Program Details

Films of the 1930s: A Visual Retrospective on a Turbulent Decade

Burton Atkins
History / Movies
Video Catch-up

Course Description

As the 1930s began, much of the world was reeling from the wrenching effects of the 1929 stock market collapse and the shock waves from the economic calamity that reverberated around the world. In the United States, voters in 1932 turned, en mass, to Franklin Roosevelt and his Democratic Party’s New Deal for a new way forward. In Germany, voters veered down a fundamentally different path by turning to Adolph Hitler’s National Socialists for a solution to their problems, a collective decision that would have vast repercussions across the world. By 1939, Europe was engulfed by what would become the largest and costliest conflict in human history. As these events were unfolding, movies were becoming a powerful medium of culture and entertainment. Using this turbulent decade as a backdrop, this series will use clips from movies from and about the 1930s, along with music and newsreel footage, to evaluate the social, cultural and political issues that inform and instruct us about our past. (The film selection and order of presentation are subject to change).


  1. The Blue Angel (1930); “M” (1931)
  2. Little Caesar (1931); The Public Enemy (1931)
  3. City Lights (1931); Modern Times (1936)
  4. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933); 42nd Street (1933)
  5. It Happened One Night (1934); Top Hat (1934)
  6. Stagecoach (1939); Wuthering Heights (1939)
  7. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  8. Wizard of Oz (1939); Gone With the Wind (1939)

About the Instructor

  • Burton Atkins, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Florida State University (FSU). Currently, he teaches political science at FAU and for Penn State University. In his 35-year career at FSU, Atkins taught a variety of courses on and wrote extensively about constitutional law and U.S. politics and served as chair of the political science department. He lived in London from 1992 to 1997 while serving as the Director of FSU's London Study Center, and from 1997 until his retirement in 2006, he served as Director of the FSU International Affairs Program.

Upcoming programs presented by Burton Atkins.

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