In the 1930s, the Soviet government became firmly established and Stalin was seen as the clear leader of the Russian people. With an economy that was now booming and food now available for most people after the horrors of the early stages of collectivization, culture was free to bloom once more. Cinema prospered in the Soviet Union during the 1930s, as was evidenced by the overwhelming success of Grigorii Aleksandrov’s 1934 smash movie musical Happy-Go-Lucky Fellows.
In Aleksandrov’s hit film, the story is centered on a shepherd whose talent for singing is discovered. He is taken to Moscow and becomes the leader of a jazz ensemble that achieves great fame. The movie makes a departure from the Soviet cinema of the 1920s; instead of focusing on avant-gardism and pioneering new cinematographic techniques, Aleksandrov chose to take advantage of the new sound technology and make a rich soundtrack for his film. Additionally, the political message is far subtler. The movie is instead more focused on the adventures of its hero, rather than promoting Soviet values. It is also worthy to note that the movie incorporates a great deal of jazz, which was typically seen as a very Western music style. The reason for this is likely to convince the audience of just how good life could be under Stalin’s Soviet regime, and to attempt to ease the bitter memories of the hunger and violence of the previous decade.
The above video is a scene from Happy-Go-Lucky Fellows that shows off the features of the new sound films with its rich jazz. Additionally, the scene offers lots of comic relief, and it feels very free, which is generally not how we think of the Soviet Union.
Happy-Go-Lucky Fellows is an excellent example of how cinema changed during the 1930s. It changed with the mentality of the citizens of the Soviet Union, and reflects how the Soviet Union of the 1930s was freer and more prosperous than in the years before and after.