History of Film: Pt 5 - Sound Reinvents Motion Pictures

The decade of the 1930's saw the complete and successful marriage of film and sound. Now that sound could be practically infused with movies, limitations that film itself had, were now gone. All sorts of genres that would have had a hard time coming across to viewers and entertaining them during the silent era, could now be made. And the people behind the cameras were all too willing to oblige. Full blown movie houses were built that could seat anywhere from 60 to 300 people comfortably, that is, in the fall, winter, and spring months, as air conditioning had not been introduced yet to theaters.
The first obvious genre to benefit from sound was the musical. The first classic Hollywood made musical was released in 1929 called, 'The Broadway Melody'. The first major contributor behind the camera was choreographer/director, Busby Berkley. He made the musicals, '42cnd Street', released in 1933 and the catchy titled, 'Dames', which came out just a year later.
Universal introduced audiences to gothic horror films such as, 'Dracula', starring Bela Lugosi and 'Frankenstein', with Boris Karloff. Both released in 1931. Now classics, these early horror movies scared the hell out of audiences. In 1933, RKO pictures released the all-time classic of mammoth monster movies, 'King Kong'. Merian C. Cooper's motion picture was a huge box-office hit and using stop motion photography along with modeled miniatures, was a hallmark of special effects for the time. The film also made an instant celebrity out of it's female lead, Faye Wray.
Another popular genre given birth to by sound was the 'gangster movie'. Movies like 'Little Caesar', starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and 'Public Enemy' both released in '31, were big hits with audiences. Comedies, which were no longer limited to 'slapstick', now could use comedic banter between actors. 1931's 'The Front Page' and 'It Happened One Night', (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, entertained audiences. The most sexually explicit female figure of the time had a comedic hit in 1933 with 'She Done Him Wrong' and movie goers were delighted by the ingenious absurdity and crafty one liners of the Marx Brothers in their 1933 classic 'Duck Soup'.
Walt Disney wasn't about to let animation take a backseat to full live-action films. Previously, only producing animated shorts, Disney released 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', the first ever full length animated movie. RKO pictures struck big again in 1937 and 1939, releasing two all-time classics, 'The Wizard of Oz', starring Judy Garland and 'Gone With the Wind', with Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. The later also has the distinction of being the first movie to use profanity. The quote from Rhett Butler, (Gable), to Scarlett O'Hara, (Leigh) at the end of the film, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

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