UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1930's

Great Depression: Mean Things Happening.

In the American democracy of the 1930's two visions of liberty collided as working men and women battled landowners and factory managers for the right to join a union. On the tenant farms and in the steel factories working people asserted their citizenship in the midst of great economic turmoil and a tide of government reform. 60 mins.

Great Depression: New Deal/New York.

In his first one hundred days in office, in a effort to stem the effects of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created many new federal agencies giving jobs and relief to people and transforming the American landscape with public works projects. Nowhere was this transformation more apparent than in Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's New York City. Together Roosevelt and La Guardia expanded and redefined the role of government in the lives of the American people. 60 mins.

Great Depression: The Road to Rock Bottom.

As the Great Depression progressed economic collapse took its toll on rural America. Crops went unsold, farm mortgages were called in by banks, hungry farmers protested, and robberies increased dramatically. The U.S. Army was called in to defend the nation's capital from veterans who were demanding that President Hoover and Congress pay a bonus for their services in World War I. The film ends with Franklin Roosevelt's landslide election to the presidency. 60 mins.

Great Depression: To Be Somebody.

Many Americans, struggling to survive the Great Depression, were determined to help build a better America through direct action in the courts, in the Congress and in everyday life. At a time when lynchings, segregation, and anti-semitism were commonplace, black heavy-weight champion, Joe Louis became a symbol of national strength. In very different ways Louis and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt challenged America to live up to its promise of justice and opportunity for people of every race and faith. 60 mins.

Great Depression: We Have a Plan.

By 1934, as the nation grappled with the Great Depression, challenges to the New Deal from both sides of the political spectrum began to appear. Despite new government programs unrest was increasing especially in California, where the socialist, Upton Sinclair, ran for governor promising to turn idle land and factories into self-governing cooperatives. Sinclair's campaign ended in defeat, but one year later President Roosevelt's signing of the Social Security Act signaled America's emergence as a modern welfare state. 60 mins.

Historic New Deal Films

Disc 1: Work pays America (1937, 31 min.) -- We work again (1930, 11 min.) -- Better housing news flash (1935, 4 min.) -- National Recovery Administration promo (1933, 3 min.) -- Disc 2: Man against the river (1937, 10 min.) -- Shock troops of disaster (1938, 11 min.) -- The river (1937, 30 min.) -- Rain for the Earth (1937, 10 min., incomplete with no ending) Work pays America: Demonstrates activities of the Works Project Administration. We work again: A WPA film that tries to convey that the New Deal is beneficial for African-Americans.

Hollywood Censored: Movies, Morality & the Production Code (Culture Shock; 1)

First of a four part series exploring why particular works of art became controversial. Part one addresses the mass appeal of movies, including their portrayals of sex and violence which have made them a target of censors since the early days. In the 1930s, Hollywood studios enforced the Production Code, a set of guidelines for movie content, to answer growing charges of immorality. The Code lasted 20 years and still influences moviemaking today. As feature films continue to cause controversy, the question remains: do movies reflect--or cause--social behavior? c2000. 60 min.

Hoover Dam

An ambitious engineer turned a ragtag army of unemployed into a celebrated work force to create the Hoover Dam, a colossus rising 700 feet above the Colorado River that became a beacon of hope in dire times, bringing electricity and water to millions in the U.S. west. Produced, written and directed by Stephen Stept. Originally broadcast on television in 1996 as an episode of American Experience. 60 min.

Jazz: Swing: Pure Pleasure.

A film by Ken Burns. In the mid 1930s, as the Great Depression refuses to lift, Benny Goodman finds himself hailed as the "King of Swing" and becomes the first white bandleader to hire black musicians. He has a host or rivals among them, Chick Webb, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Glen Miller and Artie Shaw. Louis Armstrong heads a big band of his own, while Duke Ellington continues his independent course, but great black artists still can't eat or sleep in many of the hotels where they perform.

Jazz: The True Welcome Home.

A film by Ken Burns. Amid the hard times of the Depression new dances, the Lindy Hop and Swing, caught on at the dance halls of New York even as the jobless lined the streets and drought ruined Midwest farms. Jazz, during 1929 through 1935, lifted the nation's spirit. Record sales boomed while Armstrong became a major entertainer as singer, trumpeter, band leader, radio and film performer. Ellington's elegance, compositions, brilliant band films and recordings created a huge following in America and abroad.