1940s Entertainment


Entertainment during the 1940s


1940s entertainment 


When you consider your life and the technology available to you today, you may wonder… “What did people do for entertainment in the 1940s?”


One of the main influences on entertainment in the 1940s in America was World War II. The war shaped radio, the film industry, music, and musical theater programs of the time.  Americans were either desperate to hear the about what was going on in the war, or wanted to get away from the troubling news.


Radio was an extremely popular form of entertainment during the 1940s, as entire families came together to listen to the radio. Radio offered live news and sports shows, talent and quiz shows, as well as a wide array of entertainment shows—live music, drama, children’s programming, comedy, and many variety shows.  Some of the most famous programs in the 1040s were Abbott and Costello, Escape, The Jack Benny Program, and Suspense.


Much like radio, the film industry was greatly influenced by the war as well as the changes that were occurring in technology. Although the industry got a rough start, movies were becoming more popular toward the mid-forties as filmmakers were producing much more modern films. People enjoyed live-action and animated films (usually about the war) during this time. Movies of the 1940s brought forth some big names that are still famous for their work, including Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney.


Music in the 1940s was also heavily influenced by the war, and some of the most popular songs seemed to be about loss and love.  However, many musicians felt the need to do their part to help lift the spirits of the country with their music. Jazz and big band were popular genres, bringing forth musicians like Bing Crosby, The Dorsey Brothers, Artie Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, and Rosemary Clooney. Bebop and scatting were also popular during the 1940s.


Musical theater was also gaining popularity in America in the 1940s. Known as the Golden Age of American Musical Theater, shows like Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate, and Annie Get Your Gun all opened on Broadway in the forties and have become 1940s entertainment classics in the eyes of Americans.


There is no doubt that technology affects the entertainment industry, however, current events also seem to have a great effect on the type of entertainment in which a society partakes. 1940s entertainment was clearly shaped by World War II, which is proven by the most popular music, movies, radio programs, and plays.


What is your favorite show from the 1940s? Let’s talk about it here, in the comments below, or on Twitter. You can also look me up on Goodreads or Facebook to learn more. Check out my book, Underground Stories.




November 16, 2016, “The Golden Age of Radio,” Cyber College, Accessed August 23, 2017, http://www.cybercollege.com/frtv/frtv018.htm.

“Famous Weekly Shows,” Old Time Radio, Accessed August 21, 2017, http://www.old-time.com/weekly/.

Dirks, Tim, “The History of Film: The 1940s,” Filmsite.org, http://www.filmsite.org/40sintro.html.

“1940’s Music,” The People History, Accessed August 23, 2017, http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/40smusic.html.

Craine, Jen, January 15, 2016, “The Best Broadway Shows from the 1940s,” New York Film Academy Student Resources, https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/the-best-broadway-shows-from-the-1940s/.

2 responses to “1940s Entertainment

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD