The 1920s was a time which was defined by people’s love for the radio, dancing marathons, the flapper dress and much more. But do you know who were the people, blazing the trail during this magnificent time? Here’s a look at some of the famous people of the 1920s who proved to be an inspiration for many.
The 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, were marked by many significant events. The term, Roaring Twenties, is generally used with reference to the United States, whereas in Europe this era is referred to as the Golden Twenties. Apart from many changes in the society, be it in terms of economy or fashion, there were many people who made a mark during this eventful decade. Let’s take a trip down the memory lane and learn about some of the famous people of this decade who have left their mark on the pages of history.
Charlie Chaplin (16 April, 1889 – 25 December, 1977) has always been known as greatest comedian of the silent era. Bagging many awards for his work, Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin was renowned for his talent in directing, composing and music. ‘The Great Dictator’ was his first dialog picture where Chaplin played the role of a dictator, based on Hitler.
The year 1921 saw the production and release of Chaplin’s longest film of 68 minutes, “The Kid”. This movie topped the popularity charts and was released in more than 50 countries by 1924. Chaplin later wrote, produced and directed another silent film “Gold Rush” in 1925, for which he went on to receive Oscar Nomination for Best Sound Recording.
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson (18 September, 1905 – 15 April, 1990) popularly known as Greta Garbo was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Starting with small roles, it was in the early 1920s when Greta Garbo polished her acting skills at the Royal Dramatic Theater.
This was also the time when she was chosen by director Mauritz Stiller who trained and honed her acting skills. He even gave her the screen name – Greta Garbo. Some of her popular silent movies that displayed her acting talent were “The Temptress”, “Flesh and the Devil”, “Love”, etc.
John Cecil Pringle (10 July, 1897 – 9 January, 1936) also known as John Gilbert made his mark in 1924 with films like “His Hour” and “He Who Gets Slapped”. Though he is known as one of the actors of the silent film era who failed to make a successful transition to the times of talkies, show biz was quick to dub him as ‘the Great Lover’ during 1920s.
His film, “The Big Parade”, turned out to be the second highest film to earn good revenue in the silent film category. His on- and off-screen romance with Greta Garbo created quite a stir in the media. Unfortunately, his popularity along with his on-screen charisma faded away with time and the introduction of sound in the movies.
Mary Louise Brooks, popularly known as Louise Brooks (14 November, 1906 – 8 August, 1985), was born in Cherryvale, Kansas. She began her career as a dancer in 1922. She landed with a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures when producer Walter Wanger noticed her in 1925.
Louise Brooks starred in the silent film, “The Street of Forgotten Men” in 1925. She soon bagged many leading roles in the silent movies that belonged to the comedy genre. She particularly made a mark as a vamp in the movie “A Girl in Every Port” (1928)
Born as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, Coco Chanel (19 August, 1883 – 10 January, 1971) is famous for familiarizing women with her casual and chic fashion sense in the post World War I era. She is famous for her creation of the Little Black Dress which is in vogue, even today. Its original embodiment was in silk and crèpe de chine.
Chanel also designed a handbag, called the Chanel 2.25, to liberate women from the pain of a handheld bag. After handbags, she ventured into production of sunscreen lotions which became an essential accessory among women during mid-1920s.
German-born theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein (14 March, 1879 – 18 April, 1955) is world-renowned for his breakthrough in the field of physics. He established the relations between mass and energy by inventing the formula, E = mc2.
In 1921, he bagged the coveted Nobel Prize for discovering the law of Photoelectric Effect. He also has about 300 research papers to his credit, which include Brownian Motion and Theory of Relativity. He died in 1955 at the age of 76, working even in his last days.
Louis Armstrong (4 August, 1901 – 6 July, 1971) was a jazz trumpeter born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Apart from his influence in jazz music, Armstrong was also a powerful singer known for his deep and distinct voice. In 1923, he joined his mentor Joe Oliver to play second cornet in “Creole Jazz Band”. Later in 1924, Armstrong and Oliver parted ways mutually.
