The 1910s Arts and Entertainment: Overview

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The 1910s Arts and Entertainment: Overview

During the twentieth century's second decade, the arts experienced what has come to be known as "The Little Renaissance," a rebirth in the style and content of the fine arts, literature, theater, and dance. American artists were moving away from established European traditions and developing new approaches to creating art. Many artists moved toward an abstract, not realistic, interpretation of subject matter. The content of artwork shifted, in part, from "higher level" subjects such as nature, religion, and portraits to more informal subjects. In fact, a group called the Ash Can school painted card players, boxing matches, and other subjects that previously had been considered unimportant or insignificant.

At the beginning of the decade, the blossoming film industry offered five- and ten-minute short movies shown in storefront theaters. By the end of the decade, longer feature-length films that used sophisticated techniques for telling stories were shown in larger theaters. The number of film production companies increased, and several major motion picture studios were established. No longer were the companies based almost solely on the East Coast. Instead the Los Angeles area, particularly Hollywood, was becoming attractive to film production units. Furthermore, audiences were curious about the actors who played in the "flickers" (as films were known), and eventually film producers identified the actors with on-screen credits. That procedure sparked the "star system," in which the most popular actors gained celebrity and wealth.

The theater, too, was in a state of change. The large theaters in New York City and other metropolitan areas were presenting elaborate variety shows with the latest songs and snappy skits by soon-to-be legendary performers Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers, and W. C. Fields. The music for these revues came, in great part, from the popular song-writing industry in New York City known as "Tin Pan Alley," where composers such as Irving Berlin, Walter Donaldson, W. C. Handy, and Albert and Harry Von Tilzer created popular tunes for sale in the form of sheet music. Serious plays by contemporary dramatists were being produced in "little theaters" that encouraged the creation of experimental theater. These plays emphasized the psychological state of the characters and analyzed the human condition.

Tastes in literature were changing as well, and writers increasingly explored American themes. A group of authors from the Midwest created interest in middle America as they began translating their small town and rural surroundings into powerful novels. Poetry flourished, as did many new, small magazines which published modern poetry for a growing readership.

The radio industry was in its infancy. Pioneers such as inventor Lee De Forest and future radio/television executive David Sarnoff were laying the framework for programming possibilities.

With the entrance of the United States into World War I, newspapers took on the responsibility of bringing war news to the public. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., representatives of the federal government established new media guidelines to apply to a nation at war.

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The 1910s Arts and Entertainment: Overview

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The 1910s Arts and Entertainment: Overview