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Wealth and/or Love: Class and Gender in the Cross-class Romance Films of the Great Depression

Abstract

A combination of social and cultural changes account for the popularity of, and the narrative permutations of class and gender in, the cross-class romance films of the 1930s. The analysis is based on a sample of eighty-five cross-class romance films released in the 1929–39 period. The films deal with a dilemma evident in the choice of partners: between interests of wealth and social status and the value of romantic, disinterested love, an ideal which had spread throughout the class structure. Gender distinctions are reinforced by narratives in which the wealthy male is redeemed by the poor female so that he can perform the appropriate male gender roles. When the female is wealthy, the poor male insists on her economic dependence on him. Films with gold diggers reached a peak in the early 1930s and provided imaginary solutions to social anxieties about class and gender among both women and men.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Stephen Sharot, “Class Rise as a Reward for Disinterested Love: Cross-class Romance Films, 1915–28,” Journal of Popular Culture, 43, 3 (2010), 583–99, 584–85

Timothy E. Scheurer, “Goddesses and Golddiggers: Images of Women in Popular Music of the 1930s,” Journal of Popular Culture, 24 (1990), 2338

Wendy Bottero, Stratification: Social Division and Inequality (London: Routledge, 2005), 166–73

Lois Rita Helmbold, “Downward Occupational Mobility during the Great Depression: Urban Black and White Working Class Women,” Labor History, 29 (1988), 132–72, 137–38, 152–53

Leslie Fishbein, “The Harlot's Progress in American Fiction and Film, 1900–1930,” Women's Studies, 16 (1989), 409–27

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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