Hollywood Pre-Code Films

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domino harvey
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Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#1 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:34 pm

I spent a good deal of time while watching the pre-code docs Complicated Women and Thou Shalt Not jotting down all the great-looking films not included in Universal, Sony, and Warners' sets, but I was surprised that there's no centralized place on this forum to discuss and/or recommend pre-code films, either those already released on home video or languishing in TCM airings and back alley boots. So that's what this thread is, hopefully: a place to bring to light some favorite precode flicks or ask about whether a certain title is worth seeking out, &c.

I've tried to collect what I could find from the forum with regards to past discussion and would appreciate links to anything that belongs in that section. I no doubt need help with the DVD guide as well. Recommendations of books on the subject and any other worthwhile docs also sought!

PRE-CODE DVDS
A Farewell to Arms (1932) (PD but Kino best option, pressed / RB BFI)

After Tomorrow (1932) (Fox, pressed)

Animal Crackers (1930) (Universal, pressed)

the Animal Kingdom (1932) (Alpha, pressed)

Anna Christie (1930) (Warners, pressed)

Arrowsmith (1932) (MGM, pressed)

Bad Girl (1931) (Fox, pressed)

the Barbarian (1933) (Warners Archive, MOD)

the Beast of the City (1932) (Warners Archive, MOD)

Beauty and the Boss (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

the Big House (1929) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Bird of Paradise (1932) (Kino, pressed)

Black Moon (1934) (Sony, MOD)

Blonde Venus (1932) (Universal, pressed)

Bombshell (1933) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Born Reckless (1930) (Fox, pressed)

Born to be Bad (1934) (Fox, pressed)

the Broadway Melody (1929) (Warners, pressed)

Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Carole Lombard in the Thirties (TCM Vault, initially pressed, may now be MOD)
Brief Moment (1933)
Lady by Choice (1934)
No More Orchids (1932)

the Champ (1931) (Warners, initially pressed now MOD)

Cimarron (1931) (Warners, pressed)

the Coconauts (1929) (Universal, pressed)

Columbia Pictures Pre-Code Collection (TCM Vault, initially pressed, may now be MOD)
Arizona (1931)
Shopworn (1932)
Ten Cents a Dance (1931)
Three Wise Girls (1932)
Virtue (1932)

Counsellor at Law (1933) (Kino, pressed)

the Criminal Code (1931) (TCM Vault, initially pressed, may now be MOD)

the Crowd Roars (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

the Dawn Patrol (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

the Death Kiss (1932) (Kino, pressed)

Design for Living (1933) (Criterion Collection, pressed)

Dinner at Eight (1931) (Warners, pressed)

Diplomaniacs (1933) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Doctor Bull (1933) (Fox, pressed)

the Doorway to Hell (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Dorothy MacKaill Pre-Code Double Feature (Warner Archives, MOD)
Bright Lights (1930)
the Reckless Hour (1931)

Dorothy MacKaill Double Feature (Warner Archives, MOD)
the Office Wife (1930)
the Party Husband (1931)

Double Harness (1933) (TCM Vault, MOD)

Duck Soup (1933) (Universal, pressed)

Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde (1932) (Warners, pressed)

the Eagle and the Hawk (1933) (TCM Vault, initially pressed now MOD)

Evelyn Prentice (1934) (Warners, pressed)

Five Star Final (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Flesh (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 1 (Warners, pressed)
Baby Face (Pre-release and release versions) (1933)
Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Waterloo Bridge (1931)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 2 (Warners, pressed)
the Divorcee (1930)
Female (1933)
A Free Soul (1931)
Night Nurse (1931)
Three on a Match (1932)
plus Thous Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (2008)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 3 (Warners, pressed)
Frisco Jenny (1932)
Heroes for Sale (1933)
Midnight Mary (1933)
Other Men's Women (1931)
the Purchase Price (1932)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
plus Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995)
and WIlliam A Wellman: the Men Who Made Movies (1973)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 4 (Warners, initially pressed now MOD)
Jewel Robbery (1932)
Lawyer Man (1932)
Man Wanted (1932)
They Call it Sin (1932)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 5 (Warners, initially pressed now MOD)
Hard to Handle (1933)
Ladies They Talk About (1933)
the Mind Reader (1933)
Miss Pinkerton (1932)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 6 (Warners, initially pressed, eventually MOD)
Downstairs (1932)
Mandalay (1934)
Massacre (1934)
the Wet Parade (1932)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 7 (Warners, initially pressed, eventually MOD)
Employees' Entrance (1933)
Ex-Lady (1933)
the Hatchet Man (1932)
Skyscraper Souls (1932)

