Timeline

America in the 1930s

  • American Cultural History by Decades – 19th Century
  • American Cultural History by Decades – 20th Century
  • Milestones in Classic Hollywood/American Films



    1925-1929

  • Vaudeville declines
  • Radio emerges
  • 1921 Federal Trade Commission pursues antitrust suit against Paramount Pictures for its practice of
    block booking

  • 1924 movie theaters start showing double (silent) features
  • 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial
  • 28 Aug. 1925, Donald David Ronald Dixon O’Connor born in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Chicago. On stage 3 days later in a basket on his mother’s piano bench
  • Sep. 1926, Donald debuts in Cincinnati doing “Black Bottom” (infant version)
  • 1927 Jazz Singer, the first “Talkie” released by Warner Bros. using the “Vitaphone” process which recorded the sound on a separate disc that had to be synchronized with the film (no, no, no…yes, yes, yes!). Jolson was Warner’s third pick after Georgie Jessel and Eddie Cantor turned down the role. Later, Fox developed the “Movietone” process that put the sound track on the film itself. Hays Office issues movie decency code. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founded.
  • June 1927, sister Arlene killed by car in Hartford, CT.
  • Sep. 1927, father John W. Connor dies of heart attack in wings of theater in Brockton, MA
  • 1927 First television transmission
  • 1927 Grauman’s Chinese Theater opens in Hollywood. Theaters rush to install sound equipment following enormous success of “talkies.” Careers of silent film stars whose voices didn’t match their onscreen persona ruined
  • 1928 Anitbiotic properties of penicillin discovered
  • 1928 RKO (Radio Keith-Orpheum) formed as the vaudeville Keith-Orpheum company deversifies into film.
  • 1929 First Academy Awards
  • Oct. 1929 Stock Market crashes


    1930-1939

  • 1930-1939 Great Depression
  • 1930-1948 Golden Age of the Studio System. Favorite movie genres besides comedies and dramas are musicals, westerns, horror and gangster movies.
  • 1930 Computer invented
  • 1932 Vaudeville circuits extinct. The premier vaudeville theater, the Palace in New York City, becomes a movie house
  • 1932-1938 Shirley Temple rules the box office – tap dance schools thrive. Screen Writer’s Guild and Screen Actor’s Guild formed
  • 1933 Prohibition ends
  • 1933 FM radio invented; drive-in movies developed; stereo recording process invented
  • 1934 Dust Bowl
  • 1934 Tape recorder (magnetic tape recordings) invented
  • 1934 RKO produces short film using Technicolor process
  • 1934 Hollywood Production Code requires movies to recieve seal of approval from censors before public viewing
  • 1935 Social Security Act passed
  • 1936 Negro Imrovement League protests racial stereotyping in Hollywood
  • 1936 Spanish Civil War begins – precursor to World War II in Europe
  • 1937 Japan invades China – precursor to World War II in Asia
  • 1938 California Child Actor’s Bill (Coogan’s Law) passed to preserve 15% of a child actor’s earnings into court-administered trust funds for that child. It applies only to California and only under certain circumstances. Jackie Coogan’s parents ran through a rumored 4 million dollars, leaving their son without a cent of his own earnings
  • 1938 Hitler annexes Austria (the Anschluss).
  • April 1938 O’Connor’s contract with Paramount Studio begins. O’Connor makes 11 films under this contract.
  • July 1939 O’Connor’s option with Paramount not renewed.
  • 1939 Television introduced at New York World’s Fair by RCA, manufacturer of first TV sets
  • Sept. 1939 Germany invades Poland, World War II begins
  • 26 Dec. 1939 brother Billy O’Connor dies of scarlet fever in Danville, IL, aged 26


