How Did the Cinema Affect the Lives of Women and Children in 1930’s?

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How did the cinema affect the lives of women and children in 1930’s?

Labelled the ‘golden age of Hollywood’ the 1930’s was arguably a decade of turmoil. This led to many people attending the cinema to escape from reality. Among adults, women tended to go to the cinema more often than their husbands, and this finding was echoed by rowntree, who found that 75 per cent of cinema-goers in New York during the late 1930’s were women[1]. With large numbers of children attending these types of pictures, parents and adults began questioning the effect the movies had on their children. As one 1930s screenwriter, Dudley Nichols, put it: "Our exposure to the theatre is either helping us to resolve our own conflicts and the conflicts of society by making us understand them, or it is engendering more conflicts." Many studies were soon undertaken[2].

Throughout Britain’s towns and cities, the growth of the cinema was spectacular. Liverpool had 96 cinemas in 1939 compared with 32 in 1913, whilst Birmingham’s cinemas grew in total from 57 to 110 over the same period. Nationally, there were already around 3,000 cinemas in Britain by 1914. The influence of Hollywood was clearly evident in the streets, shops, offices, cafes and dance halls of Britain’s towns and cites throughout the 1930’s and 1930’s[3]. The cinema effected many aspects of women’s lives, and one of these was the fashion they borrowed heavily from Hollywood. As well as women adopting the styles and fashions from their favourite Hollywood stars, young boys fashion was also heavily borrowed from Hollywood. In particular, ‘gangster’ styles fitted the importance traditionally attached by youths to notions of masculine strength and aggression[4]. Due to the cinema promoting ‘gangster’ films, it was seen to be glamorizing crime and eroding respect of the law. However despite attempts to blame an apparent increase in juvenile delinquency upon the cinema, research failed to establish any clear links between cinema attendance and patterns of crime, and police opinion on the issue was divided.

Source 1 is by Elizabeth Bowen, a novelist. Due to Elizabeth Bowen being a novelist, it shows us that she is an educated middle class woman. She states there a number of reasons that she attends the cinema, these being that she goes to be distracted. By this, she means that the cinema is place were she can escape from her everyday troubles. Britain’s worst years for unemployment were after 1931, a crisis year, because the disaster of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 had had time to take effect[5]. Therefore many women went to the cinema as a place of escapism. Another reason that Elizabeth Bowen states as to why she attends the cinema is that she goes to see pretty people, when she wants to see life ginned up, charged with unlikely energy. Greta Garbo was a Swedish actress. Once moving to Hollywood she appeared in only 27 films, however she was one of the most popular and recognizable Hollywood stars. Greta started the trend of the now known eye pencil. Girls all around the world followed the trends set by Greta Garbo[6]. This is just another reason that Elizabeth Bowen went to the cinema; to be acquainted with the glamour of Hollywood.

Source 2 is part of a letter from a 27 year old female reader whose father was a railway man. Written in response to a request by picturegoer magazine for information about cinema-going habits in 1945. Her interest in film began at the age of four. “The memory of a scene in the first ever film I saw is still vivid because of the terror I experienced at the time”[7]. This source expresses the negative effect cinema had on young children and women. More evidence is displayed in source 3, “children are often frightened at the films and that fear remains with them and causes dreams”. Source 2 then continues to provide us with a horrific picture of how children were left with “night attacks that persisted in adult life”. The female who wrote this letter had...
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