Celebrating the History of Motion Pictures from 1890 to 1960

1931 Timelines: 1930 to 1939

RKO takes control of Pathè’s assets.


Carl Laemmle, founder and president of Universal Pictures, celebrates his 25th anniversary in the movie business.


Mary Pickford buys up all of her silent films. She feels that the recent technical advances in the motion picture industry has made actors in old films look ridiculous.


Thomas Edison, whose company invented the motion picture camera, dies at the age of 84.


The Fox Film Corporation posts a loss of $4.2 million, in contrast to its $10 million profit in 1930.


The Roxy Theaters Corporation posts a loss of over $160,000.


RCA takes over controlling interest in RKO. The deal triggers a U.S. Senate investigation.


Although many studios experimented with widescreen formats after the introduction of sound, the most successful being the “Grandeur” process that used 70mm film stock and projected a picture with an aspect ratio of 2.13:1, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declares a moratorium on widescreen films.


RCA introduces its “ribbon” microphone. Because it is a directional microphone it eliminates a lot of the extraneous noise made during film–making, such as sound coming from the camera and from the lights. It also keeps the sound level on the track at a uniform level.


Significant Films:

Universal releases, “Dracula”, starring Bela Lugosi.

D.W. Griffith’s film, “The Struggle”, is a critical and financial failure.

Warner Bros. releases “Little Caesar”. Edward G. Robinson plays a character clearly based on Al Capone, and becomes forever identified with the role. The movie becomes the year’s third highest grossing film and is in the vanguard of a wave of gangster films.

Warner Bros. releases the hard–edged gangster film, “Public Enemy”. Starring James Cagney, a former vaudeville song–and– dance man, the movie causes a sensation when Cagney mashes a grapefruit in Mae Clark’s face.

Fritz Lang’s first talking film, “M”, is released in Berlin. Starring Peter Lorre, a little–known stage actor, the film successfully captures the atmosphere of fear and mob violence that is engulfing Germany.

Universal releases, “Frankenstein”, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the monster.

RKO’s Western, “Cimarron”, wins the Academy Award for “Outstanding Production”.

India’s first feature–length sound film,“Alam Ara”, is released by the Imperial Film Company in Bombay.

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