To Come

Hollywood films in the 1930s provided a affordable retreat from stressful everyday life (see article below). The decade saw the rise of gangster films and sophisticated comedy. The glamorous settings and beautiful clothes on screen offered people a chance to imagine what they could not see around them, and the antics of the stars made them laugh.

Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Myrna Loy and others gave Hollywood a new female star — beautiful and wacky!

For Other Pages On The 30s and 40s, See The Screwball Comedies and 1942

See more on the Depression at my Russell Crowe Site - The Cinderella Man

Modern Times - The Palace - A wonderful site for classic films

Pass your mouse over the pictures to see the captions
Bing Crosby
Gehrig and Ruth
Newspaperwoman Dorothy Thompson
John Dillinger
Orson Welles
Russ Columbo
Paul Robson
Helen Hayes as Queen Victoria
The Dust Bowl
M. Mitchell
The Queen and the President
Sally Rand
Shirley Temple
Boris Karloff as Frankstein

The Great Depression had a substantial and varied impact on the lives of Americans. Physically and psychologically, it was devastating to many people, who not only lacked adequate food, shelter, and clothing but felt they were to blame for their desperate state. Although few people died from starvation, many did not have enough to eat.

Some people searched garbage dumps for food or ate weeds. Malnutrition took a toll: A study conducted in eight American cities found that families that had a member working full time experienced 66 percent less illness than those in which everyone was unemployed. The psychological impact was equally damaging.

During the prosperity of the 1920s, many Americans believed success went to those who deserved it. Given that attitude, the unemployment brought by the depression was a crushing blow. If the economic system really distributed rewards on the basis of merit, those who lost their jobs had to conclude that it was their own fault. Self-blame and self-doubt became epidemic.

These attitudes declined after the New Deal began, however. The establishment of government programs to counteract the depression indicated to many of the unemployed that the crisis was a large social problem, not a matter of personal failing. Still, having to ask for assistance was humiliating for many men who had thought of themselves as self-sufficient and breadwinners for their families. Because society expected a man to provide for his family, the psychological trauma of the Great Depression was often more severe for men than women.

Many men argued that women, especially married women, should not be hired while men were unemployed. Yet the percentage of women in the workforce actually increased slightly during the depression, as women took jobs to replace their husbands' lost pay checks or to supplement spouses' reduced wages. Women had been excluded from most of the manufacturing jobs that were hardest hit by the depression, which meant they were less likely than men to be thrown out of work. Some fields that had been defined as women's work, such as clerical, teaching, and social-service jobs, actually grew during the New Deal.

The effects of the depression on children were often radically different from the impact on their parents. During the depression many children took on greater responsibilities at an earlier age than later generations would. Some teenagers found jobs when their parents could not, reversing the normal roles of provider and dependent. Sometimes children had to comfort their despairing parents. A 12-year-old boy in Chicago, for example, wrote to President and Mrs. Roosevelt in 1936 to seek help for his father, who was always "crying because he can't find work [and] I feel sorry for him." The depression that weakened the self-reliance of many adult men strengthened that quality in many children.

The depression's impact was less dramatic, but ultimately more damaging, for minorities in America than for whites. Since they were "born in depression," many blacks scarcely noticed a change at the beginning of the 1930s. Over time, however, blacks suffered to an even greater extent than whites, since they were usually the last hired and first fired. By 1932 about 50 percent of the nation's black workers were unemployed. Blacks were frequently forced out of jobs in order to give them to unemployed whites. Yet the depression decade was one of important positive change for blacks. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt and several leading New Deal figures were active champions of black rights, and most New Deal programs prohibited racial discrimination. These rules were often ignored in the South, but the fact that they were included at all was a major step forward. Blacks were sufficiently impressed with the New Deal to cause a large majority of black voters to switch their allegiance from the Republican to the Democratic Party during the depression years.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


The pictures on this page were scanned from "I Remember Distinctly," by Agnes Rogers, Harper, 1947,
and from "American Century," by Ralph Andrist, American Heritage Press, 1972. (Murphy Collection)
Text from Encarta Encyclopedia.

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