Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1934

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

The Year 1934
Year
Event and Significance
1934
Columbia Pictures' and director Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934) comedy with an escapist theme was a big hit with Depression-weary audiences, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. It remains one of the greatest romantic comedies in film history, and a film that has endured in popularity. It was one of the pioneering "screwball" romantic comedies of its time, setting the pattern for many years afterwards. The well-loved film became the first film to sweep the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The same feat would be repeated with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
1934
Donald Duck (voice of Clarence Nash) debuted in Walt Disney's 8-minute Silly Symphony animated cartoon entitled The Wise Little Hen, although only as a supporting character. When the lazy duck was asked to help either plant or harvest corn by a Wise Little Hen (voice of Florence Gill), he spoke only a few words (some of which were repeated), plus some quacks to escape performing the task ("Who, me? Oh, no! I got a bellyache!"). When Donald was again asked later to eat the harvested corn, he exclaimed: "Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my" and eagerly volunteered, but was only given a bottle of "Tasty Castor Oil for Tummy Aches."
1934
An amendment to the Production Code established the Production Code Administration (PCA), which required all films to acquire a certificate of approval before release, or face a penalty of $25,000. The members of the MPPDA agreed not to release or distribute any film that didn't carry the seal. The MPPDA appointed Joseph Breen as the director of the PCA to enforce the Production Code. John Ford's The World Moves On was the first film to receive a production seal granted by the Hays Office under its new guidelines. The era of 'separate beds' was inaugurated.
1934
Fox Films' Baby Take a Bow (1934) was a major success and hit for the studio, with young Shirley Temple in her first starring role, in which she sang a duet of "On Account-a I Love You" with co-star James Dunn. She had previously appeared in Fox's musical Stand Up and Cheer! (1934), Paramount's star-making Little Miss Marker (1934), and in an uncredited role in Paramount's New Deal Rhythm (1933). From 1934 to 1940, Temple acted in over a dozen films for Fox and in Paramount's Now and Forever (1934) opposite Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper. In 1935, Shirley won the Juvenile Academy Award for her film work encompassing 1934.
1934
The Thin Man (1934) was the first installment of a popular series of six MGM films (from 1934 to 1947) casting a sophisticated, glamorous, pleasure-seeking, and urbane husband-wife detective team (William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles). The story was taken from Dashiell Hammett's 1934 detective novel of the same name. Eventually, Powell and Loy appeared in 14 feature films together (from 1934 to 1947), one of Hollywood's most prolific on-screen pairings.
1934
The Catholic Church formed the Legion of Decency to boycott any film that didn't use the Production Code as a guideline.
1934
According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the first confirmed newspaper reference to the Academy Award as an "Oscar" was when Sidney Skolsky used the word in his gossip column on March 16, 1934. The trophy was not officially dubbed "Oscar" by the Academy until 1939.
1934
The first Flash Gordon comic strip, drawn by Alex Raymond and featuring the science-fiction adventure character, was published on January 7, 1934. The first screen adventure for Flash Gordon was Universal Pictures' 13 episode serial Flash Gordon (1936), starring Buster Crabbe.
1934
MGM's historical drama Rasputin and the Empress (1932), starring brothers John and Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel (the only film in which all three siblings appeared) in a tale about Imperial Russia, was the subject of a libel and invasion of privacy lawsuit filed against MGM in 1934. It was claimed that the film inaccurately portrayed the character of the wife of Prince Felix Yusupov (played by John Barrymore in the film as Prince (Paul) Chegodieff)) - Princess Irina Youssoupoff (played by Diana Wynyard in the film as Princess Natasha). It was claimed the film unfairly portrayed her as a mistress and rape victim of Rasputin (played by Lionel Barrymore). The lawsuit was settled out of court with MGM (paying a reported fine of $250,000), and the scene was cut. The suit also resulted in the decree that a disclaimer had to be added to the credits of this and subsequent films of its kind: "This motion picture is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
1934
The Three Stooges were featured in their first Columbia Pictures' comedy 2-reel short Woman Haters (1934), appearing with former vaudevillian Marjorie White (her last film before a car accident in 1935). It was the first of 190 shorts that the slapstick comedy group made with Columbia Studios until 1959.
1934
Actor Lionel Barrymore began an annual Christmas-time tradition (that lasted through 1953), first appearing on the CBS Radio Network in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in dramatizations of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
1934
Louis de Rochemont began the documentary newsreel film series, The March of Time.
1934
Warner Bros. became the first studio to shut down its German distribution office to protest the Nazi's anti-Semitic policies.
1934
Famed gangster "Public Enemy No. 1" John Dillinger was gunned down outside Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934 after viewing Clark Gable and William Powell in MGM's crime/gangster drama Manhattan Melodrama (1934). He was accompanied by two women: his 26 year-old girlfriend - waitress/prostitute Polly Hamilton, and her former boss, brothel manager Anna Sage, who was wearing an orange dress (later she was inaccurately dubbed "The Woman in Red") and had tipped off the G-men to Dillinger's whereabouts.
1934
Police officers led by former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer ambushed bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow near Gibsland, Louisiana, killing them both on May 23, 1934. They later became folk heroes and were immortalized in Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
1934
The first use of 3-strip Technicolor in a live-action sequence (in the film's final scene), was in MGM's musical/romance operetta adaptation The Cat and the Fiddle, starring Jeanette MacDonald (in her MGM debut film) and Ramon Novarro.
1934
RKO's 2-reel short La Cucaracha was the first live-action film to use a three-strip Technicolor process.
early to mid-1930s
Color movies were first widely shown in the late thirties, although hand-tinted or toned films were standard practice in the 1910s and 1920s, and two-strip Technicolor had emerged in the late 1920s. Technicolor sequences were included in DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923), MGM's Ben-Hur (1925) and Universal's The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and various early sound musicals included two-strip Technicolor production numbers as spectacular highlights.


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