Theatre U.S.A., 1665 to 1957

By Barnard Hewitt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
1930 TO 1940
The Big Squeeze

The nation was to rise slowly from the Depression and eventually to reach new heights of productivity and prosperity, but the theatre was never to regain the position it had held in the twenties. Even in the boom decade, competition from the moving picture had made itself felt. Before the crash the road had begun to shrink. Outside of New York in 1920 nearly 1,500 theatres were available to stage plays, in 1930 only about 500. Many were converted to the new medium. Many more were closed or demolished because they could not compete with it. When in 1927 the silent screen acquired speech, the triumph of the moving picture as the medium for popular entertainment was assured. The Depression merely hastened that triumph.


REVOLUTIONARY MUSICALS

Surprisingly, out of the depths of the Depression came two revolutionary musicals, both lighthearted, witty, and gay. Their high spirits must have been left over from the prosperous twenties. Together they broke new ground for the musical theatre. The first opened June 3, 1931. Brooks Atkinson reviewed it in the New York Times, June 4.1

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