We’ve had the “old movie accent” discussion on the SDMB before. I haven’t seen any threads on the “old movie gait”, though. Whenever I see a movie from the 1940s and earlier, often people seemt to be walking with a rather unusual gait; very stiff compared to today, and often “waddley”, for lack of a better word. In scenes with crowds on the street, everybody seems to have that stiff gait. If an African-American hack comedian was looking to perfect their “white people walk like this” routine, watching films from the 1940s would be perfect for their training.
So, did people really walk differently in the first half of the 20th century?
Can someone link to the “old movie accent” discussion? I can’t search for being a guest…
My contribution is that, like dressing nicer to go out than people do now, perhaps holding yourself up straight, walking stiffly and not “slouching” was just the way it was seen fit to conduct yourself in public arenas.
One thing you might do to determine if you are looking at an affectation of the movies of that era, or an actual difference in everyday life, is try to dig up some newsreel footage showing street scenes, and see if it’s evident there.
I recall reading something about John Wayne and it mentioned that actors were taught to walk in a specific manner, especially during the era when cameras were kept relatively still. They took very small steps so that it looked like they were moving but they didn’t cover a lot of ground. I’m not sure about the walking part.
Stage training would make sense too, because your range of movement is limited on stage and you have to exaggerate your movements in order to communicate them to the audience.
I doubt very much that this has anything to do with it. Stage and movie acting were strict disciplines that had little to do with “proper conduct” and a lot more to to with the practicalities of the technology, communication, and theatrical tradition.
But in the silent era which certainly covers most of the 1920s frame rate was lower, 16-18 frames per second. Many of us grew up seeing silent films (Chaplin and Keaton shorts and the like) that looked accelerated because they were being projected on modern equipment at 24 fps.
Lacking any supporting documentation or examples, I am going to say it was part of the more affected, “actorly” way of presentation on-screen.
No one wanted to see people acting like the folks they could see every day…
Think of how people look in those “comically sped-up manic” scenes (such as Charlie Chaplin takeoffs) and all their moves are somewhat jerky and waddly. It’s the same deal with those 1920s/early 30s street scenes. I think the OP mistyped the decades, that’s all.