Comparative HistoryCultural Change in the 1920’sPatricia FonsecaMay 2, 2012History 141 Course #31136History of the Americas Since 1800Professor Arguello
Cultural Change in the 1920’s• Prosperity and economic innovation converted society away from self-denial and values of thrift.• Mass-produced goods led to society to consume leisure items, making advertising big business.• Morality became an issue and led to conflict over issues of immigration, race relations, Prohibition, and sexuality.• The movie industry helped convert morality in society.• Many worried Americans were turning away from traditional Bible values and tried to restrict immigration, revived the Ku Klux Klan in northern cities, and tried to censor movies. Society began to mimic what they saw on the screen. Smoking cigarettes and sexual promiscuity are two examples of social and moral codes that were lowered due to the movie industry which was considered art and mass commercial entertainment of this time.
Cultural Change in the 1920’s• By the late 1920’s every large city and almost all medium-sized towns had at least one brand-new picture palace.• Hollywood was reeling out nearly two feature films per day yet only a small amount were without the expectation or hope of making a profit.• The movies depicted middle and upper-class society living in large homes, employing servants, owning cars, earning their money from business, finance or the professions.• The urban leisure and professional classes were the first to discard traditional Victorian social codes. The traditional middle-class moral order was struggling to maintain its dominance.• Immigrants were seeking success, comfort, status just as Americans were yet were asked to abandon their language, religion, cuisine, attire to be able to blend in with Americans.
Cultural Change in the 1920’s• Immigrants went to the movies with their children because it was cheap, ubiquitous and appealing as fantasy and entertainment.• Movie reshaped what Americans viewed as traditional values as they were made by men who were committed to the capitalistic values, attitudes and ambitions that were crafted by the dominant social order.• Cecil B. DeMille is famous for his series of extramartial temptations. He is credited with creating films that set the boundaries of social change that would not disturb the inherited moral order.• Moviemakers were worried that that Americans would soon tire of watching the same things play out over and over again. They were continuously looking for emotionally satisfying entertainment formulas to keep churning in profits.• Von Stroheim clung to traditional American morals but mixed sensual Europeans with American women.• The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was an American made film with a European cast .
Cultural Change in the 1920’s• Americans wanted passionate behavior in their entertainment and looked to Europe as its source.• Greta Garbo quickly became known as a passionate, powerful, and intense actress.• Europeans wanted to see Americans in their films doing American things. They were mesmerized by the rate at which Americans changed while they themselves were weighted down by tradition and customs.• First, westerns epitomized Americans, followed by comedies starring the likes of Buster Keaton. Sex was a common thing although displayed in different ways. Lloyd and Keaton never broke traditional social order but the bourgeois comic formula went to extremes.• Jazz, a purely African American tradition of musical expression, created a jazz craze in Europe. Particularly in Paris. Jazz is credited with being the beginning of a transatlantic cultural shift. Powered by postwar prosperity, new sexual attitudes, the influence of records and films, and contributions from immigrants, both France and America experienced a cultural revolution.
Cultural Change in the 1920’s• Jazz in France was a symbol of “Americanization” with help from tourism, American products being introduced to the French market, and American movies.• Americans identified jazz with the urban ghetto while France appreciated its rhythm and sensuality.• Postwar France saw a rise in the number of jazz bands within Paris. They were found in cabarets, nightclubs, dance halls, restaurants, and theaters.• Fashionable hot spots were created and traditional character was being replaced.• Phonographs and the radio allowed new music, such as jazz, to be carried across great distances.• Americans were the source of amusement for Parisians who copied their attire and fashions. Jazz was just one of many fascinations the French had for American things.