The so-called Golden Age of Hollywood is said to have stretched between the 1910s and early 1960s, a period when the Los Angeles district became world-renowned for its pioneering film output. Early filmmakers like D.W. Griffith founded independent film companies during the First World War. They began experimenting with cutting-edge cellulose projection technology to recreate some of the first stories using the medium. In 1913 alone, groundbreaking silent shorts like The Mothering Heart, Ingeborg Holm, and L’enfant de Paris dropped jaws among audiences previously amused by books and live theatre productions.
The invention of sound in movies arrived in 1920 but wasn’t publicly showcased until 1927 with the release of The Jazz Singer. For many, this pivotal moment in cinema truly marked the beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age. By 1929, almost every new movie would use sound, with westerns, musicals, slapstick comedies and primitive animation taking the lion’s share of the Hollywood catalogue.
As the 1930s dawned, familiar production giants like MGM Films, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount rose from the Californian soil to tighten Hollywood’s stronghold on global cinema. In May 1929, the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Academy President Douglas
Fairbanks made history as he handed the first golden statuette to Emil Jannings as Best Actor for his roles in The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command.
Through the 1930s, film became firmly established as the preferred entertainment medium as cinema theatres shot up across the Western world. The decade would end on a high with the arrival of immortal masterpieces like Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and The Wizard of Oz, all released in 1939.
Just as cinematic storytelling found its footing with regimented artistic approaches and production methodology, aspiring filmmaker Orson Welles released his first movie, Citizen Kane, in 1941 to give the system a good shake. Welles’ masterpiece remains the consummate masterpiece of Hollywood’s Golden Age, thanks to its innovative cinematography and distinctly dramatic editing style.
So, why did Hollywood’s Golden Age come to an end? It would seem reasonable to suggest that Hollywood never declined. In the modern day, we still enjoy a swathe of breathtaking Hollywood-born cinema enhanced by modern technology. However, the death of Hollywood’s early heyday is said to result from the advent of domestic television and antitrust actions.
As television sets invaded living rooms in the 1940s and ‘50s, production funding began to spiral, leading to a decline in filmmaking and, thus, revenue. The beginning of the era’s end, however, could be dated back to 1938, when a slump in film quality fuelled the government’s growing disdain for antitrust violations among the eight major Hollywood corporations at the time.
Hollywood’s market monopoly began to dwindle when Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold filed cases against the big eight over the 1940s. He accused them of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, which regulates competition among large corporations.
The Golden Age of Hollywood enjoys nostalgic praise for establishing the cinematic medium and many of the traditions we still adhere to today. Before Hollywood’s dominion, the concept of celebrity on a global scale was limited to world leaders, revolutionists, authors and explorers. By the time Hollywood’s golden tenure came to a close, Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum and Marlon Brando were among the notable names and faces recognised and adored worldwide.
Today, I’m excited to present a stunning collection of classic film noir portraits from Hollywood’s Golden Age, courtesy of MPTV Images. Below, you will see familiar faces from popular thrillers of the 1940s and ‘50s, when studio photographers were commissioned to help publicise the gritty monochrome movies.