Stack of VHS tapes, DVDs, and books about the Golden Age of Hollywood

#1 Golden Age of Hollywood Series

I’ve always wanted to write a series about the Golden Age of Hollywood.  With the conclusion of my Ultimate Playlist and a worldwide pandemic keeping us all at home, it’s now or never.

In addition to my Sunday morning musings, I’m going to add a Wednesday morning post about classic movies.

Each week I’ll watch a classic film (or a few on a theme) and report my thoughts and observations on the movie as both a historical object and a piece of entertainment to be enjoyed by modern audiences.  I’ll talk about the significance of the film, gossip about the actors and actresses, and sprinkle in some movie history along the way.  

The widest definition of the Golden Age of Hollywood encompasses the first movies through 1960.  This was the most prolific period of movie-making in history, filled with technical achievements and unencumbered by competition from television.  This is where Hollywood’s greatest stars were made—Garbo, Gable, Davis, Bogart, Hepburns Katharine and Audrey, Stewart, Crawford, Olivier, and Leigh.  It was also a time of censorship, cut-throat studios with nearly unlimited power, and the ever-present perils of fame for those who shone brightest on the silver screen.

The first thing we need to decide is where, exactly, should our journey through movie history begin?We could start at the absolute beginning, back in 1888 with the Roundhay Garden Scene.  The 2.11 second film is believed to be the oldest surviving film shot with a single camera.

Perhaps we should fast-forward to 1905, when the first Nickelodeon opened on—get this—Smithfield Street in good old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It was a storefront theater with ninety-six seats and charged a nickel for shows that included live vaudeville acts and short films.  As nickelodeons spread across the country, people could view films on large screens rather than previously as peep shows.

First Nickelodeon, Smithfield Street, Pennsylvania.  1905.
Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh, PA – 1905

Or perhaps we should start in 1915 with Charlie Chaplin, bumbling across a silent screen as The Tramp.

Or in the 1920s, when the movie-making industry had consolidated to Hollywood, where the light was always good and rain rarely interrupted the production schedule.

What about 1929, when the newly established Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out its first awards?

I’m teasing you, reader.  The truth is, I know exactly where we’re going to start.

And end.

For me, the Golden Age of Hollywood began on February 21, 1930, and ended on November 16, 1960.

What happened on those dates?

You’ll find out what happened in 1930 next week when The Golden Age of Hollywood blog series officially kicks off.

As for November 16, 1960, you’ll have to hang with me until the end.

Want more?  Click here for an index of all posts in this series, as well as source notes and suggested reading.