Forbidden Hollywood Vol 8 (Warners, initially pressed, eventually MOD)
Blonde Crazy (1931)
Dark Hazard (1934)
Hi, Nellie! (1934)
Strangers May Kiss (1931)

42nd Street (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Frank Capra: the Early Collection (TCM Vault, initially pressed, may now be MOD)
the Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Forbidden (1932)
Ladies of Leisure (1930)
the Miracle Woman (1931)
Rain or Shine (1930)

Frankenstein (1931) (Universal, pressed)

Gabriel Over the White House (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Girl Missing (1933) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Grand Hotel (1932) (Warners, pressed)

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum! (1933) (MGM, pressed)

Heat Lightning (1934) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Hell's Angels (1930) (Universal, pressed)

Hell's Heroes (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Hell's House (1932) (Kino, pressed)

Horse Feathers (1932) (Universal, pressed)

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang! (1933) (Warners, pressed)

I'm No Angel (1933) (Universal, pressed)

Illicit (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

In Old Arizona (1931) (Fox, pressed)

International House (1933) (Universal, pressed)

Island of Lost Souls (1932) (Criterion Collection, pressed)

Kept Husbands (1931) (PD)

King Kong (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Kongo (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Lady Killer (1933) (Warners, pressed)

the Last Flight (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Let Us Be Gay (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

the Letter (1929) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Liliom (1930) (Fox, pressed)

Little Caesar (1931) (Warners, pressed)

the Little Giant (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Love Me Tonight (1934) (Kino, pressed)

the Love Trap (1929) (Kino, pressed)

Lubitsch Musicals (Criterion Collection -- Eclipse, pressed)
the Love Parade (1929)
Monte Carlo (1930)
One Hour With You (1933)
the Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

Madam Satan (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Marlene Dietrich: Directed by Josef von Sternberg (TCM Vault, initially pressed now MOD)
Dishonored (1931)
Shanghai Express (1932)

the Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) (Warners, pressed)

Mata Hari (1931) (Warners, pressed)

the Mayor of Hell (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Men O' War (Short, 1929) (Vivendi, pressed)

Millie (1931) (PD)

Monkey Business (1931) (Universal, pressed)

Morocco (1930) (Universal, pressed)

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) (Universal, pressed)

Murders in the Zoo (1933) (TCM Vault, initially pressed now MOD)

Night After Night (1932) (Universal, pressed)

Night Flight (1933) (Warners, pressed)

the Old Dark House (1932) (Kino, pressed)

One Man's Journey (1933) (TCM Vault, MOD)

Our Modern Maidens (1929) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Penthouse (1933) (Warners Archive, MOD)

Picture Snatcher (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Pilgrimage (1933) (Fox, pressed)

Platinum Blonde (1931) (Sony, pressed)

the Power and the Glory (1933) (Fox, MOD)

Pre-Code Double Feature (Warner Archives, MOD)
the Crash (1932)
Registered Nurse (1934)

Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (Universal, pressed)
the Cheat (1931)
Hot Saturday (1932)
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)
Murder at the Vanities (1934)
Search For Beauty (1934)
Torch Singer (1933)

Precode Hollywood Double Feature (VCI, pressed)
Hell Harbor (1931)
Jungle Bride (1933)

the Public Enemy (1931) (Warners, pressed)

Queen Christina (1933) (Warners, pressed)

Rafter Romance (1933) (TCM Vault, MOD)

Rain (1932) (PD)

Rasputin and the Empress (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Red Dust (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Riptide (1934) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Road to Paradise (1930) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Safe in Hell (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Scarface (1932) (Universal, pressed)

the Scarlet Empress (1934) (Criterion Collection, pressed)

Seas Beneath (1931) (Fox, pressed)

She Done Him Wrong (1933) (Universal, pressed)

the Sign of the Cross (1932) (Universal, pressed)

the Sin of Nina Moran (1930) (PD but Image best quality, initially pressed now MOD)

Sit Tight (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Smart Money (1931) (Warners, pressed)

