Even during "Hard Times" and wartime,
people need to be entertained. The American people in the 1930s and 1940s were no
exception. They enjoyed many forms of entertainment, particularly if they could do so
With the addition of sound, movies became
increasingly popular. Comedies, gangster movies, and musicals helped people forget their
troubles. In the early 1940s, some of the great dramas of American film reached theaters.
Radio was also wildly popular, offering many kinds of programs, from sermons to soap
In the 1930s, big bands and swing music were
popular, with Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller popular bandleaders. In the
1940s, the bands started to break up, and band singers like Frank Sinatra and Sarah
Vaughan went out on their own. War songs became popular.
Among the unemployed in the Depression were
artists and performers of many types. Government programs to assist these people resulted
in production of plays and artworks for all to enjoy.
As you examine the documents in this section,
compare arts and entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s with arts and entertainment as you
know them today. What similarities do you see? What differences? How might you explain the
continuity you see, as well as the change?
To find additional sources on this topic, use
the names of specific forms of art or entertainment to search the collections; for
example, you might use such words as music, dance, or theater
in your search.
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