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By hear: 1920 - 1921 - 1922 - 1923 - 1924 - 1925 - 1926 - 1927 - 1928 - 1929

American popular culture conquers the world: "It was during what we might call the Flapper period, or the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that American popular culture began to capture the imagination of the world. . . . [America] was inventing its own modernity. . . . " (from Laura Mulvey, "The Flapper Phenomenon")

Preceded by: WWI

Related: alcohol prohibition in the USA - Bauhaus (German design movement) - Louise Brooks - German Expressionism (film) - Art Deco - Classical Hollywood - Dada (art movement) - Jazz Age - Lost Generation (American literary expatriates in Paris) - flapper girls - Machine Age - The Great Depression (1929) - Harlem Renaissance and Négritude (black rights movements) - Surrealism (start) - radio (rise to mass medium) - Weimar Berlin - twelve tone music - sound film (from 1927 onwards)

Pandora's Box (1929) - Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Louise Brooks became famous for the 1928 film Pandora's Box, in which her waiflike role as the doomed flapper Lulu made her an icon of the Jazz Age. [Mar 2006]

Unidentified picture of a "speakeasy".

As a result of the alchol prohibition in the United States, speakeasies were established where alchol was served clandistinely. These underground palaces sprang up to meet the demand for alcohol. [Mar 2006]

Literature: Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) - Story of the Eye (1928)

Buildings: The Villa Savoye (1928) - Le Corbusier

Films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (1920) - Nosferatu - (1922) - Ballet Mécanique (1924) - Aelita (1924) - The Hands of Orlac - (1924) - Metropolis (1927) - The Unknown (1927) - Un Chien Andalou (1929) - Pandora's Box (1929)

Poster for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925)

Anémic cinéma (1926)
Avant-garde film in the 1920s

The Wassily Chair No B3 (1925) - Marcel Breuer

Jazz Singer (1927) - Alan Crosland [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (1927), wearing blackface, one of the first successful sound films.

The Twenties saw the car become a crucial part of the American culture. Ford made his Model-T affordable and the prosperity of the '20s made the car a necessity, especially for the flapper. Taking a drive to the country, like this scene outside of Boston, become typical fare for the growing middle class.

Events and trends

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920s [Jul 2004]

Parallels with the 1990s

Since the closing of the 20th Century, the 1920s has drawn close associations with the 1990s, especially in the United States. This is due to the fact both decades were considered very economically prosperous times, and a prosperity which lasted throughout almost the entire decade following a tremendous event at the closing of the previous decade (World War I and Spanish flu in the late 1910s, and the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s). In the United States, this decade was known as the Roaring Twenties. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920s [Mar 2006]

Subcultures of the 1920s and 30s

In the 1920s American Jazz music and motor cars were at the centre of a European subculture of freedom and wild living which began to break the rules of social etiquette and the class system. Meanwhile, in America, the same flaming youth subculture was "running wild" but with the added complication of alcohol prohibition. Canada had prohibition in some local areas but the areas where alcohol was permitted provided an oasis for thirsty Americans coming over the border. Some smuggling was done and this escalated as the crime gangs became organised. In the southern states of the USA Mexico or Cuba were other possible destinations for drinkers. Thus a drinking subculture grew in size and a crime subculture grew along with it. Other drugs existed which could be used as alternatives to alcohol. When prohibition ended the subculture of drink, drugs and jazz didn't go away. Neither did the gangsters.

The nudist movement gained prominence in Germany in the 1920s, but was suppressed during the Nazi Gleichschaltung after Adolf Hitler came to power. Social nudism in the form of private clubs and campgrounds first appeared in the United States in the 1930s. In Canada it first appeared in British Columbia about 1939 and in Ontario nine years later.

In the art world, the spritual home of most subcultures, the surrealist movement was attempting to shock the world with their games and bizarre behaviour. The surrealists were at one and the same time a serious art movement and a parody of other artforms and political movements. Surrealism had been developed by Andre Breton and others from the thinking in the Dada movement. Based in several European countries, surrealism was going to run into serious trouble when the Nazis began to take over. Subcultures and "degenerate art" were almost completely stamped out and replaced by the Hitler Youth.

