Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1931

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939

The Year 1931
Year
Event and Significance
1931
Double features emerged as a way for the unemployed and the middle-class to occupy their time.
1931
An early talkie gangster film starring Gary Cooper (as a shooting gallery sharpshooter named The Kid), director Rouben Mamoulian's City Streets (1931) (his second feature film), was notable as the first American film to have a voice-over, during a close-up of the tear-stained face of Nan Cooley (Sylvia Sidney), the stepdaughter of mobster Pop Cooley (Guy Kibbee), as she recalled the past during a flashback. The scene superimposed the Kid's voice over her face as she remembered his words and thought her own out-loud. [Hitchcock already exhibited a voice-over in the sound version of the British film Blackmail (1929).]
1931
Warners followed up its gangster film hit Little Caesar (1930) with newcomer James Cagney (and Jean Harlow in a small part) starring in The Public Enemy (1931) - a box-office smash and one of the earliest and best of its gangster films. Director William Wellman's pre-Code film was shot in less than a month at a cost of approximately $151,000. It was most noted for the scene of Cagney pushing a grapefruit into the face of moll girlfriend Mae Clarke. The film appeared to glamorize criminal activities such as bootlegging (although that was not its intent), and emphasized their high style of life with various floozies (portrayed by Joan Blondell, Mae Clarke, and Jean Harlow). Hence, the film hastened efforts of Hollywood's self-imposed Production Code in the early thirties to strictly censor films (with criminal and sexual subject matter) that depicted undesirable social figures or sexual subjects in a sympathetic or realistic way.
1931
The first of Universal's series of classic horror films was released: director Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) based upon Bram Stoker's novel, starring Hungarian-born Bela Lugosi who was reprising his 1927 Broadway role on the big screen.
1931
A few months after the release of Dracula (1931), Universal Studios had a second horror hit with its release of Frankenstein (1931) - starring Boris Karloff as the Monster, created by mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive).
1931
Fredric March played the title role (the first Oscar-winning horror performance) of the transformed, villainous scientist in director Rouben Mamoulian's first sound version Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), opposite Miriam Hopkins as the slutty Cockney barmaid Ivy. The film contained ground-breaking transformative scenes and special effects.
1931
African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's The Exile (1931) was the first feature-length sound film from a black director - it was advertised as the first Black American 'talkie'.
1931
The Best Picture-nominated Trader Horn, by director W.S. Van Dyke, was notable as the first non-documentary production to be filmed in Africa. Some of its jungle stock footage was later used for MGM's first Tarzan film with Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932).
1931
German director Fritz Lang's influential and suspenseful M was released (Lang's first sound film), starring Peter Lorre in a breakout starring role as child serial killer Hans Beckert. One of the earliest talkies that effectively used sound, it was also the first serious psychological crime film/melodrama about a serial killer. In the plot, Lang experimented with sound (and the striking pioneering use of leitmotif, to associate a sound with a film character) - a blind balloon salesman (Georg John) heard the killer's haunting, tell-tale whistling of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 before an off-screen killing.
1931
The comic strip police detective Dick Tracy, created by cartoonist Chester Gould, made his debut appearance in the Detroit Mirror newspaper. The strip series often reflected the latest in police crime-fighting techniques and procedurals. Gould's strip lasted until 1977 when it was taken over by others. Dick Tracy's first appearance in film was in Dick Tracy (1937), a Republic Pictures movie serial starring Ralph Byrd.
1931
Comedian W.C. Fields' first sound feature film was Warners' (First National's) pre-code musical comedy Her Majesty, Love (1931). It was German director William Dieterle's first US film, and the final (and third) film of Broadway star Marilyn Miller.
1931
Rene Clair's French film A Nous La Liberte (1931, Fr.) was the first foreign language film to receive an Oscar nomination (Best Art Direction for Lazare Meerson). The social satire on modernization was Clair's third sound feature film.
1931
According to various sources, the pre-Code film A Free Soul (1931) starring Norma Shearer has a 14-minute, uninterrupted monologue scene played by Best Actor-winning Lionel Barrymore as a defense attorney in a courtroom - it was the longest take in a commercial film, accomplished by using two cameras simultaneously.
1931
Influential German director F.W. Murnau was killed in a coastal car accident near Santa Barbara, CA at the age of 42. His most notable films were the Dracula-vampire tale Nosferatu (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926), Special Oscar-winning Sunrise (1927), and his last film Tabu (1931).
1931
American inventor and entrepreneur Thomas A. Edison, one of the early film pioneers and film-makers, died at the age of 84. He was known as "The Wizard of Menlo Park" - for his many innovations, including the motion picture camera (Kinetograph) and the peep-hole film viewer called the Kinetoscope, although much of his work was contributed by his employees, notably W.K.L. Dickson. He was famous for establishing the world's first film production studio (the Black Maria) in 1893 and the so-called "Edison Trust" (The Motion Picture Patents Company) in 1908, composed of most of the major film companies at the time - it was eventually broken up and declared a monopoly and disbanded by 1918.


Previous Page Next Page