Armstrong then went on to have a solo career. His piano duet with Earl Hines, “Weather Bird” in 1928 was a huge success. Armstrong was also the first person to record a scat song “Heebie Jeebies” in 1926. His career spanned 57 years with “What a Wonderful World”, ” Hello Dolly!”, St. Louis Blues, being a few of his many popular songs.
World famous painter, sculptor and ceramicist, Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (25 October, 1881 – 8 April, 1973) is still regarded as one of the most influential artists in the world. His prominent works from 1920 to 1929 include “Musiciens aux masques (1921)”, “Mandolin and Guitar (1924)”, “Les Trois Danseuses (1925) ” and “Woman in a Red Armchair (1929)”.
Well-known for his Cubist movement, Picasso often divided his work of art into Periods such as the Blue Period (portraying painting in shades of blue and blue-green), Rose Period (marked by red, orange and shades of pink), etc. In his lifetime, he produced as many as 1,885 paintings, 1,228 sculptures and 2,880 ceramic works.
American baseball player George Herman Ruth Jr. (6 February, 1895 – 16 August, 1948), widely known as Babe Ruth, is famous for his record-setting home runs (714) during his career of 22 seasons in Major League Baseball. He is also the first player to set a record of hitting maximum home runs (60) in one season (1927).
He debuted as a starting pitcher for Boston Red Sox in 1914, and later played for the Yankees as a right fielder. He was a seven-time World Series Champion, of which 3 wins came during the years 1923, 1927 and 1928. At the time of his retirement, he was playing for the Boston Braves. In the year 1936, Ruth became one of the first few players selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This inspiring American director was at the peak of his career during 1920s. Although he had set on to become an actor, David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (22 January, 1875 – 23 July, 1948) is best known for his directorial venture “A Birth of A Nation”.
He is also celebrated for his brilliant direction in films such as “Way Down East” (1920), “Dream Street” (1921), “One Exciting Night” (1922) and “America” (1924).
Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O’Keeffe (15 November, 1887 – 6 March, 1986) was a painter and one of the few women who etched her name in the art community during 1920s. Her career kicked off in 1916 and by mid-1920s she came to be known as one the most influential artists in America. Her painting “The Green Apple” (1922) was inspired by Precisionism and depicted a simple and a purposeful life.
During this time, she completed her first large-scale painting, “Petunia No.2” (1924). In 1928, she received $25,000 (US) for six of her paintings, which was the largest sum that any living American artist had ever obtained, for a collection of paintings at that time.
Born as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, Vladimir Lenin (22 April, 1870 – 21 January, 1924) is known for his revolutionary thinking and oratory skills as a politician. He played a significant role in the October Revolution of 1917, which led to the dissolution of Russian Provisional government and formation of Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (SFSR).
This political theorist was the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian SFSR from 1917 to 1924. He was also appointed as the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union and he continued to be in this position from 1922 to 1924.
Scottish scientist, Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August, 1881 – 11 March, 1955) worked extensively in the fields of Botany, Biology, and Pharmacy. He is best known for his discovery of enzyme Lysozyme (1923) and penicillin. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 for his discoveries.
Interestingly, penicillin was also an accidental discovery that happened when all the cultures of staphylococci, which Fleming kept in his laboratory, got infected with fungus. The colonies near the fungus died whereas those further away survived.
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw (26 July, 1856 – 2 November, 1950) was a playwright of Irish origin renowned for his play, “Pygmalion”. In 1925, he was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature. Although he accepted the award, he rejected the prize money and instead donated it to finance the translation of Swedish books into English.
He is the only person who has won both a Nobel Prize in Literature and an Oscar for the movie adaption of “Pygmalion”.
This was the list of some of world’s most famous personalities who were at the peak of their career from 1920 to 1930. No matter what path they took in the course of time, they remain a constant source of inspiration for the young and old alike.