Song O' My Heart (1930) (Fox, pressed)

the Song of Songs (1933) (TCM Vault, MOD)

the Sport Parade (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

the Squall (1929) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Stingaree (1934) (TCM Vault, MOD)

the Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Street Scene (1931) (Image, pressed)

Susan Lenox (Her Rise and Fall) (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Svengali (1931) (Alpha, pressed)

Tarzan and His Mate (1934) (Warners, pressed)

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) (Warners, pressed)

the Tenderfoot (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Their Own Desire (1929) (Warner Archives, MOD)

They Had to See Paris (1929) (Fox, pressed)

Tiger Shark (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Today We Live (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Trouble in Paradise (1932) (Criterion Collection, 1932)

Under 18 (1931) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Up the River (1930) (Fox, pressed)

Week-End Marriage (1932) (Warner Archives, MOD)

William Powell at Warner Bros. (Warner Archives, initially pressed, eventually MOD)
High Pressure (1931)
the Road to Singapore (1931)
Private Detective 62 (1933)
the Key (1934)

Wonderbar (1934) (Warner Archives, MOD)

Young America (1932) (Fox, pressed)


BOOKS
Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall Richard Barrios

Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema 1930-1934 by Thomas Doherty

the Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942 by Lea Jacobs

the Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship And the Production Code, From the 1920s to the 1960s by Leonard J. Leff & Jerold L. Simmons

Censored Hollywood Sex, Sin & Violence On Screen by Frank Miller

Sin In Soft Focus by Mark Vieira
Matt wrote:Richard Maltby's gimlet-eyed historiographical work on the Code is very good, but doesn't seem to be collected in a single volume anywhere. Here's a good overview article from about 10 years ago, and he has a good chapter on the Code in Tino Balio's volume on '30s Hollywood, Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939 and a similar chapter in Steve Neale's The Classical Hollywood Reader.
DOCUMENTARIES
Complicated Women (Hugh Munro Neely, 2003) -- TCM-produced doc, no commercial DVD release

Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film Episode 03 "Single Beds & Double Standards" (Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, 1980) -- VHS and Laserdisc copies circulating, no commercial DVD release

Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (2008) -- Extra on Forbidden Hollywood Vol 2


PAST FORUM DISCUSSION
the Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)
the Animal Kingdom
Blonde Venus
Busby Berkeley Collections
the Cecil B DeMille Collection
Design for Living
the Eagle and the Hawk
Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals
Gangsters Collection
the Greta Garbo Signature Collection
Howard Hawks
Island of Lost Souls (Criterion)
Island of Lost Souls (MoC)
Island of Lost Souls (Spanish)
Josef von Sternberg
the Last Flight
Marlene Dietrich 18 DVD Collection
Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, and Carole Lombard Collections
Murnau, Borzage, and Fox
the Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions
Night Flight
1930s List Discussion and Suggestions (2.0)
the Scarlet Empress
Screen Goddesses Collection: Marlene Dietrich
the Story of Temple Drake
Street Scene
Sternberg and Dietrich in R2
Sternberg Dietrichs in different regions
TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collections
TCM Vault Collection
Thirteen Women
Trouble in Paradise (Criterion)
Trouble in Paradise (MoC)
Universal Backlot Series
Unreleased Warner Bros Titles
Upcoming Movies on TV (UK)
Vintage Film Buff
Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Warner Classic Comedies Collection
William A Wellman
William Dieterle

EXTERNAL LINKS
All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!
DVD Beaver's Pre-Code DVD Guide (Outdated/Incomplete)
Pre-Coded Messages

Last Edited: 01/06/2015
Last edited by domino harvey on Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:25 pm, edited 43 times in total.

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Camera Obscura
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#2 Post by Camera Obscura » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:44 pm

Very useful.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#3 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:08 pm

The Trespasser (1929) Dir. Edmund Goulding Starring Gloria Swanson (her first talkie). This was produced by Gloria Swanson's production company and released by United Artist. Has most likely never been released on any home format.

Arthur House
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#4 Post by Arthur House » Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:20 pm

These might be too obvious, but what the hey:

Svengali (1931) (Alpha, pressed)

International House (1933) (Universal, pressed as part of the now OOP "W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Vol.1" and the inprint budget set "W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection")

On a related note to the Fields' set, Universal's Marx Brothers box is entirely pre-code. It also has been made available in a budget edition BEARING THE SAME NAME AS THE ORIGINAL SET ("The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection"). Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, The Cocoanuts & Animal Crackers from this set are also inprint individually. The stand-alone Monkey Business is OOP.

