chapter  2
Beyond Subsistence
The Rise of the Middle Class in the Twentieth Century
Pages 28

This chapter examines the historical context of the early twentieth century, for most Americans life was a difficult struggle for survival. It discusses both the movies and a large portion of their audience would experience upward mobility into the middle classes during the early years of the twentieth century. Certainly celebrities existed in the theater and literary worlds, and William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer's battles for readers at the end of the nineteenth century commonly featured the notorious in their newspapers. The proliferation of movies during the first decades of the twentieth century bore a special bond with the American Dream of upward mobility. The timing of World War I was fortuitous for improving the film industry's standing by portraying its players as patriots. The growth of the movie industry in the first decades of the twentieth century coincided with changes in where people lived and how they lived, from survival-level subsistence to increasing stability.