April 7, 1935. If you thought Hollywood (or the concept of Hollywood) was Mecca in the early days of films, you’d be right. If you thought movies were more “glamorous” in the early days then they are now, a lot would agree with you but many wouldn’t (depends on your definition of beauty, style and taste). If you thought Hollywood was the sinister keeper of fairy tale endings, endless heaps of fame, adoration and money – you’d be right. Hollywood has always been a cynical little cesspool of dashed hopes, faded dreams and broken promises. Fame is just the nature of the beast. And in this broadcast of the syndicated gossip program Grayco Movie Column of The Air, you get the idea that things haven’t changed all that much in the machinations and nuts n’ bolts of filmmaking. Maybe the styles of film have changed -the storylines; certainly – the methods of acting; no denying it and the concept of beauty is from a whole different place and time.
A lot of people would be hard-pressed to think of a Black & White movie they’ve seen, or name a star who was huge in the 1930s. Most people have never seen a Black and White film, or anything before 1970. So the concept of films and Hollywood and popular culture from the 1930s would seem strange at best and perplexing at worst.
But the overall cynicism that seems to be part of Hollywood’s DNA appears to never have changed – just the names and the situations. Now, of course with #metoo and other social movements, the notion of the “casting couch” is becoming more and more remote with time, but back then it wasn’t talked about, or even eluded to, past an upward glance or all-knowing glint as if it were a regular practice, like breathing. Those things have changed, albeit recently.
And certainly the names won’t be familiar to you if you aren’t already familiar with film during it’s “Golden Age”. But as I’ve always said – ignorance of your culture is considered uncool. So knowing there are bits of history that never really change are important to remember – it’s the given and the continuum we sometimes forget.
So give a listen to this with an open mind – it’s from a place and time that hasn’t aged all that well, but its intention and its circumstances are as fresh as ever.
Remember, this is from 83 years ago – so be gentle.