In North America the depression caused widespread unemployment and poverty, causing many young people to feel like dead end kids. The phenomenon of the dead end kid was taken into fiction and put on the stage and screen where it proved an enormously popular image with which people could identify. Films featuring The Dead End Kids, The Bowery Boys, Little Tough Guys etc were popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. See external link: The (Unofficial) Bowery Boys' Page (http://boweryboys.bobfinnan.com/).

The Dust bowl disaster forced large numbers of rural Americans from Oklahoma and elsewhere to move their entire families to look for some alternative way to continue living. This got them labelled as "Okies" and treated very poorly by the authorities in other states they moved to. The refugee situation was recorded in folk songs (many of them by Woody Guthrie) and in a novel, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and a subsequent movie of the book. The movie starred Henry Fonda. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_subcultures_in_the_20th_century [Dec 2004]

Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties refers to the North American time period of the 1920s, which has been described as "one of the most colorful decades in American history." The decade encapsulates a fascinating story, beginning with the return of young soldiers from the fronts of the World War I and emergence of a new and confident face of modern womanhood, and ending with the sad note of the Black Tuesday, harbinger of the Great Depression. The years of the Roaring Twenties were marked by several inventions and discoveries of far reaching consequences; emergence of unprecedented industrial boom and accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, coupled with significant changes in the lifestyle; and a series of events, national as well as international, which shaped a large part of the history of the 20th century. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roaring_Twenties [Mar 2006]

Golden Twenties

Golden Twenties is a term, mostly used in Europe, to describe the 1920s, in which most of the continent had an economic boom following the First World War and the severe economic downturns that took place between 1919-1923.

It is often applied to Germany, which during the early 1920s, experienced, like most of Europe, record-breaking levels of inflation of one trillion percent between January 1919 and November 1923. The inflation was so severe that printed currency was often used for heating and other uses, and every-day needs like food, soap, electricity, cost a wheelbarrow full of bills. Such events triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy, as well the ill-fated Beer Hall Putsch, masterminded by a young Adolf Hitler.

Before long, the Weimar Republic managed the tame the extreme levels of inflation by the introduction of a new currency, the Rentenmark, with tighter fiscal controls and reduction of bureaucracy, leading to a relative degree of political and economic stability. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Twenties [Mar 2006]

1920s style

  • Decorative Arts 1920s - Charlotte Fiell, Peter Fiell [Amazon US]

    TASCHEN's Decorative Art series spans the 20th century through the 1970s and carefully reproduces the best of Studio Magazine's Decorative Art yearbooks. Published annually from 1906 until 1980, the yearbook was dedicated to the latest currents in architecture, interiors, furniture, lighting, glassware, textiles, metalware, and ceramics, and remained on the cutting edge throughout its nearly eight-decade run. Since going out of print, the now hard-to-find yearbooks have been highly prized by collectors and dealers. Preserving the yearbooks' original page layouts, TASCHEN's Decorative Art books bring you an authentic experience of each decade's design trends and styles. The now complete ["00s and 10s", 20s, "30s and 40s",50s, 60s, and the 70s] six-volume set is an essential addition to the comprehensive design library and the devoted collector will want them all.
    This is a solid reference work, one of a series, thick as a phone book, and full of information. I was unfamiliar with this book, now being reissued, and so was surprised (and a little disappointed) at the fact that it has precious few color plates. The zillions of illustrations are for the most part reproductions of contemporary 1920's ads and other published materials - and so are in black and white. There is an enormous amount of good material in this book - furniture, houses, and a lot of decorative and/or functional objects - but the casual reader (someone who is not a confirmed history-of-design maven) would be helped by having seen the artifacts in another venue - whether in museums, private collections, or in color photographs. This is a great resource for readers who are familiar with, and committed to, the subject. Eileen Berdon for amazon.com [...]

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