The Great Depression Entertainment Renaissance: Movies, Radio, and Music

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Entertainment Flourishes Amidst Great Depression

Despite the 1920s being known as the Great Depression, it was also an enormous era of advancement and success for the entertainment industry. Radios allowed people to hear the news, listen to music and other things from their own homes, movie theaters boomed with the innovation of film and animation, a new age of music and dancing was born among the population, and sports, games, and other forms of self-entertainment brought people together.


Movies were a very popular source of entertainment during the Great Depression, with more than 80 million Americans a week going to the movies. This was due to great advancements in movie technology, along with lowered prices, to draw in more viewers. Sexual references were a bit less intense than in today’s films, but they were enough to draw in plenty of viewers. But not all movies were about sex. In 1927, the first movie with sound was released, The Jazz Singer.

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More than ten years later, in 1939, The Wizard of Oz was released as the first full-color movie, stunning audiences with its bright colors and beautiful effects. In 1928, yet another film innovation made its way to the big screen: animation. Walt Disney first featured Mickey Mouse in the short cartoon “Plane Crazy.” He, of course, went on to create one of the most successful film companies in history, which is still immensely popular today. With so many options, people could hardly resist the theaters, which led to the huge growth and profit of the industry. Movies provided the troubled nation with a temporary escape from reality, which helped keep spirits up in the difficult time.


Being the main source of news, almost every building had at least 1-3 radios, depending on the size of said building. As radios became cheaper and much more available, almost every family, regardless of economic status, had a radio to listen to. With a radio, families had a wide variety of programs to listen to every day, such as the news, comedy/quiz shows, soap operas, and FDR’s Fireside Chats. News stations such as NBC and CBS began on the radio in this era, bringing local and national news to listeners everywhere.

Some popular shows such as “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “The Jack Benny Show” served to bring listeners a laugh or two in troubled times. Soap operas, which still exist today, also began on the radio. They are simple shows directed at stay-at-home parents, which play on the feelings of society. Finally, President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats informed the American people about the President’s plans for the future and motivated the public to push through a hard time. Radio was an integral part of most families at the time and served to provide current news, entertainment, and a quick laugh or just a friendly voice rallying the people.


Music & Dancing: Around this time, the style of jazz was just being born. A lot of adults looked disapproved of it because it was “negro” music. This encouraged a lot of the younger generation to rebel and pick up the style of dancing and music.


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3.Davis, Emily. “Color and Innovation in ‘The Wizard of Oz’.” Film Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 4, 1999, pp. 32-47.

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6.Brown, Sarah. “Fireside Chats and Presidential Communication: FDR’s Use of Radio During the Depression.” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2, 2010, pp. 215-230.

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9.Brown, Kimberly. “Dance and Social Change: The Role of Dance in Challenging Norms During the Great Depression.” Dance Research Journal, vol. 47, no. 2, 2015, pp. 65-80.

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The Great Depression Entertainment Renaissance: Movies, Radio, and Music. (2023, Aug 18). Retrieved from

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