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Hollywood and The Great Depression

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Hollywood and The Great Depression

Hollywood was having a wonderful time and doing terrific business when the stock market crashed in October, 1929. A place like Hollywood, with huge sums of capital were on the line in projects such as subdivisions, new stores, and studio expansion, was his especially hard by the collapse of the big-money superstructure.  Banks failed; the President of the Guaranty Building and Loan Association confessed to the embezzlement of $8 million of the bank’s assets. Hundreds of bank depositors, large and small, were wiped out.  Foreclosures were common, and many people lost their homes and businesses.

At the time of the crash, the motion picture was still reeling from the advent of “sound.”  Large studios, led by warner Bros., rushed to develop sound stages, recording equipment, and other technology for the new age of filmmaking.  New technicians, musicians, and manual laborers had to be hired. All of this required enormous amounts of capital outlay.

The conversion to sound also took an emotional toll on the industry.  Many Hollywood screen stars had come to Hollywood from abroad; I never occurred to anyone hat their English was heavily accented until talkies came in.  Others, even less fortunate, were discovered to have speaking voices completely inappropriate for the roles they had playing in silent films.  Stage actors flocked to Hollywood as a result, and voice coaches, who seemed to come out of the woodwork by the dozens, were the most lionized citizens in Hollywood.

Not only did diction coaches thrive during the first depression years in Hollywood, but Max Factor, a Russian immigrant who pioneered screen makeup, was supplying women throughout the world with the latest beauty products by 1930.  In 1935, he opened the Max Factor Hollywood Makeup Studio, which included a laboratory, research department, and a manufacturing plant in a gem like building on Highland Ave.  The building was originally built by Charles E. Toberman and called the Hollywood Fireproof Storage Building. The makeup studio soon became the meeting place for many of Hollywood’s loveliest stars – including Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Mona Freeman.

During the Thirties, the movies were shaken by the world’s financial woes, but hardly toppled. The were too ingrained into America’s entertainment habits to be deserted; in the darkest days of the depression, they brought too much sunshine to be ignored.

Thouisands of great Hollywood photos can be seen on the web site.


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