A Great And Terrible Golden Age: Movies Of The 1930s
Emily Alden Foster
The 1930s proved to be Hollywood’s golden decade. Seriously, consider that the first films of the decade were just starting to understand and appreciate the “talkie” media, and by decade’s end, masterpieces such as Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz had innovated the movie experience with giant technological leaps, especially in terms of sound quality and technicolor film. One might not think that the more primitive films of the beginning of the Thirties were followed so quickly by styles that made the look positively amateurish.
Such is the premise of the excellent oneshot zine, A Great And Terrible Golden Age. It’s a quick little pocket-sized zine that discusses Hollywood during this supposed “golden age.” It’s obvious that the writers of the zine have a great deal of passion, even if sometimes their political take on Hollywood borders on the naive. Case in point: the disbelief of one writer that a business owner could possibly be good to his employees,and that the union that is harassing him could possibly be bad. Life is not black and white, nor are the roles we imagine others having often accurate to the reality of the situation.
Mostly, though, there’s interesting stuff to be learned here. There’s a handy guide as to how to find older films,a detailed history of the Hays code, as well as a humorous drinking game based around The Thin Man film series. An appraisal of Blondie and Busby Berkeley makes for interesting reading, as does the focus on women-friendly, gender-positive films that though long forgotten, show that Hollywood was starting to “get” it in terms of equality. There’s a lot of time spent on the film Baby Face—for good reason—and an examination of the long-forgotten Spanish version of Dracula makes one want to seek it out.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the final assessment about how ‘bad” the era was—it was with its problems, to be sure—I do think that this informative little ‘zine is an excellent place to start for those no so familiar with the era’s Hollywood offerings. A Great And Terrible Golden Age is an interesting starting guide for those interested in the era; if the liner notes are accurate, more issues are forthcoming–a good thing, because this debut release is an impressive read, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
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