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Journeying Through the Great Depression: The Resilience of the Hobo Community

Hungry Hobos: A Movie about the Struggles of the Great Depression

Hungry Hobos is a movie that takes viewers back to one of the darkest periods in American history: the Great Depression. This black and white film, directed by William A.

Wellman, was released in 1932 and tells the story of a group of destitute men who travel across the country in search of work, food, and shelter. Here is a brief synopsis of the movie.The Great Depression was a period of widespread economic downturn that lasted from 1929 to 1939.

It was a time when millions of people were left unemployed, homeless, and hungry. Hungry Hobos is a movie that depicts the struggles of those who were hit the hardest by this crisis.

It is a poignant reminder of the hardships that people went through during this time.


The movie opens with a group of hobos riding a freight train. They are hungry and desperate for work.

One of them, Oklahoma Red, played by Victor McLaglen, is the leader of the group. He is a strong-willed, tough-talking character who is not afraid to speak his mind.

As the group hops off the train, they find themselves in a town that is completely devoid of jobs. They wander around, looking for food and shelter.

But everywhere they go, they are met with hostility and suspicion. People are afraid of them and view them as lazy and dangerous.

Despite the challenges they face, the hobos refuse to give up. They work odd jobs, such as mowing lawns and cleaning floors, to earn some money.

They also beg for food and sleep in abandoned buildings. However, life on the road takes its toll on them.

They suffer from sickness, injuries, and exhaustion. As they continue their journey, they encounter various characters who either help or hinder them.

Some are kind and generous, while others are cruel and selfish. The hobos learn to rely on each other and to adapt to the harsh realities of their situation.


Hungry Hobos explores several themes that are relevant to the Great Depression. One of the main themes is the plight of the unemployed.

The hobos represent the millions of people who were left jobless and had to resort to unconventional means to survive. Another theme is the idea of community.

The hobos form a tight-knit group that looks out for each other. They understand the importance of working together and sharing resources.

The movie also touches on the issue of prejudice. The hobos are often seen as outcasts and are treated unfairly because of their appearance and lifestyle.

This mirrors the discrimination that many marginalized groups faced during the Great Depression.


Hungry Hobos is a movie that portrays the struggles of a group of men who were left with nothing during the Great Depression. It is a powerful reminder of the hardship and adversity that people faced during this time.

The movie also highlights the importance of community, resilience, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Overall, it is a must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about this important period in American history.

The plot of Hungry Hobos takes viewers on a journey through the eyes of the hobo community during the Great Depression. The film shows the struggles of the homeless and unemployed, who were forced to travel across the country in search of work and a better life.

From the very beginning, the hobo’s plight is portrayed. The opening scene shows them riding a freight train and jumping off it before it reaches the station.

They are not alone in their endeavor; a young boy who has run away from home soon joins them. This sets the stage for the audience to understand the frustration faced by the men.

Furthermore, it highlights the theme of community that runs throughout the movie. As the group of hobos makes their way through the country in search of work, they encounter different individuals with varying viewpoints.

Some individuals offer support and kindness, while others are hostile and view them with skepticism. At one point in the movie, the hobos meet a woman named Grace, who provides them with food and shelter.

This act of generosity is in stark contrast to the majority of people they have come across, who have shown nothing but contempt towards them. Soon after, the group decides to camp out near a farmer’s field.

The farmer takes umbrage at their presence and accuses them of stealing his crops. The hobos try to explain their position and deny any wrongdoing, but the farmer does not believe them.

An altercation ensues, which ends with the farmer’s house catching fire, and the hobos forced to flee. The movie showcases the dangers of the hobo life, with the men often facing violence, theft, and even illness on their travels.

One character, played by Louis Natheaux, contracts pneumonia, which nearly costs him his life. This aspect of the film portrays the harsh reality of the time and brings to light the difficulties the hobos faced daily.

The main antagonist in the film is Detective Blair, played by J. Carroll Naish.

He is portrayed as a corrupt, power-hungry individual who will do whatever it takes to maintain control over the hobos. Blair harasses the group, follows them, and even arrests and jails them on several occasions.

Although the hobos are reluctant to confront him, they eventually unite together and face him head-on. Despite the adversity, the hobos remain resilient and continue to search for work and a better life.

The film exposes the audience to the daily struggles of the Great Depression and how it impacted the lives of ordinary people. The characters in the film are a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the human spirit.

A dialogue between the characters sheds light on different perspectives on life. One character, played by Guy Kibbee, emphasizes the importance of hard work and determination.

