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“As Close to Real Life As Hollywood Ever Gets”

Headline Pictures, Topical Movies, Editorial Cinema, and Studio Realism in the 1930s

2. 1929 to 1945

2. 1929–1938

  1. Richard Maltby

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf024

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Maltby, R. 2011. “As Close to Real Life As Hollywood Ever Gets”. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 2:2:24.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

On November 11, 1932, three days after Franklin Roosevelt's landslide victory in the presidential election, New Yorkers and the citizens of more than 200 other cities could celebrate the defeat of Herbert Hoover, the “Great Engineer” of the previous decade, by going to the opening performance of a Warner Bros. movie about the rise and fall of another engineer in the 1920s, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.1 Critics and historians have identified Fugitive as particularly emblematic of the nadir of the Depression, an icon of both Warner Bros.' social consciousness and Hollywood's “Golden Age of Turbulence” (Sklar 1978, 175). In his book The Great Depression, for example, Robert McElvaine argues that Fugitive's protagonist, James Allen, “symbolizes all Depression victims,” and that the movie “was the perfect expression of the national mood in 1932: despair, suffering, hopelessness” (1984, 208, 213).

Keywords:

  • headline pictures;
  • topical movies;
  • editorial cinema;
  • studio realism;
  • social consciousness;
  • social problem;
  • Warner Bros;
  • i am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang;
  • Black Legion;
  • Fury;
  • lynching;
  • great depression;
  • Zanuck;
  • Wanger;
  • Hays;
  • Breen