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Movies in the 1920's

    At Gatsby's party, he attempts to impress Daisy and Tom by introducing him to all the famous movie stars and directors present.  Daisy is particularly intrigued by the "orchid" of an actress who is sitting under a tree.  Movies were growing in popularity in the early twentieth century, as they were a means of communicating news and featuring the popular culture.  Many actors at this time were influential as sex symbols and actors in the growing trend of moving-picture acting.  With innovations in sound recording the second half of the 1920's featured the first movies with recorded dialogue.  1920's movies played important roles in society, because as movie technology evolved so did society.      

    In the 1920's the majority of films were silent movies.  Famous actors included Clara Bow, Rudy Vallee, and Rudolph Valentino.  Valentino was considered "Hollywood's first male sex symbol" (Pringle 1).  He starred in The Sheik (1921) which was based on the book by Edith Maude Hull and was about women in a "scandalized society" (Pringle 1).  Valentino also starred in The Cheater and Once to Every Woman in the 1920's.  Clara Bow was known as a "personified 'jazz baby'" and was often referred to as the "It" Girl after playing the role in a movie (Pringle 1).  The "It" Girl "symbolized the tremendous progress that women were making in society" (Pringle 1).  Bow was best known for her role in 1925's The Plastic Age.  However, in the second half of the 1920's innovations in film technology changed the way Hollywood operated, forever.

    1927 marked the production of the first movies with recorded dialogue.  The first movies to feature sound were Don Juan starring John Barrymore and The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson.  The Jazz Singer reflected the era because it was a about a man who dreamed of being a jazz singer but faced the disapproval of his father, just as the elders disapproved of jazz's influence on the youth.  Prior to 1920 most movies were "dramas, romances, slapsticks, or comedies" whose only sound was an orchestral recording with an "underscore at the bottom of the screen" to tell the story (Wagner 1).  However, sound films faced some technological barriers.  Since the microphones were not mobile, actors had to remain stationary during scenes and sets had to be silent during filming so the microphone would not record any ambient sound.  The motorized camera, invented in 1929, eliminated much of the excess noise on sets.  Because of the sound recording technology Hollywood was changing.  Casting could no longer be based on a person's aesthetic value, they also needed to be able to act and memorize lines.  stage actors were now a commodity on movie sets because they were already experienced in such manners.  Movies influenced the way people felt about their lives while actors and actresses intrigued the public, as did happen in The Great Gatsby.  

 

 

Pringle, Glen.  "Silent Star of the Month."  (1999).  On-line.  Internet.  3 February 2004.  

        Available at: www.csse.monash.edu.au/~pringle/silent/ssotm/

 Wagner, Jason.  "The Pioneer Talking Picture."  (Spring 1999).  On-line.  Internet.  3 February 2004.  

        Available at:  www.montgomerycollege.org/Departments/hpolscrv/jwagner.html

  Whitely, Peggy.  "1920's Movies."  Kingwood College Library.  On-line.  Internet.  3 February 2004.

        Available at:  www.nhmccd.edu/decade20.html#film