He believes that the hobos are lazy and could find work if they try harder. However, the other characters, especially Oklahoma Red, played by Victor McLaglen, highlights the fact that the situation is beyond their control.

The hobos have no choice but to travel across the country in search of work. In conclusion, Hungry Hobos provided a snapshot of the struggles of the Great Depression and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.

The film portrays the plight of the unemployed community, who resorted to unconventional means to survive. The characters’ resilience and perseverance are inspiring, and the movie serves as a reminder of the importance of community, hard work, and determination in difficult times.

Hungry Hobos is a classic movie that was produced during a time when the United States was facing severe economic recession. The movie represents the realism of the era, presenting the audience with characters that are relatable and reflect the struggles of the Great Depression.

Production of Hungry Hobos began in 1931 and was completed later that same year. The movie was directed by William A.

Wellman, known for his work on other films such as A Star Is Born and Wings. It was produced by Warner Brothers, one of the biggest film studios in Hollywood at the time.

The production of Hungry Hobos took place in various parts of California. The film’s settings reflect the stark reality of the hobos’ lives, with abandoned warehouses, train tracks, and dirt roads all part of its locations.

The props used in the movie were typical of the era, including flannel shirts, worn trousers, and battered hats, all in hues of grays and browns to match the overall tone of the film. The cast of the movie is made up of talented actors who brought the characters to life on the screen.

The lead character of Oklahoma Red was played by Victor McLaglen, who was a popular actor of the era known for his roles in films such as The Informer and The Quiet Man. The role of the young boy who joins the hobo community was played by Wesley Barry, who was a well-known child actor of the time.

The movie’s budget was modest, reflecting the economic conditions of the era. According to some sources, the film was produced for approximately $150,000, which was a relatively low-cost considering the budget of contemporary Hollywood productions.

The film’s screenplay was based on the book “The Road” by Jack London and another book by Ben Maddow, titled “The Hobo.” These books gave the movie its realistic edge, with its focus on the hobo community during the Great Depression. The movie’s soundtrack played a significant role in evoking the emotions and sentiments of the film.

The use of traditional folk songs such as “The Big Rock Candy Mountains” helped to highlight the themes of resilience, endurance, and hope that run throughout the film. The music also reflects the cultural background of the hobo community, with many of their songs and messages representing their struggles and desire for a better life.

The filming style of Hungry Hobos used a combination of natural lighting and shadows to create a mood that suits the storyline. The camera work is minimal, with the director often allowing the actors to take center stage, and the use of medium and close-up shots are well balanced in showing the emotions and struggles of the characters.

In conclusion, the production of Hungry Hobos – from the direction, screenplay, cast, and soundtrack played a significant role in evoking the mood and sentiments of the era. The realistic portrayal of the hobos’ lives, the use of a modest budget, and the incorporation of real-life events and struggles brought authenticity to the film in a way that resonated with the American audience of that time.

Hungry Hobos is an excellent example of how Hollywood productions can reflect the mood and atmosphere of a particular era and capture the essence of human sentiment. Hungry Hobos was released in January 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression.

The movie was well received and is now considered a classic of its era. Its release coincided with a time of severe economic hardship in the United States, presenting audiences with a depiction of the struggles that many were enduring.

The movie was distributed by Warner Bros, one of the biggest film studios of that time, with its release generating much anticipation. The studio used various marketing strategies to promote the movie since the storyline had the potential to resonate with a significant number of Americans who were struggling through the Depression.

Several advertising strategies were employed to draw audiences to theaters. For example, posters and flyers featuring the main cast of the movie and key scenes were distributed widely.

In addition, a trailer and preview reels were shown in other movie theaters to create buzz and generate interest in the film. The premiere of Hungry Hobos was held in San Francisco, and the movie was soon widely released to theaters across the country.

Initial reviews were positive, with critics praising the movie’s realism and heartfelt performances. The film’s portrayal of the hardships faced by the unemployed and homeless during the Great Depression gave audiences a new perspective on the struggles that many were enduring.

The audience could see the immense challenges that people faced in their everyday lives in ways that may have been relatable to their own. The film evoked a sense of empathy among audiences with the realistic portrayal of the hobo community.

It brought to the fore the idea of social justice and the provision of assistance to those in need. This message resonated with a large section of the American population and highlighted the need for greater compassion and care for the marginalized.

