The Great Depression on Film
by David Luhrssen
August 2022, 195pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7713-1
$70, £54, 61€, A96
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7714-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The Great Depression was a turning point in U.S. history, the greatest economic catastrophe the nation ever faced.

This book presents the Great Depression through the lens of 13 films, beginning with movies made during the Depression and ending with films from the 21st century, and encourages readers to examine the various depictions of this period throughout history.

The Great Depression on Film is a unique guide to how the Great Depression was represented and is remembered, making it an excellent resource for students or anyone interested in film history or U.S. history. Each film is set in a different sector of American life, focusing on such topics as white supremacy, political protest, segregation, environmental degradation, crime, religion, the class system, and popular culture in the U.S. during the 1930s.

This book is indispensable for clearing away misconceptions fostered by the movies while acknowledging the power of film in shaping public memory. The book separates fact from fiction, detailing where the movies are accurate and where they depart from reality, and places them in the larger context of historical and social events. Eyewitness or journalistic accounts are referenced and quoted in the text to help readers differentiate between ideas, attitudes, and events presented in the films, as well as the historical facts which inspired those films.


  • Provides readers with a history of the Great Depression as it played out in the lives of many classes and groups of people in the U.S.
  • Presents a cultural overview of America during that critical time, going beyond politics to include popular music, entertainment, religion, literature, and sports
  • Dives into an exemplary study of the difficulty in dramatizing history on film along with the way film images displace actual history in popular memory
  • Gives a detailed overview of how Hollywood cinema represented and misrepresented life during the Depression
David Luhrssen is managing editor and film critic of the Shepherd Express newspaper in Milwaukee. He lectured at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. He is author of ABC-CLIO's World War II on Film, The Vietnam War on Film, The Encyclopedia of Classic Rock, and Secret Societies and Clubs in American History, among several other books.

Hollywood History

Just exactly how accurate are Hollywood's film and television portrayals of U.S. history? What do these portrayals tell us, not only about the events they depict, but also the time in which they were made? Each volume in this unique reference series is devoted to a single topic or key theme in U.S. history, examining approximately 10 major motion pictures or television productions. Substantial essays summarize each film, provide a historical background of the event or period it depicts, and explain how accurate the film’s depiction is, while also analyzing the cultural context in which the film was made.
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