Title

America's Distraction: Astaire and Rogers Musicals in the 1930s

Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

America was profoundly impacted by the economic and social upheaval of the 1930s. Film became an essential coping mechanism for Americans. At the lowest attendance point, 60 million Americans a week went to theaters. It was a period of instability, and Americans shifted their spending practices. Items that were once considered luxuries such as movies tickets were purchased to dull the edge of uncertainty created by the era. Thus, while many scholars have dismissed film, especially the musical, as lacking in historical significance, the size of American audiences constitutes a compelling motivation to explore the genre. For that reason, the films of two beloved musical stars, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, critical reaction to their films and reactions of audiences present a window into the 1930s. The predictable romance of the Astaire- Rogers genre attracted viewers whose own lives were uncertain. Using ten Rogers-Astaire films, New York Times and Life Magazine reviews of the films, and secondary sources pertaining to the 1930s, this paper addresses the attraction of the genre to audiences of the time. It utilizes basic film criticism and gender theory in ascertaining the appeal of the two stars.

Location

George Wilson Hall

Start Date

6-5-2006 9:00 AM

End Date

6-5-2006 10:45 AM

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May 6th, 9:00 AM May 6th, 10:45 AM

America's Distraction: Astaire and Rogers Musicals in the 1930s

George Wilson Hall

America was profoundly impacted by the economic and social upheaval of the 1930s. Film became an essential coping mechanism for Americans. At the lowest attendance point, 60 million Americans a week went to theaters. It was a period of instability, and Americans shifted their spending practices. Items that were once considered luxuries such as movies tickets were purchased to dull the edge of uncertainty created by the era. Thus, while many scholars have dismissed film, especially the musical, as lacking in historical significance, the size of American audiences constitutes a compelling motivation to explore the genre. For that reason, the films of two beloved musical stars, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, critical reaction to their films and reactions of audiences present a window into the 1930s. The predictable romance of the Astaire- Rogers genre attracted viewers whose own lives were uncertain. Using ten Rogers-Astaire films, New York Times and Life Magazine reviews of the films, and secondary sources pertaining to the 1930s, this paper addresses the attraction of the genre to audiences of the time. It utilizes basic film criticism and gender theory in ascertaining the appeal of the two stars.