    1940-1949

  • 1940 Color television invented
  • 1941 Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers formed
  • Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, United States enters World War II
  • 1941-1945 United States fights World War II
  • 1942-1945 Office of War Information issues 7 expectations Hollywood should meet for war movies
  • 1942 Lena Horne first African-American signed to a long-term contract by a Hollywood studio (MGM). Like the Nicholas Brothers, she was hired as a specialty performer whose numbers could be cut from movies before they were shown in the South. See the film That’s Entertainment III
  • Jan. 1942 – Jan. 1944, O’Connor makes 14 films for Universal Studios, remains under contract at $50/day (or $200/day depending on the source) while in Service
  • 1944 Olivia DeHaviland sued Warner Bros. and won release from additional suspension time added to her contract for her refusal to take several parts
  • 1944 U.S. Government rejoins the antitrust battle against the Studio System’s monopoly on all aspects of the motion picture business
  • 1 Jan. 1944, O’Connor enlists in Army as private
  • 6 Feb. 1944, O’Connor elopes to Tijuana, Mexico with Gwen Carter
  • 7 Feb. 1944, O’Connor leaves for basic training
  • 5 June 1944 D-Day in Europe
  • Spring 1945, O’Connor discharged from the army
  • Aug. 6, 1945 US drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 1945 German and Japan surrender, end of World War II
  • 1946 Universal Pictures merges with International causing major reorganization spelling the end of many contract player’s careers
  • 1946 NAACP protests against Disney’s Song of the South for its racial stereotyping and pastoral view of Plantation slavery
  • Aug. 1946 O’Connors have a daughter, Donna Gwen O’Connor
  • 1946 Independent Studios take hold
  • 1946 – Cold War begins. Winston Churchill declares an “Iron Curtain” is falling over Europe.
  • Feb. 1947, O’Connor resumes film career at Universal
  • 1947 U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Studios’ use of block booking and divest themselves of their theater chains
  • 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings against Hollywood Ten broadcast on KTLA in Los Angeles. 41 witnessess called, 19 considered “unfriendly,” eventually reduced to the Hollywood Ten by 1948
  • 1947 Great Britian levies 75% tariff on American films and U.S. retaliates by boycotting English films. Settled by 1949.
  • 1948 East Germany denies access to West Berlin, Berlin Airlift begins
  • 1948 Supreme Court issues Paramount Decree, requires Studios to sell off theater chains; beginning of the end of the Studio System
  • 1948 Commercial television explodes with “Uncle Miltie”
  • 1948 Berlin Air Lift
  • 1949 Paramount Consent Decree gives Studios reprieve temporary on theater chain sales. Studios begin to reorganize and diversify.
  • 1949 United Nations divides Palestine, Isreal founded
  • 1949 Chinese Communist Revolution
  • 1949 Soviet Union develops atom bomb



    1950-1959

  • 1946-1992 Cold War
  • 1950 Donald O’Connor shown in newsreel departing for West Germany with first “Francis” movie and bevy of Universal beauties to entertain troops.
  • 1950-1953 Korean War
  • 1950-1951 Senator Joseph McCarthy begins making a name for himself as a Communist hunter. HUAC begins second round of hearings. Hollywood blacklists 212 writers, performers, industry professionals
  • 1951 Color TV broadcasting begins. VCR invented. Columbia Pictures moves into television production by forming Screen Gems
  • 1952 Polio vaccine introduced. James Stewart signs profit sharing contract with Universal in lieu of normal salary (which Universal can’t afford). Universal-International bought out by Decca Records.
  • 1953 Transistor radio invented. First televised Academy Awards
  • 22 Nov. 1953 Donald O’Connor’s “Colgate Comedy Hour” is the first commercial broadcast of a color TV show using NTSC standards for color and black & white televisions
  • 1954 O’Connor appears more frequently in Las Vegas.
  • 1954 Lung cancer and cigarettes first linked
  • 1954 Drive-in movies target teen audience with exploitation films like I was a Teenaged Werewolf (1957). Craze hits peak in 1958
  • 1954 Segregation (separate but equal) declared illegal in Supreme Court decision Brown vs Topeka Board of Education.
  • 1954 Gwen and Donald O’Connor divorce
  • 25 Mar. 1954 26th Academy Awards broadcast from both coasts with Donald O’Connor hosting from the RKO Pantages Theater in Los Angeles and Fredric March hosting from the NBC Century Theater in New York City. It was the second broadcast and the first done simultaneously from two coasts.
  • 1955 Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of the bus
  • 1955 brother Jack O’Connor dies of a heart attack, aged 49
  • 1955 In a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” move, Hollywood studios begin selling movies to television networks for broadcasting
  • 1956 Hungarian Revolution
  • 1956 Influence of independent films moves mainstream Hollywood toward edgier, more realistic films depicting sex, abortion, kidnapping and drugs that had been taboo under the Studio System
  • 11 October 1956 marries Gloria Noble
  • 12 Jan. 1957 Conducts “Reflexions d’un Comique” with the Los Angeles Doctor’s Symphony Orchestra
  • 1957 Sputnik and the Space Race
  • 1957 Alicia O’Connor born
  • 1959 Fidel Castro becomes dictator in Cuba