Warner Brothers has the pre-code Dinner At Eight--along with Libeled Lady, China Seas & Wife vs. Secretary--available in a two-disc set released under the title "TCM Greatest Classic Film Legends - Jean Harlow". The stand-alone edition of Dinner At Eight is OOP.

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domino harvey
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#5 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 18, 2013 7:49 pm

Thanks! Updated with those and a whole bunch more I'd missed

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Feego
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#6 Post by Feego » Sun Aug 18, 2013 8:17 pm

These films probably need no introduction around here, but you might add Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Love Me Tonight, as well as the films in Criterion's own Lubitsch Eclipse set, plus Design for Living and Trouble in Paradise.

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domino harvey
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#7 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 18, 2013 8:41 pm

Thanks, I am doing these mostly from memory so like I said I'm forgetting some obvious ones. Feel free to talk about "films that need no introduction" in this thread though! I'll start...

I finally finished the second Forbidden Hollywood set last night and found it interesting that these were the films which convinced the studio that Clark Gable could be a romantic lead, since he is 100% a total asshole in both A Free Soul and Night Nurse-- and not in that Gable-y way of lovable coarseness either, but in a straight up child-killing, marriage-blackmailing, all around dick way! None of the five films in the set were particularly good, but all had real moments of novelty and levity spread throughout. Three on a Match, for instance, is probably the worst film included, but it has a killer final five minutes with a great bit of physical humor from Bogart re: the coke Ann Dvorak's been using and a totally bonkers finish that has retained all of its shock value and these quick bits somehow more than make up for the uneven, often witless script and schizophrenic construction in the memory. A Free Soul is fun for a bit and then it turns weirdly mawkish for the rest of the running time and while I love Barrymore, his Oscar win is ludicrous-- but then again, so were most early acting Oscars...

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sinemadelisikiz
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#8 Post by sinemadelisikiz » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:28 pm

Three on a Match is bonkers, but Dvorak's kid has to be the most obnoxious I've ever seen in a film from the period and frankly made me understand the drug use and neglect. It's strange that that kid is the only thing I remember about the movie just because I hated him so much. Ugh, I hear that whiny voice in my nightmares.

I do have this inexplicable fondness for Night Nurse though. Early Barbara Stanwyck gets all my votes for best tough pre-code dame (close second is Joan Blondell) and I guess her presence just makes the general exploitation more palatable. I find the fiesty women are really the main reason I like these films, and I have a feeling I'm not alone.

Thanks for starting this thread. Very useful, and I'm pretty shocked we didn't already have one.

Edit: Oh, and you could probably add myriad early horror films to the list too (Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, etc.).

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#9 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:38 pm

Does The Scarlet Empress, riding the line as it does, fit in here? Surely the sound movies from the Murnau, Borzage, Fox set would, in any case- They Had to See Paris (1929), Liliom (1930), Song O' My Heart (1930), Bad Girl (1931), After Tomorrow (1932), and Young America (1932).

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HJackson
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#10 Post by HJackson » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:01 pm

Speaking of Borzage, don't forget A Farewell to Arms which is available in a beautiful blu from Kino.

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domino harvey
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#11 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:31 pm

sinemadelisikiz wrote:Oh, and you could probably add myriad early horror films to the list too (Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, etc.).
I def need help from someone with pre-code horrors out on DVD, as I know very few out of hand. Thanks everyone for their help and I do hope this all proves worthwhile

Re: Three on a Match's kid being annoying: Having just sat through that overly-articulate fat boy in Watch on the Rhine, Dvorak's kid was freaking Robert Mitchum! I think the comment that the brassy dames are where a lot of the appeal lies is accurate, and one of the things I liked about both the pre-code docs I watched is that Molly Haskell and Camile Paglia were both on hand (among others) to offer a female counter to the somewhat male-serving perspective a lot of these films seem to take. Indeed, Complicated Women makes a compelling argument that these movies are not just pruriently titillating but sexually progressive and that the Code signaled the end of female empowerment in the cinema. That's a far less positive conclusion than that reached of the Warner-sanctioned Thou Shalt Not doc despite having many of the same participants and examples!

