Tough Guys, Tattle-Tales, and Tears

Hollywood Defines the American Boy, 1930–1934

in Volume 5 (2011): Issue 2 (Sep 2011): Boys and Cinema. Guest Editor: Jeffery P. Dennis
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This essay examines the portrayals of boys in American film, especially Jackie Cooper, during the “pre-code” period of Hollywood sound films, roughly 1930-1934. With the Great Depression cutting movie attendance, studios explored social taboos to entice audiences. As a result, childhood concerns, including issues of adoption, strained parental (especially father-son) relationships, or failing before one’s peers, were themes that threatened boys’ identities.