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The Great Depression Movies & TV

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

You might assume that rapper Kanye West coined the term "gold digger," but you'd be wrong! The term, in fact, has long been in use; it's almost as if this early twentieth century movie about women aspiring to marry into wealth inspired that early twenty-first century chart-topper. A interesting note: In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, this film featuring an elaborate dance sequence to "We're in the Money" was a top box-office hit. (Wishful thinking?)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

At the time of its release, The Grapes of Wrath was considered controversial and even dangerous by those suspicious of its leftist tone. Today, however, this film based on John Steinbeck's Pulitizer Prize-winning novel is heralded as a historically significant movie masterpiece about life during the Great Depression. It's a must see!

Paper Moon (1973)

Starring Ryan O'Neal and his famous child-actor daughter Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon is a sometimes dark comedy about a scam artist who partners with an orphaned girl to travel throughout the Midwest in search of easy money during the Great Depression. It's not your typical road trip film, but certainly a memorable one.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Considered one of the best films directed by the Coen brothers, O Brother is as entertaining and silly as it is somber and surreal. Stars George Clooney, Tim Nelson, and John Turturro play a group of escaped convicts who set out to find fame, fortune, love, and justice in the Depression-era rural South. Just what will they find?

Jazz: A Film By Ken Burns (2001)

The companion site for this documentary film refers to jazz as "America's greatest cultural achievement." Filmmaker Ken Burns beautifully illustrates why this is not simply hyperbole.

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