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America in the 1930s
American Cultural History by Decades – 19th Century
American Cultural History by Decades – 20th Century
Milestones in Classic Hollywood/American Films
1921 Federal Trade Commission pursues antitrust suit against Paramount Pictures for its practice of
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 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 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
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 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).
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 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 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
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.