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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#12 Post by Lowry_Sam » Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:32 pm

It's been a while since I last watched them, but for me Three On A Match was my favorite of the second set. It could just be that, after having read so much about Night Nurse, I was expecting more from it & therefore viewed it more critically, but I found it to be the weakest of the set. Stanwyck's acting in Night Nurse (1931) is pretty weak, she seems to stumble over her lines at times & it's quite clear she's reciting lines. It might be because she played a stronger character with better lines, but Baby Face (1933) shows a significant improvement in her acting skills. Her hard edge in Night Nurse, seems due more to not knowing how to play her character, whereas in Baby Face she really shines at using whatever she needs to get her way. I also didn't find Night Nurse to be as salacious as I was expecting, while Three On A Match came out of nowhere
SpoilerShow
(esp. the shooting up & suicide scenes).

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sinemadelisikiz
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#13 Post by sinemadelisikiz » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:37 am

domino harvey wrote:Re: Three on a Match's kid being annoying
Ha, I knew that if I said that, someone could come up with an even more insufferable kid. Never seen it, but now officially avoiding Watch on the Rhine. I'll admit it's a personal annoyance with this kid, especially because the plot expects us to care what happens to him, and I really just can't oblige.
domino harvey wrote:Indeed, Complicated Women makes a compelling argument that these movies are not just pruriently titillating but sexually progressive and that the Code signaled the end of female empowerment in the cinema. That's a far less positive conclusion than that reached of the Warner-sanctioned Thou Shalt Not doc despite having many of the same participants and examples!
I think I can understand where this dichotomy comes from, as I wouldn't really call these films feminist, and they are basically exploitation films (really reductive statement, I know), but they offer so many female characters that actually have agency and a degree of complexity. And they're not shamed for no longer being virgins, which isn't always the case even now!
Lowry_Sam wrote:Stanwyck's acting in Night Nurse (1931) is pretty weak, she seems to stumble over her lines at times & it's quite clear she's reciting lines. It might be because she played a stronger character with better lines, but Baby Face (1933) shows a significant improvement in her acting skills.
We might have to agree to disagree on this one, at least until I have these fresher in my mind. While I think Baby Face is really the pinnacle of this type of film, I don't find Stanwyck's acting in Night Nurse to be especially weaker. She plays the same sort of streetwise dame you see in a lot of her pre-code films, and I find she bounces off Gable and Blondell pretty well overall. But maybe you're right and a rewatch may be in order.

I'm probably not the right person to give a list of all pre-code horror releases, but all the Universal films would probably qualify and I believe they all been released..? Where's Mr. Sausage when we need him?

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#14 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:43 am

I just went through Forbidden Hollywood Vol 5

Ladies They Talk About (1933)
Stanwyck plays a member of a bank robbing gang who gets caught and sentenced to 2-5 years in The Pen, where most of the film takes place. There's a bit of sappiness with a moralistic reform crusader who falls for Stanwyck and hopes to lead her straight (probably straight into bed too). And so there are scenes with Stanwyck switching from tough moll to sweet innocent in whiplash fashion. Not easy to pull off and the contrivances don't help. It's also not exactly a well-developed character, but Stanwyck is game and tries her best to pull it off.

Pre-Code elements include a convict who was a brothel Madame. She even gets the last line, joking how a feisty released Stanwyck would have been a gold mine in her old business. Another inmate has short hair slicked-back like a man's and, in case that isn't enough of a tip-off, is usually seen smoking a cigar. Newly incarcerated Stanwyck gets a tour and is told to "watch out for that one, she likes to wrestle." Pretty clear what's implied there. A pretty good film with Stanwyck kind of feeling out her acting chops. She's not fully there, but on the way. (so interesting to me to see the comments above about Stanwyck being a bit stilted back in '31 -- butI haven't seen Night Nurse).

The Mind Reader (1933) was the other standout from this set.
Poor Warren William, once the King of Pre-Codes*, now largely forgotten, and never had a last name (well, his family name was Krech, so professionally he ditched it).
WW plays a con man, who stumbles into the fortune telling racket, but falls for one young woman he helps. Adultery seems rampant, as WW's Chandra The Great exposes a whole slew of cheating husbands of his wealthy clients. A nice pace to the film, and War Will gives a good turn as the lead. It's themes echo through such films as Elmer Gantry and The Master.

