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During the 1920s, film and radio were a very important factor in entertainment. "They created a new popular culture with common speech, dress, behavior, and heroes" (Mintz 17). Radio brought the nation and family together by bringing news, entertainment and advertisements into the home. Money was scarce during the Great Depression, and radios and movies were both affordable. The radio became virtually a part of every home in America in only a few years. Young Americans often followed what they heard on the radio and saw on the screen. They would talk like broadcasters, they would try to see themselves as the movie stars they saw on films.This caused America to become more standardized and look more like a whole country.
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Welcome to radio in the 1920s! Radios then were the “Must have” of that age. Films had not yet been created and, at the time, radios were virtually the only source of entertainment that an average family could get their hands on. The whole family was able get together and turn on their radio to enjoy and listen to their programs. The radio had many names like the wireless music box, the wireless telephone, the radio telephone and then eventually just the radio.

"A survey in the 1920s showed that over sixty percent of American families owned a radio" (Radio in the 1920s 1). During the 20s decade, radios were non-profit because advertising did not exist. All DJs worked for free so radio was a great form of family fun.22%20old_radio%20(2).jpg

Radio DJs or disc jockeys were the heart of the radio in the 1920s and still are today! DJs are the people you hear every day on radio that announce songs. The world’s first DJ was Ray Newby; he lived in Stockton, California. In 1909, when he was 16 years old, Ray began playing records on a small spark transmitter while a student at Harold College of Engineering and Wireless, in San Jose, California; under the authority of radio pioneer Charles Harold (Wikipedia 1). Ray was the pioneer of DJs and is an important person in the history of radio.

Radio Broadcast

Most families had radios and each had their own way of getting the device. Boys' magazines had step by step instructions on how to make a crystal radio, which was one of the first radios that was ever made and used. This type of radio was for a single person only; it was listened to by using headphones that had very weak volume (Eckstein, Garfinkel, and Robertson). Those without home radios gathered around crystal sets in public places. 332825416_e2119e6e07.jpg

The problem was that programs could barely be heard over all of the static, along with music, news, and other forms of entertainment. Many people tried to improve it and get rid of its static and some of its other flaws. As technology advanced and time passed new radios were made that were simpler and easier to use. In 1925, designers began to make some of the first receiver radios that didn't require batteries. They looked like a small box with three knobs, and this made it easy to operate, even for small children. Because of these new radios they became more popular than ever (Eckstein, Garfinkel, and Robertson).

The pioneer of small radio receivers was Emerson Radio. They were first created by Victor Emerson he was a former Columbia Phonograph company manager. He was well known in the audio world for his 14 patents in sound recording and reproduction that were granted to him from 1893 to 1905.Victor kept receiving patents until 1922. His company made both phonographs and records. His company was in the main current of the early mechanical era recording boom of the World War One years when the business fell sharply down.78888.jpg

Later the company recovered and they built the first "midget" radios and most of them were terrible then they had a breakthrough. The model 25 was slim in price and size it was a puny ten inches wide, six and a half inches high and four inches deep. This small but powerful radio receiver put Emerson Radio on the map.


Radio Broadcast

Radio profits increased from $60 million in 1922 to $426 million in 1929. Radio granted an affordable and beneficial way of providing notification, opinions, and theories. Radios immediantly became the country's new craze; numerous people would stay awake at night "listening to concerts, sermons, “Red Menace” news, and sports" (Stevenson 1). The approach of public radio7u8i9o0p.jpg granted listeners to understand "new ideas, new entertainment, and to form opinions on matters that had never been publicized to a national degree" (Stevenson 1). These radios in thousands of homes linked people in simultaneous enjoyment and excitement (Stevenson 1).


II-13.jpg No other media was able to create celebrities so quickly. For example on November 2, 1920 we had just got our twenty-ninth President, Warren G. Harding. Because of the radio the entire country knew about his victory in a matter of minutes.
And no one could forget when Charles Lindbergh became the very first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1928. Thanks to the radio our great country was informed of this fantastic accomplishment turning him into a celebrity overnight (Mintz 17).

Everyone was shocked by both of these accomplishments, not because they did it because they heard it in their own home on their radio. When Harding was announced president on the radio it was the first scheduled radio broadcast.KDKAwas the only radio station at the time so only a few hundred people heard the news about Harding. But then about a year and a half later there was about two hundred twenty radio stations in America (
our century 1920-1930).

Radio Broadcast

Although the radio may have been a big hit, there were several rumors and myths going on about it although thy were not true. For instance many people believed that during a thunder storm the radio would start a fire. There were others who thought that the radio waves would make them sick and several diseases were wrongly blamed on the radio (McCutcheon 1).

As automobiles had Americans spread out, the radio assisted to bring them back together. Larger networks could go on air at the same time. Eventually, Americans everywhere were hearing the same shows. "They laughed at the same jokes, sand the same songs, and heard the same news" (Sevenson 1).

Even though the radio was very successful, going to the movie theater became part of everyday life and gained popularity very rapidly. There were only silent movies in this age, but many stars rose to fame. One of these stars was Charlie Chaplin. He is best described as "The little man with a toothbrush mustache, in a full suit and bowler hat." He is one of the best physical comedians ever recorded in silent film, and many of his films made fun of Adolph Hitler and his ideas. There were many more great comedians in the Silent Era, including W. C. Fields, Buster Keaton
and Harry Langdon. An extremely entertaining and hilarious duo was Laurel and Hardy (Number One Stars 1).

