High Museum of Art: Films

American Scenes: The Depression on Screen by Linda Dubler
September 29, 2009, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When you come by the High to see the new Leonardo exhibition, don’t miss Stephanie Heydt’s terrific show, American Scenes: Art from the Depression Era in the High Museum’s Collection. (It’s on view until  January 10, 2010).  The 1930s were a remarkable era for Hollywood movies, which, contrary to the stereotype of the dream machine, often reflected the realities of the time. Here are a couple of YouTube videos that capture the Depression’s zeitgeist.

Peppy Ginger Rogers sings “We’re In The Money” from Golddiggers of 1933 with admirable conviction, but the Pig Latin rendition hints that her optimism is pretty nonsensical. The 30s brought sound to the movies, and Busby Berkeley, a Broadway visionary and champion of excess (or collective solidarity?) was empowered to exercise his fervid imagination in sequences like this one.

Ronnie Lane was the bassist for the British band Small Faces. In 1975, he recorded this soulful version of the 30s classic, Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

William Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road has been re-released as part of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection — a bunch of noteworthy films made before the production code tamed the film industry’s more lurid inclinations. It’s the story of two carefree teens from a small town who are forced to grow up fast. Figuring out how hard-pressed their families are, the boys run away from home to look  for work. Along the way they meet a girl passing as a guy, jump trains, fight off railroad cops, and endure hunger, crime and homelessness.

Lombard and Powell in My Man Godfrey

Lombard and Powell in My Man Godfrey

Morris Dickstein’s new history, Dancing in the Dark, explores the seeming contradictions in Depression era entertainment; nowhere are they more apparent than in Gregory La Cava’s frothy yet stinging  My Man Godfrey. Carole Lombard plays a spoiled heiress who finds forgotten man William Powell during a scavenger hunt and hires him as a butler . It’s a must see.

Linda Dubler

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