* according to his wiki entry

Check out this terrific poster:
Image
Well, I'm not too sure about all that green. And the film itself isn't really salacious or sexy, as the poster implies. His girlfriend, and later wife, is the sweet-looking Constance Cummings, a good girl who makes William go straight once she learns he's crooked. And we don't see the floozies the cheating husbands are dallying with. And William, despite being a fraud and criminal, truly loves his wife ( and has no other women on his mind).

Hard to Handle (1933) has Cagney as a fast talking hustler/huckster. Not too much in the way of pre-Code elements. The Mother is constantly switching allegiances, trying to marry her daughter off to whichever guy has more money/prospects at any given time. And one rich girl totally throws herself at Cagney, who catches on. A real breezy, rapid pace. Somewhat amusing for the way promoting dodgy dance marathons and crooked treasure hunts leads seamlessly to becoming a Madison Avenue PR/advertising mogul.

Miss Pinkerton (1932) was the weakest of the set. Mostly reliant on Joan Blondell's flirtatiousness and comic timing. A house-bound murder mystery with Blondell's nurse aiding the police and falling in love with the detective in charge. It's all a little schizophrenic combining some creepy characters and expressionistic lighting with Blondell's cutesieness and a romance. I almost expected Abbott & Costello to walk in at any moment. It's the kind of light, mixed-genre film they'd specialize in during the 40's.

Overall Vol. 5 is solid and worthwhile.
Forbidden Hollywood Vol 1 is essential with the amazing Baby Face and impressive Red Headed Woman. Otherwise, I've only seen Vol. 3 with a rather uneven half-dozen William Wellman films, notable for how well they capture different aspects of Depression Era America. I guess I've only seen the odd Forbidden Hollywood set.

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Stephen
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#15 Post by Stephen » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:12 am

Seeing as many of the big guns have been rolled out I thought I’d tip my hat to Messrs Laurel & Hardy whose comedies were not averse to a little pre-code sauciness & double entendre (try 1929’s Men o War as an example). I’d especially recommend the Spanish versions of Blotto (La Vida Nocturna) & Chickens Come Home (Politiquerias) for the inclusion of some pre-code mid plot entertainment too salacious for American audiences at the time. The former for an extended scantily dressed dance routine & the latter for the absolutely astonishing show stopping performance of vaudeville artist Hadji Ali. Even if anyone could repeat his volcanic feats, it would unlikely be attempted today in family entertainment.

All appear on the ten disk Laurel & Hardy Essential Collection from Vivendi Entertainment.

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A man stayed-put
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#16 Post by A man stayed-put » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:36 am

Wyler's Other Men's Women in the third Forbidden Hollywood set contains one of my favourite James Cagney moments- therefore one of my favourite in films.
Cagney (in an early supporting part) turns up at a dancehall, gives his female companion a bit of chatter, and then launches into a deranged dance across the floor, almost knocking her over in the process.
The rest of the film is pretty entertaining on it's own and features both Mary Astor and a young Joan Blondell, but the sequence with Cagney really makes it.

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GaryC
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:56 pm
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#17 Post by GaryC » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:35 pm

TCM's Complete Lost and Found RKO Collection contains Double Harness, Rafter Romance and One Man's Journey (all 1933) and Stingaree (1934) along with two others which are post-Code, all on DVD-Rs.

I don't know if you're going to include UK television showings, but the "Forthcoming Movies on TV (UK)" thread has included some relevant discussion, as BBC2 in its weekend morning old-movie slot has recently shown the following:

Sing and Like It (1934)
Melody Cruise (1933)
The Gay Diplomat (1931)
The Half-Naked Truth (1932)

I watched The Gay Diplomat and it isn't really Pre-Code despite its year of production and that title. I've recorded the other three, haven't watched them yet.

Books would include (not all read by me):

Sin In Soft Focus by Mark Vieira
Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema 1930-1934 by Thomas Doherty

and the relevant sections of:

The Dame In The Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship And The Production Code, From The 1920s To The 1960s by Leonard J. Leff & Jerold L. Simmons
Censored Hollywood: Sex, Sin & Violence On Screen by Frank Miller

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Matt
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#18 Post by Matt » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:50 pm

I would also recommend the first 1/3 or so of Richard Barrios' Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall.

Additionally, Lea Jacobs' The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942 has some fascinating censorship histories of individual films.

