Watching MAE WEST in "I'm No Angel" — — and looking ahead to the rest of the titles in the screen series called "Breadlines and Champage" at Film Forum [NYC] — — steered many conversations towards the unfortunate economic desperation of Americans and speculations about whether or not Hollywood's hit machine can still tune us up.
• • Former history professor June Sochen was thinking similar thoughts and penned a Guest Commentary for the Naples News.
• • Speaking her mind, June Sochen writes: During the Great Depression, Hollywood flourished.
• • To be sure, 1930 and 1931 were bad years, with declining revenues at the movie studios. Paramount Pictures, for example, was on the verge of bankruptcy when it recruited a New York vaudevillian named Mae West to Hollywood. Although she alone was not responsible for the turnaround, Paramount’s fortunes improved dramatically once her quips and winks enchanted viewers across the country.
• • The movie studios absorbed the cost of transferring from silent film to sound technology and began an aggressive marketing campaign to lure people into the theaters. They offered free dishes on Thursday night (normally a slow night), lowered the ticket price (it was about 12 cents in the late 1930s), and gave viewers their money’s worth — — two full-length feature movies, an episode in a serial, and a summary of the news.
• • Despite high unemployment and uncertain times, Americans needed entertainment, particularly of the escapist variety. The big screen and the darkened theater allowed viewers to indulge their imaginations, enter other worlds, and laugh and cry with their favorite stars. As a result, about half of all Americans went to the movies every week.
• • The meaning of this statistic is profound: Americans shared their popular culture. They talked about their favorite movies with each other and they worried about the marital problems of their favorite stars. Young women particularly started fan clubs and wrote letters. . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: Guest Commentary: Popular culture during bad times
• • Byline: June Sochen, Naples, Florida [June Sochen is history professor emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University]
• • Published by: Naples News — — www.naplesnews.com
• • Published on: Saturday, 7 February 2009
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• • Gregory Ratoff played Tira's New York City lawyer Benny Pinkowitz in "I'm No Angel" . How many remember this funny scene with Mae West and Ratoff discussing the breach-of-promise suit?
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • "I'm No Angel" • • 1933 • •