Broadway in the 1920s
After the war ended, Times Square became mobbed with crowds of enthusiastic citizens carrying flags and cheering, and the Times Tower was strung with electric lights for the celebration. Since this moment, Times Square has always been a gathering place for the entire city, drawing cheerful crowds to the spirited environment. During the 1920s, Broadway reached its prime. Many of the old buildings originally used for housing were now used to display signs, such as adds for "Lucky Strike" and "Pepsi Cola." One might describe Broadway at this time as being garish, and had a reputation of being cheap and tawdry. However an English writer, Stephen Graham wrote about Broadway at the time, "There is no garishness in it and it wells upward into that artificial light which is greater than the day." Paul Morand, a French novelist visiting New York agreed, "In Forty-second Street, it is a glowing Summer afternoon all night: one might almost wear white trousers and a straw hat. Theaters, night clubs, movie palaces, restaurants are all lighted at every porthole. Undiscovered prisms, rainbows squared." Broadway was never meant to be beautiful, but hoped that people would feel livelier in its "tonic light-bath," during its prime hour of night.
Although statisticians argue over exactly how many theaters there were some say eighty, some seventy everyone agreed that Broadway theaters were booming in the twenties. During these years, the number of productions increased from 126 in 1917 to 264 in 1928, which is still the all-time peak of Broadway production. During the twenties and after the war, the American population was moving more and more into the cities. The decade, known as the "Roaring Twenties," has been notorious in history for being a reckless, irresponsible, and materialistic era. In response to the many social changes occurring in America, the new plays on Broadway eliminated their old traditional storylines in the productions. In "What Price Glory?" the writer sent the message that war is not noble, but irrelevant. In "Desire Under the Elms," the life of the traditional American farmer degenerated into incest and greed. This collapse of tradition turned drama into a criticism of life, and surprisingly this was the best period in Broadway drama.
Overall in the 1920s, Broadway was bursting with energy and enterprise. The theater was filled with hope and fresh ideas, and new styles of craftsmanship. And with the organization of the Theater Guild by Lawrence Langner, Broadway became a brilliant center that influenced the theater of the world.
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