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Hollywood's Leading Men -1930s and 1940s - The Golden Age of Movies
The Golden Age of Movies
1925 through 1940 marked the Golden Age of Movies and is said to have begun with the release of The Jazz Singer, the first movie to incorporate sound, ending the era of silent films. During this time period 65% of the American population bought movie tickets which translates to about eighty million tickets a week. The success of talking pictures brought wealth to the studios and they began buying movie theaters. The big five studios owned all of the movie theaters by the early 1930's. This gave them full control over where their movies were shown and opened the door for censorship.
The Motion Picture's Distributors Association of America set forth a declaration of moral principals in the early 1930's. It was backed up by the Legion of Decency, a Catholic organization. These strict guidelines defined what was and was not morally acceptable in motion pictures.
- A two-shot had to be taken in such a way as to prevent cropping that would suggest the male was on top of the female, even when fully dressed.
- Cleavage had to be removed by retouching. There were retouchers whose only job was to retouch cleavage shots.
- No female navel shots.
- If a man was posed behind a woman, his hands had to be far away from her breasts.
These and many more standards were strictly enforced. And those that didn't adhere to the policies were heavily fined and the films were refused distribution in the studio owned theaters. Photographers also were subject to these guidelines and photographs had to be approved before being released to the public.
During the Golden Age a sign over the MGM studios boasted they had "more stars than there are in heaven". Photography of the stars began to change as it moved towards the candid shot which portrayed the personality traits of the stars. And the stars often received more recognition from their photos than they did from the movies they stared in.
Thanks to the many talented and prolific photographers of the day, we have a wonderful collection of portraits of the leading men of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Cary Grant 1904-1987
Cary Grant hit Hollywood with a bang in 1932 with the release of seven movies. By the age 30 he'd been in over a dozen films. His final onscreen appearance was in 1970 in the movie "Elvis-That's The Way It Is." Grant's healthy glow was natural. He kept a suntan year-round to avoid wearing makeup. Aging with dignity, he actually got better looking as he got older. His onscreen attitude towards women along with his style and lack of pretense was a predecessor to James Bond's cavalier, and less than sincere approach to women. By allowing his leading ladies to pursue him, Grant brought out their sensuality. Cary Grant was a suave and charming leading man who excelled at drawing room comedies and sophisticated suspense.
An Affair To Remember 1957
Fred Astaire 1999 - 1987
Fred Astaire started his career on Vaudeville alongside his sister. When she left the act, he headed for Hollywood. The remarks from his first screen test were 'Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.' Fred Astaire's professional dancing career spanned over fifty years as he shared the dance floor with Hollywood's leading ladies such as Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse and of course Ginger Rogers. The closing comments of his biography are "I have no desire to prove anything by it . . . I just dance."
Humphrey Bogart 1899-1957
Humphrey Bogart set the standard for the movie tough guy and his films were the very definition of film noir. Audiences loved Bogart's characters with their 'don't mess with me attitudes and moral code of ethics. In his personal life, Bogart was a heavy drinker and claimed he didn't trust anyone who didn't drink. "Bogart's a helluva nice guy until 11:30 pm. after that, he thinks he's Bogart." Dave Chase - Hollywood Restaurateur. Humphrey Bogart met Lauren Bacall on the set of To Have and Have Not . He was married to her for nine years until his death.
Clark Gable 1901-1960
Clark Gable was the first actor to play himself onscreen. He made a promise early on in his career that success would not change the size of his hat, and he kept that promise throughout his lifetime. After a successful start on Broadway, Gable turned to Hollywood. But was told he would never make it because his ears were too big. Gable was a known womanizer on screen and off. He was married four times and filled the time in between marriages with a multitude of one night stands. Clark Gable was dubbed by his peers as well as his adoring public as the "he-man king".
Errol Flynn 1909-1959
Errol Flynn, swashbuckling hero onscreen, was famous off-screen for his hard drinking and partying. For a time he shared a house with David Niven. They called it, Cirrhosis-by-the-Sea. Flynn had a destructive lack of self-discipline which lead to his early death at the age of 50; a heart attack precipitated by years of drinking a fifth of Vodka a day. Jack Warner is quoted as referring to Errol Flynn, "To the Walter Mittys of the world, he was all the heroes in one magnificent sexy animal package."
Jimmy Stewart 1908-1997
Woody Strode who co-stared with Jimmy Stewart in Two Rode Together and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, said Stewart was "one of the nicest men you'll ever meet anywhere in the world". This came across in his many roles as an honest, middle class guy facing a crisis. He was first nominated for an academy award in 1939 for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and won one in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story. the Oscar sat in his father's hardware store window for twenty-five years. Over Stewart's career he was nominated three more times. he served in WWII and received many metals for distinquished service. He died at the age of 89, never having recovered from losing his wife of 45 years three years earlier.
David Niven 1910-1982
David Niven started his Hollywood career as an extra in 1935. But his classic good looks and irresistible charm soon caught the attention of Samuel Goldwyn. For the next several years he mainly supported bigger stars with only an occasional leading role. It wasn't until he formed his own television production company with Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and Ida Lupino, that he was able to take on the dramatic roles he wanted to play. David Niven was the first big television star. He said of his acting career, "Can you imagine being wonderfully overpaid for dressing up and playing games?"
Randoph Scott 1898-1987
In 1929 Randolph Scott moved to Hollywood to pursue acting. After meeting Howard Hughes, he was introduced to Cecil B. DeMille. But it was still a few years before he was offered a contract by Paramount. His star status came in the early 40's when he began staring in Westerns and was one of the top box office draws by the 1950s. Scott retired in 1962 after making Ride The High Country. He spent his remaining years playing golf and avoiding the affairs of Hollywood.