Despite being a low-budget movie, Hungry Hobos soon became a significant earner at the box office, grossing over $1 million in just a few months. It provided audiences with a voice for the voiceless, shining a light on the struggles of millions of Americans during the Great Depression.

The movie’s enduring legacy has led to it being regularly screened throughout the years as a part of classic film events, retrospectives and in cinemas and online today. It also helped launch some of the actors’ careers, such as McLaglen, who would go on to become one of Hollywood’s leading character actors in his time.

In conclusion, Hungry Hobos’ release was significant for marking its moment in time as well as the film continues to be a part of cultural memory within America. It addressed issues of social justice during one of the most challenging periods in American history, and audiences responded positively to its authenticity and poignant portrayal of the hobo community during the Great Depression.

The movie belongs to a particular lineage of films that give voice and visibility to the marginalized and helped establish key themes and motifs that continue to resonate in film and in popular culture today. The soundtrack for Hungry Hobos played a critical role in the film’s success, underscoring the movie’s themes of resilience, endurance, and hope.

The music was instrumental in evoking emotions and capturing marketable sentiment that helped the film resonate with audiences of the era. The soundtrack for the film consists of traditional folk songs and new compositions that capture the sentiments of the hobo community, such as ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ and ‘Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.’ These raw, folksy songs are significant cultural artifacts of the era, and through movies like Hungry Hobos, they are given new life and meaning and continue to resonate with audiences today.

The movie also uses various instruments and sounds effectively, contributing to the ambiance and mood of the scene. The use of guitar, harmonica, and banjo creates a somber tone and reflects the economic hardships of the Great Depression with piercing sadness and sharp clarity.

The music used in the movie is a mixed bag, with some compositions being original, while others featuring popular folk tunes of the time. The melody running through the movie combined with the visuals and dialogue helped create a sense of verisimilitude, linking the sounds of the film to the context in which it was made.

One example of this is the song ‘The Big Rock Candy Mountains’, a traditional that the movie uses to great effect. The song was a favorite among the hobos, reflecting their optimism and hope for a better future, and helped establish the movie’s vision of the hobos as a group that understood their limitations but continued to hope for a better life.

The song also created a sense of unity amongst the hobo community, giving them a shared experience and language that unified them.

The music was essential in evoking the tone of the era and immersing audiences in the filmmakers’ vision of the struggles that many were going through.

The songs establish an emotional connection and draw audiences into the movie’s world. They reflect the cultural background of the hobo community and resonated strongly with the audience of the time.

The film’s music was also utilized in the film’s advertising and marketing, with recordings and sheet music also being made available for purchase. This increased the movie’s audience and created a cultural impact that extended beyond the cinema to American households and communities.

In conclusion, the soundtrack of Hungry Hobos played a vital role in evoking the mood and emotions of the movie. The music and sounds serve to enhance the scenes in the movie, with songs such as ‘The Big Rock Candy Mountains’ emerging as cultural artifacts of the era with lasting meaning.

The soundtrack reflected the hobo community’s experience and helped convey their lives’ hardships, struggles, and dreams. The music of the film was deliberately chosen to resonate with the audience of the time while giving future audiences a window into the American experience of the Great Depression.

In its entirety, it remains an example of how music can complement and elevate a film’s narrative and how sound can augment the overall effect of a movie. In conclusion, Hungry Hobos is a poignant movie that provides a snapshot of the struggles of the Great Depression from a unique perspective.

The film’s themes of resilience, community, and perseverance continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a classic of its era. Its production, release, and soundtrack illustrated the film’s importance and helped create a lasting cultural impact.

Please see below for a list of FAQs.

1. What is the Great Depression?

The Great Depression was a period of economic downturn that occurred in the United States during the 1930s. 2.

How was Hungry Hobos received by audiences and critics? Hungry Hobos was well received by both critics and audiences.

3. Who directed Hungry Hobos?

Hungry Hobos was directed by William A. Wellman.

4. What is the significance of the movie’s soundtrack in reflecting the Great Depression?

The movie’s soundtrack was instrumental in evoking emotions and capturing the time’s sentiments of hope, resilience, and endurance. 5.

What was the budget of Hungry Hobos? The movie was produced for approximately $150,000, which was a low-cost budget for Hollywood productions of the time.

6. Was the movie profitable?

Yes, despite its relatively low budget, the movie earned over $1 million in just a few months. 7.

Why is the movie considered a classic? Hungry Hobos is considered a classic because of its portrayal of the struggles and hardships of the Great Depression and its emphasis on resilience, perseverance, and community.

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