The 101 Most Influential Coming-of-Age Movies

By Ryan Uytdewilligen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2. THE 1920S: EARLY STEPS

Like the fetus in the womb, film in the 1920s grew from the nearly invisible to something that was hard to ignore, something full of future potential.

It was the Roaring Twenties, and America had never seen such prosperity or production. The war was over and families could get back to their businesses. Over in Europe, many of the countries struggled to get past the debt and destruction, but uncharted territory in North America had now been discovered and was utilized for industry. It would seem there was too much cause for celebration, leading to alcohol prohibition for much of the decade; creating prime business to some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, like Al Capone. And much of the celebrating this time around was done by the newly formed Hollywood. It would be a productive era for the industry. Producers were getting filthy rich and starting up their own production studios. Until the twenties, Metro Goldwyn Mayer had been king, but this decade saw the creation of mega companies like RKO and Warner Brothers. After installing the famous Hollywood sign in 1923 (then called Hollywoodland), the motion picture business was quickly becoming a dominant art form.

The 1920s saw much innovation, most notably the use of dialogue thanks to The Jazz Singer (1927) and the ever-evolving technology used to capture and edit film. Stars and celebrities began to rise, including comic silent legends Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton who were able to pump out more than one film a year. Recognizable faces meant they could develop a fan base. A fan base meant recurring, guaranteed sales.

Slapstick comedy ranked supreme because it was one of the few genres that could be expressed without words, just outlandish actions. But once sounds other than music could be added, the world was inevitably changed and stories could be told with much more depth and emotion. As the decade took off, Hollywood turned into a dedicated film factory, churning out silly comedies and touching

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