Many of us remember the Hollywood masterpieces from the 1930s and 1940s, which we viewed long after they were first screened in theaters, when we think of the golden age of Hollywood. The movies from the golden age of the industry, such Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and King Kong, continue to captivate and amuse audiences. Furthermore, not simply the films themselves have endured over time. The romantic tale of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the vivacious innocence of Shirley Temple, or the rugged good looks of Clark Gable are just a few of the stars from that era that continue to enthrall us. Some cinema historians contend that Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp and the Marx Brothers’ improvised comedy, which came from silent films, helped to bring in Hollywood’s golden age. Some claim that the era began in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, which popularized the marvel of “talkies.” Undoubtedly, every captivating new show attracted an ever-expanding viewership, weary from the hard reality of both World War II and the Great Depression, who were enthralled with the sophisticated characters, sardonic humor, romantic suspense, and exotic settings that Hollywood could only provide. Here are six entertaining facts about the glitziest period of Hollywood filmmaking for those of us who still find the industry fascinating.
Everything in Hollywood Was Under The "Big Five"'s Control.
The Hollywood studio structure, which held complete control over the industry, was the driving force behind the gorgeous and ostentatious stars of film. The “Big Five”—20th Century-Fox, MGM, Paramount, RKO, and Warner Brothers—were the leading companies in the field. Casting, filming, distribution, and exhibition were all under the complete supervision of the executives of these five studios and three smaller ones. Many of the venues that screened their films were even owned by them. All of the people who worked on the picture were under contract to the studio, and actors were paid by salary instead of by the film. This structure restricted prospects and stunted careers while turning filmmaking into a lucrative and efficient assembly line operation. That is, until a 1948 Supreme Court decision suggested breaking up the studio-theater monopoly, at which point things in Hollywood started to shift.
The Hollywood Sign Began as a Housing Development Billboard
The famous Hollywood sign, which greets guests to Tinseltown and is located atop Mount Lee in Los Angeles, was originally a real estate billboard. Publisher of the Los Angeles Times Harry Chandler paid $21,000 to have the name “Hollywoodland,” written in 43-foot letters with 4,000 20-watt lamps, erected on an electric sign to promote his new upmarket residential subdivision. The billboard was originally meant to be up for eighteen months, but because of the amount of attention it received, it was decided to stay up. The sign was neglected and repaired several times until being given to the city of Los Angeles in 1944. After the letters “LAND” were taken off, the building was designated as a historic landmark in 1973. Following a public effort, the original, deteriorating sign was rebuilt in 1978 with a more weather-resistant steel and concrete construction.
Joan Crawford Won a Contest to Choose Her Stage Name
A number of famous performers from Hollywood’s golden age, including Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm) and Marilyn Monroe (née Norma Jeane Baker), went by stage names. Before being persuaded to alter her name to Rita Hayworth by the head of Columbia Pictures, Margarita Carmen Cansino was originally billed as Rita Cansino. The reimagining of Marion Robert Morrison as John Wayne and Archibald Alexander Leach as Cary Grant was partly the work of studio officials. However, the public contest determined the stage name of the renowned actress Joan Crawford. Crawford, whose real name was Lucille Fay LeSueur, later performed as a dancer under the stage name Billie Cassin. She signed a deal with MGM in 1924, and the studio held a “name the star” competition for the talented young actress the following year, giving out $1,000 for the best name. The fearsome Crawford allegedly thought the winning moniker sounded like “crawfish,” which is why he didn’t like it.
Before the Hays Code, Hollywood Was Far More Risqué
The period in the film industry from 1927 to 1934 was referred to as “Pre-Code Hollywood.” This brief interval separated the advent of sound in motion pictures from the stringent application of the Motion Picture Production Code, or Hays Code. Hollywood’s growingly scandalous reputation during the 1920s—both on and off the screen—led to the code’s enforcement. The Hays Code contained a lengthy list of guidelines for filmmakers and declared that no movie should “lower the moral standards of those who see it.” Among the forbidden behaviors were sequences of love, sensual kissing, religion mockery, nudity, and excessive alcohol consumption—all of which had been included in several films during the daring and raucous Pre-Code era.
The origin of the Oscar statuette's name is a mystery to most people.
The Academy Awards are the most coveted prizes in Hollywood, as any movie enthusiast is aware. The award is the much-coveted “Oscar” trophy, which was established in 1928, not long after the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A sculpture of an art deco-styled knight clutching a sword and standing on a reel of film was created by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons. Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley recreated the design in three dimensions, casting it in bronze and plating it in twenty-four-karat gold. The golden statuette was originally called as the Academy Award of Merit, but people soon learned to refer to it as the Oscar. Although the originator of the term “Oscar” for the golden knight is a mystery even to the Academy itself, the term was formally adopted by the organization in 1939.
The Golden Age of Hollywood Was Ended by Television
Whatever year we choose to mark the end of Hollywood’s golden age, a lot of things contributed to it, not the least of which was the popularity of television. Families started relocating to the suburbs and away from movie theaters after World War II, replacing the silver screen with television sets. When moviegoer attendance declined, the major studios fought for dominance over television programming as well. However, the studios lost their TV licenses when the US Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that Paramount and seven other studios had broken antitrust laws. In 1953, color televisions went on sale, and by the 1960s, over half of American homes owned one, ushering in a new era of entertainment.