood 1938, Catherine Jurca brings to light a tumultuous year of crisis that has been neglected in histories of the studio era. With attendance in decline, negative publicity about stars that were "poison at the box office," and a spate of bad films, industry executives decided that the public was fed up with the movies. Jurca describes their desperate attempt to win back audiences by launching Motion Pictures' Greatest Year, a massive, and unsuccessful, public relations campaign conducted in theaters and newspapers across North America. Drawing on the records of studio personnel, independent exhibitors, moviegoers, and the motion pictures themselves, she analyzes what was wrong--and right--with Hollywood at the end of a heralded decade, and how the industry's troubles changed the making and marketing of films in 1938 and beyond.

Excerpt

Hollywood 1938 is a book about movies; the industry that produced, distributed, and exhibited them; and the relation of both to the public during what might well be considered, to that point, motion pictures’ worst year. The American film industry faced a bewildering array of problems in 1938, most of which were only resolved or, more accurately, postponed by the box-office miracle known as World War II. An unanticipated decline in attendance and revenues began in the fall of 1937, with the recession that brought more than a year of economic recovery to a halt. There were labor troubles; television loomed; politicians were already sniffing around for Communists; legislators again sought to ban certain trade practices; and in July 1938 the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against the eight major film companies. The industry was in crisis. But then it was always in crisis, seemed almost to thrive on it. What distinguished 1938, what gave this year of crisis its unique texture, its particular hysterical edge, was not so much the concern that the antitrust suit would finally force changes to the film industry’s basic economic structure. Rather, there were fears that the moviegoing public was itself irrevocably changing. Industry executives and commentators in the trade press periodically invoked the recession to account for the distressing drop in business, but by midyear other reasons for the disappearing audience had begun to emerge. The cry of 1938 was not that poverty and unemployment—the familiar villains of Depression-era box offices—were to blame. Rather, the industry . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.