Come and Get Your Happiness: Hollywood Musicals During the Great Depression and World War II

Sheryl Flatow
Music / Arts & Letters

Course Description

When the country was in the depths of despair during the Great Depression and fighting the scourge of fascism during World War II, Hollywood musicals offered the public a respite from the real world. Some musicals provided pure escapism, but many found ways to reflect the reality of the time while dispensing more than a measure of much-needed hope for the future. Frequently, in ways both overt and subtle, these musicals simultaneously acknowledged the anguish and agony of a wounded nation, while offering messages that comforted, energized, lifted the spirits and, during the war years, boosted the morale of the troops overseas and Americans at home. The Roosevelt administration even advised Hollywood to consider, “Will this picture help win the war?” This series will take a look at song, dance, and an occasional scene from a few dozen movie musicals of the '30s and '40s that tapped into the imaginations and psyches of the public and helped Americans envision light in the darkest times.


  1. The Depression: Films of Busby Berkeley, Al Jolson, Shirley Temple, Bing Crosby, and Others
  2. The Depression: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Alice Faye, Judy Garland, and Others
  3. World War II: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Dennis Morgan, Gene Kelly, and Others
  4. World War II: Betty Grable, The Andrews Sisters, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, and Others

About the Instructor

  • Sheryl Flatow has written about theatre and dance for more than 30 years. She curated major exhibitions in San Francisco on Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, George Balanchine, and several others. She has also conducted public interviews with leading figures in the arts, including Patti LuPone, Sheldon Harnick, Natalia Makarova and Estelle Parsons. In addition, Flatow wrote the CD liner notes for Into the Woods and Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

Upcoming programs presented by Sheryl Flatow.

TypeNumberInstructorCourse TitleAdd to Cart
4wk W243B Sheryl Flatow Jule Styne: Make Someone Happy
Tuesdays, February 11, 18, 25; March 3: 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm