The 1930s was the decade of the Great Depression. Unemployment was high and prohibition was still in force in America until 1933. During this period, most people relied on radio broadcasts for their news and entertainment, and the Golden Age of Hollywood was just getting started. The decade ended with the advent of WWII.

Essential mini-directory to get you started on 1930s cult classics – guaranteed to make you look deep and interesting at parties.


Brave New World

Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley – one of the great literary dystopias

Tropic of Cancer (1934) by Henry Miller – banned in America under obscenity laws and not published until 1961

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James M. Cain – classic crime novel. Also banned and the inspiration for Camus’ The Stranger

Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot in action on the elegant train stopped by a snow storm

Nausea (1938) by Jean-Paul Sartre – existential philosophical novel, not a beach read



The 1930s was the period of ‘dirty blues’, or Hokum Blues as it was also known, replete with innuendo and sexual euphemisms. 

‘Banana in Your Fruit Basket’ (1930) by Bo Carter – lots of talk about rubbing and churning

‘Shave ‘Em Dry’ (1935) by Lucille Bogan – lyrics that would make Cardi B blush

‘Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage’ (1935) by Lil Johnson – she’s not at the farmers’ market

‘Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl’ (1931) by Bessie Smith – you get the idea by now

Billie Holiday was also gaining popularity in the 1930s with songs such as ‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do’



The 1930s belong to Bela Lugosi!

Dracula (1931) – Bela Lugosi as the best Dracula on screen?

White Zombie (1932) – said to be the first zombie film made

King Kong (1933) – the original with Fay Wray

The Black Cat (1934) – the first film to pair Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff

The 39 Steps (1935) – British spy thriller and Hitchcock classic