    1960-1969

  • 1960 Alfred’s Hitchock’s Psycho
  • 1960 Donald Frederick (Fred) O’Connor born
  • 1961 Berlin Wall goes up, Bay of Pigs goes down
  • 1962 Kevin O’Connor born
  • 1962 Marilyn Monroe dies
  • 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis
  • 1963 President John F. Kennedy assassinated
  • 1963-1973 Vietnam War
  • 1964 Civil Rights Act passed
  • 1954-1965 Civil Rights Movement
  • 1965 First US troops to Vietnam
  • 1965 through 1968 – Race Riots in America
  • 1966 Mass protests against Vietnam War draft
  • 1966 Mao Zedong begins “Cultural Revolution” to re-establish authority and credibility after failure of “Great Leap Forward.” Experts (intellectuals) suffer for perceived lack of dedication to Communist agenda
  • 1966-1996 “Troubles” in Northern Ireland
  • 1968 Robert Kennedy assassinated
  • 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated
  • 1969 ARPANET (beginning of the Internet).
  • 1969 Woodstock


    1970-1979

  • 4 May 1970 Kent State Shootings
  • 1970 Mi Lai Massacre
  • 1971 Donald O’Connor suffers heart attack after entertaining troops in Vietnam
  • 1972 Watergate Scandal
  • 1973 US pulls out of Vietnam
  • 1970s see increase in O’Connor’s drinking problem, career flounders
  • 1974 Nixon resigns
  • 1976 Microsoft founded
  • 1978 John Paul II becomes Pope
  • 1978 O’Connor collapses from alcohol poisoning, spends several months in rehab in Amityville, NY
  • 1979 O’Connor family reunites, Donald remains sober for rest of life
  • 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis; Three Mile Island; cell phones invented



    1980-1989

  • 1980 O’Connor resumes career, most notably 4th Emmy nomination> for Academy Award production number “Dancin’ on the Silver Screen”
  • 1980 John Lennon assassinated

  • 1981 AIDS identified
  • 1982 IBM Personal Computers (PCs) go on market
  • 1985 Hole in the ozone discovered
  • 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melts down
  • 1989 Berlin Wall falls
  • 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre
  • late 1980s Donald O’Connor has heart bypass surgery after taking nitroglycerin tablets before performing for years



    1990-1999

  • 1990 Hubble Space Telescope launched
  • 1990-1991 Gulf War – Desert Storm
  • 1991 Collapse of the Soviet Union
  • 1994 Northridge Earthquake – the O’Connors’ Sherman Oaks house slides down a hill with Donald and Gloria in it. They move to Sedona, AZ.
  • 1993 Internet goes mainstream
  • 1995-1999 Balkans War
  • 1997 Dolly the sheep cloned
  • 1998 President Bill Clinton impeached.
  • Jan. 30, 1999 Donald O’Connor admitted to hospital with double pneumonia while headlining in the Palm Springs Follies
  • Mar. 1, 1999 Donald O’Connor released from hospital and closes out Follies’ last four performances



    2000-2003

  • September 11th, 2001
  • 2001 – War on Terror
  • Spring 2003 O’Connor makes personal appearances at the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival and the opening of the Judy Garland Museum
  • Sept. 27, 2003 Donald O’Connor dies in Calabasas, CA. He was 78.