In many compelling ways, America in the 21st century bears a remarkable and uncomfortable resemblance to the America of the 1930's: a polarized political climate rife with economic disparity, a legal system riddled with corruption, ethnic targeting and other immigration worries--all topics that resonate with an eerie similarity to the travails of today's uncertain world.

Hollywood in the 30's, in all its uncanny and prescient wisdom, was quick to respond to the social injustices it perceived with a stream of hard-hitting and uncompromising entertainments designed to ignite the passions and fuel the hopes of beleaguered movie-goers across the country. Contemporary cinema audiences (as well as students of political and social history) can learn a great deal from these powerful lessons from the past.

Film Series Overview

Whether dealing with outright societal issues (from juvenile delinquency to the staggering brutality of a wantonly corrupt prison system) or merely human dramas reflecting on the challenging times and conditions facing everyday Americans, these searing, emotionally charged dramas figured out what made this country tick and, with deft precision, they took careful aim at the myriad of dilemmas that faced our embattled nation.

This stimulating ten-week survey will be nothing short of a total immersion into the world of socially conscious cinema with the viewing and discussion of ten amazing films, all produced between 1932 and 1937. These inspiring classic films (featuring the works of such notable directors as William Wellman, Fritz Lang, William Wyler, Michael Curtiz and Mervyn LeRoy, as well as stars like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and James Cagney) helped heal a fractured nation with thought-provoking examples of dynamic populist entertainment.

Films in this Course

These are the TEN films we'll be watching in luxurious comfort at Cinema 21 in Portland each Tuesday morning at 11:00 am beginning January 14.

  • January 14: I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932; Mervyn LeRoy)
  • January 21: HEROES FOR SALE (1933; William Wellman)
  • January 28: WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933; William Wellman)
  • February 4: GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE (1933; Gregory LaCava)
  • February 11: FURY (1936; Fritz Lang)
  • February 18: THEY WON’T FORGET (1937; Mervyn LeRoy)
  • February 25: BLACK LEGION (1937; Archie Mayo)
  • March 3: MARKED WOMAN (1937; Lloyd Bacon)
  • March 10: ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938; Michael Curtiz)
  • Marc 17: DEAD END (1937; William Wyler)

PLEASE NOTE: This is a complete program and no individual tickets/days will be sold.

Films in this Course

Tuesdays at 11:00 am beginning January 14, 2020.

Cinema 21 616 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR 97209

Jan. 14 - Mar. 17, 2020
10 weeks
Portland, Oregon
price (2)


Elliot Lavine

Elliot Lavine has been a film programmer of national repute since 1990, both in the San Francisco Bay Area and now here in Portland. In 2010, he received the Marlon Riggs Award from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for his revival of rare archival titles and his role in the renewed popularity of film noir. He has taught film studies courses for Stanford's Continuing Studies Program since 2006.

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.