Pick A Star -Harmonica Scene- Laurel and Hardy
Pick A Star -Harmonica Scene- Laurel and Hardy


“Movies were an art form that had percycameralarge.jpguniversal appeal. Their essence was entertainment; their success, financial and otherwise, was huge. They entertained and made people laugh, making the world a happier place to live in after the horrors of World War One. In 637.jpgthe 1920's movie stars were really stars-- with huge salaries, the fashions and activities of the Hollywood greats echoed around the world and 100,000 people would gather in London and even in Moscow to greet Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks on their triumphal tour of Europe” (1920-30.com 1).



During the 1920s, movies were the most meaningful development of entertainment. Families would go to the theater and watch films such as Metropolis, Napoleon, and Pandora's Box. Movie attendance dramatically increased from fifty million people a week in 1920, to over ninety million a week in 1929. In fact, 75% of the population went to see a movie each week! During the earliest days of filming, movie production took place in “the nation’s theatrical center” (Mintz 17), which was New York. Yet by the 1920s, the business moved to a place called Hollywood, appealing for its affordable land and labor, the varied scenery, and a reasonable temperature-perfect for filming year-round. Every year, Hollywood issued almost 700 films, taking command of movie production across the globe. In 1926, Hollywood confined the attention of 95% of the British market and 70% of the French market (Mintz 17).



Romantic movies became popular very quickly. In many of them there was Clark Gable, the teenage"hunk"of that time. A dramatic and sensuous partner in some of these movies was Claudette Colbert. Rudolph Valentino starred in "The Sheik" in 1921, a turn in movie productions. One of the biggest blockbusters ever made was "Ben Hur: The Life of Christ." This huge production was made in 1926, costing two million dollars, and using a cast of thousands. This was what they would call an extravaganza (Number One Stars 1).



Early silent films were frequently accompanied by a live piano or organ music and supplied a tremendous measure of amusement to numerous viewers. Even though many different attempts had been made to present audio, it wasn’t until 1923 that films included a harmonized sound track that was photographically recorded and impressed onto the side of the strip of motion picture film. It would take several more years before dialogue in films achieved authority and at last succeeded the soundless period (1920-30.com 1).

Now that so many people wanted to watch movies, they needed a place to do it. There were many movie theaters across America, probably thousands.These gathering places were called movie houses, and almost every neighborhood had one to call it's own. Some parents thought films would dent the minds and morals of innocent youths. So owners gave movie houses classical architectural features. The plan worked, and soon even more teens and children came pouring in to see a saturday matinee.

There were five major movie producers in the 1920's. Warner Bros. Pictures was first incorporated in 1923 and merged with First Pictures in 1925, creating Warner Bros.-First National Pictures. Famous Players and Feature Play joined in 1916 to form the Famous Player's-Lasky Corporation. This then became Paramount studios in 1927, and in turn was officially named Paramount Pictures in 1935. RKO rose from the Mutual Film Corporation and was established in 1928 as a subsidiary of RCA. Loew's inc. was the parent firm of Metro Goldwyn Productions. (The roaring lion). Last, but certainly not least, comes the Fox Film Corporation Foundation. Founded by William Fox (owner of Nickelodeon), it later merged with 20th Century Pictures Foundation, and finally became 20th Century Fox (Number One Stars 1).

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During the year of 1927, sound was finally introduced into movies. This was accomplished by a microphone or sound collector, combined with a loudspeaker. The system triggered a small trembling mirror, and the process is described this way: (It) "records the sound on the film as light and dark bands, the light from a small incandescentlamp is being reflected by the mirror through a tiny slit in the optical system in front of the film. The higher the pitch of a note, the higher its frequency—and the greater the frequency of vibrations in the mirror which faithfully reproduces each sound vibration as a mark on the film” (1920-30.com).

As sound progressed, companies reacted differently to the changes. Unlike Warner Bros and Fox, Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer did not seem so interested at first to adapt to sound. Yet Warner Bros’ sensation with the Vitaphone-sound-on-disc system, along with Fox’s dedication to adjust their filmsdeforest_vitaphone.jpg completely to sound, convinced the other producers to unite with the progress. As if over night, larger studios adjusted to the new era of sound by expanding theaters, facilities, and distribution exchanges, while wiring up theaters for sound. Those companies involved with sound became Hollywood’s top firms, called the 'majors' (Sklar 159).

Many 1920 magazines featured arguments and debates regarding the addition of sound. Some producers, many stars and avid watchers disliked the notion of adding sound. Much of the audience protested that it took away the freedom of imagination in silent films. Half of the fun of watching a silent film was trying to guess what the charachters were saying. Also, many actors and actresses were hilarious with simply props and ideas. They were masters at using their facial expressions and movements to portray their feelings. They feared that sound and dialogue would portray them as unintelligent.

On the other side of the debate, many were strongly in favor of the "talkies." Some people were just curious to hear what their favorite stars sounded like. Some were looking forward to getting rid of subtitles. Critics said that the silent films focused too much on pretty faces. They thought that real actors came from the stage, and should be saying lines. With sound, they would now have to balance their good looks with good character and personality.





The movement of sound was also very hard, and some filmmakers switched back to making silent films. The earliest sound films were full of static, and performers and composers struggled with the new equipment and their own uncertainty on how to use this equipment. Many of the most significant actors/actresses along with artists behind the camera who were unable to adjust to sound found their career at risk. Smaller participants in the film making business saw themselves overpowered by the larger companies, and took a longer time trying to work with sound. Though sound began a wonderful new era, it destroyed some careers, as well as dreams (Salt 1).













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