The Crash Of 1929 Revisited In 2020

A Commentary On How History Repeats Itself by Mitch Santell

Alfred Santell Ginger Rogers Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

It was back in August of 1996 when my fourth child was born that I started to think about my Great Uncle Alfred Santell and my Grandfather Martin James Santell who were directly involved in writing scripts, producing and directing movies during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

There was only one request that my Great Uncle and my Grandfather made of me before they passed on. (RIP)

Alfred Santell Janet Gaynor 1932

What was the request?

Answer: It was my responsibility to carefully keep and share the stories of the Santell Legacy from 1914 to 1946.

farrell-santell-gaynor copy
My Great Uncle Alfred Santell in the 1930s

This can be a challenging task when the people you love and are writing about have passed on. I’ll do the absolute best I can to give you a picture of what it was like during the Golden Era of Hollywood.

Mitch 2007 Yes
In Los Angeles at a Pitch Meeting. 

The Santell Legacy is in my DNA, as I have literally lived in a suit for most of my professional life. It was my Grandmother Iris Santell who was, born Iris Block and re-married a second time and became Iris Crosty (RIP).

Marty and Richard Santell

After my Great Uncle Alfred Santell and my Grandfather, Martin James Santell, finished “The Brenan Girl” in 1946, Alfred, and Marty went their separate ways. (They would always love each other and be brothers, they simply ended their chapter together in the film business).

My Great Uncle would fall in love and married Yoshiko and moved to Japan in 1950.

My Grandfather Martin James Santell was offered a Directing Spot at Paramount Pictures new Television Division in 1953 but decided to shift his career to the “Retail Record Business” and exited Paramount Pictures with no hard feelings, he simply moved on.

My Grandfather, Martin James Santell, partnered with my Dad and launched 3 small record stores called Marty’s Music. These three little shops were located in West Covina, Hacienda Heights, and Inglewood. By 1964, Marty’s Music shifted from 3 stores down to one store, and that store in West Covina lasted until 1976 when the record business once again changed.

Martin James Santell & Alfred Santell in 1931

It was my duty and responsibility to share the story of my Grandfather Martin James Santell, who was born in San Francisco in, 1900 living with his older brother, who was born in 1895 in Europe and moved to New York and then to San Francisco. 

Okay, so let’s get back to August of 1996 when my 4th child was born.

It was at that time that I started to seriously look at how my own Family survived the crash of 1929. 


There were lots of stories about my Great Uncle Alfred Santell and how they started in the film business and what he was being paid in 1929.

The story that I used to tell in 1996 while I was 39 years of age was that my Great Uncle Alfred Santell was paid 10,000 dollars a week in the film business working for a major studio.

The truth is that I was wrong, and it was only after I returned from living in New Zealand that I discovered the truth of what my Great Uncle and my Grandfather were paid during the Great Depression.

Are you ready?

Alfred Santell and Martin Santell were a tremendous directing team in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940’s, plus my Great Uncle wrote his first script in 1914.

The fact that they were able to start off in the silent film discover and start the career of Gloria Swanson during the silent era as well as beginning the careers of David Niven, Red Skelton, and Barbara Stanwyck in the 1940s is a testament to their talent and that era.

Marion Davies was my Dad’s Godmother and my Dad at 17 used to go up to Hearst Castle to play tennis. (I’ll have more for you on this in another blog posting).

According to a cover story in Forbes Magazine in 1931, this is how the Santell team were paid.

Fox Film Corp

Fox Film-Corp., which later became 20th Century Fox contracted The Santell Team to shoot 200,000 Feet of Film for each Feature-Length Film, which was edited down to 8,000 feet of film for release.

Alfred Santell was contracted to Direct 5 films every two years. The Santell Team were paid 50,000 dollars per picture X (times) 5 = $ 250,000 dollars. Can you imagine? This was in 1931. My Great Uncle owned 3 homes in Los Angeles. One home in Beverly Hills, One home in Belair and One Home in the Hollywood Hills.

First Scene Alfred and Martin Santell

Look at the date in this scan from Fortune Magazine in 1931. Imagine? The stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, and on November 30, 1929, my Grandfather Martin Santell is up at 3:30 AM, shooting the first scene of the movie. ( I know he shot this scene because he told me personally). 

You may think that I am totally delusional, but I had there bizarre feeling back in 1996 that I would be alive during the next “Global-Reset.”

Guess what? It’s here! All we can do is ride the wave!

A very special thank you to one of my favorite cousins, Jimmy Courneya who sincerely inspired me and shared with me that I have to start writing our family stories down from old Hollywood. Hey, What about the music store stories? Oh yes, those are coming to this blog soon!

Jimmy Courneya & Mitch Santell June 17 2006
Jimmy was my Dad’s partner at Marty’s Music and after for over 20 years.

stock market crash 1929 wow
Do We Really Have To Go Through This Again?

Link to this video:

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