Some theorize that the greatest art is born out of uncertainty and hardship. If that's the case, the 1930s certainly measure up. The Great Depression and World War II were austere bookends to a tumultuous decade, and the types of films released three-quarters of a century ago reflect that.

Musical escapism ('Swing Time,' '42nd Street') and screwball comedies ('Bringing Up Baby,' 'My Man Godfrey,' 'The Awful Truth') jollied theatergoers out of their torpor during the darkest days of '30s. For adrenaline junkies who counted thrills and chills as a boost, Universal Studios began its classic series of horror films ('Frankenstein,' 'Bride of Frankenstein,' 'Dracula' and 'The Invisible Man'). Finally, during the last year of the decade, nine seminal movies, including 'Gone With the Wind' and 'The Wizard of Oz' unspooled before audiences suffused with nostalgia about a world that was soon to change forever.