Richard Maltby's gimlet-eyed historiographical work on the Code is very good, but doesn't seem to be collected in a single volume anywhere. Here's a good overview article from about 10 years ago, and he has a good chapter on the Code in Tino Balio's volume on '30s Hollywood, Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939 and a similar chapter in Steve Neale's The Classical Hollywood Reader.

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domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#19 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:23 pm

Thanks again to all for their great contributions!

After sitting half-watched for a couple years, I finally finished Universal's Pre-Code Hollywood Collection and the three films I had left ran the spectrum. On the down side was Murder at the Vanities, a horrible film in any light, with a lame murder mystery (complete with three or four characters ominously stroking a blade), Jack Oakie underplaying, and even the musical numbers were uninspired and dull. Apparently this has its defenders, but I found it to be a total chore to sit through. Torch Singer fared better, even though despite all the out-of-wedlock handwringing this is ultimately a staunchly conservative "Kids need two parents" moral tale. Claudette Colbert is quite good as the titular mom who gives her kid up for adoption when she can no longer afford to feed and house her, but the mechanations by which they are reunited are among the stupidest ever attempted on film. Outside of the mistaken final fifteen minutes or so, the film does manage a lot of fun with Colbert's somewhat unsympathetic lush, including the great kiss-off line, "I went through hell. It's a nice place, you must go there some day!"

The best film of the lot, though, and one of the most interesting pre-codes I've seen yet, was Search for Beauty. Now this is what I always hope these films will be: ribald and irreverent and with a real acidic kick to the gags. This is one of the few mainstream studio-era films I can think of that actively puts a female viewer on par with or above the male. Men are objectified wonderfully in the film, and within minutes I knew this was gonna be something special-- right about the time Gertrude Michael zooms in on Buster Crabbe's crotch with her binoculars! The movie has a grand old time being naughty and even pokes fun of pre-code films like Torch Singer for always mollifying the moralists by turning saintly at the end during an exchange taking place in, where else, the ladies' room! There's male nudity + beefcake galore and dirty jokes aplenty, and grotesque extreme closeups are often cleverly employed to aid the film's constant attempts to render the men depicted as either hunky or ineffectual leches. Now there is a fine male-equivalent to the madonna-whore complex! Grand fun from beginning to dat end and highly recommended.

(You can read my thoughts on the other three films in the set here and here)
Last edited by domino harvey on Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Matt
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#20 Post by Matt » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:01 pm

Agree on Search for Beauty, a real eye-opener.

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Tommaso
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 10:09 am

Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#21 Post by Tommaso » Tue Aug 20, 2013 5:52 am

A few additions, all Warner Archive:

Dorothy MacKaill double feature:
Bright Lights (1930)
The Reckless Hour (1931)

Dorothy MacKaill double feature:
The Office Wife (1930)
The Party Husband (1931)

Pre-Code double feature:
The Crash (1932)
Registered Nurse (1934)

Illicit (1931)
The Squall (1929)
Susan Lenox, her rise and fall (1931)

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Askew
Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:23 pm

Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#22 Post by Askew » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:22 am

A few other movies from the period:

Abraham Lincoln (1930) Kino bluray
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Universal bluray
Arrowsmith (1931) MGM pressed
The Big House (1930) Warner Archive
Bird of Paradise (1932) Kino bluray
Born Reckless (1930) Fox pressed (comes with Pilgrimage)
Cavalcade (1933) Fox bluray
The Champ (1931) Warner pressed
Doctor Bull (1933) Fox pressed
Flesh (1932) Warner Archive
Hell's House (1932) Kino bluray
The Old Dark House (1932) Kino
Of Human Bondage (1931) Kino bluray
Pilgrimage (1933) Fox pressed (comes with Born Reckless)
Seas Beneath (1931) Ford at Fox boxset
Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) Warner pressed (Tarzan boxset 1)
Up the River (1930) Fox pressed (comes with When Willie Came Marching Home)

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Cold Bishop
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#23 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:17 am

I'll just use this as another chance to plug Edward L. Cahn's work at Universal in the 1930s, one of the most gobsmackingly impressive runs of any young director of the era, all of which form a cohesive vision of a nightmare world of systemic corruption and frustrated violence: the ultra-bleak racketeering drama Afraid to Talk/Merry-Go-Round (1932) got some love during the 30s project, and I wrote a bit at length about Law and Order (1932), his grim "proto-revisionist" take on the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during the Western Genre project. But my favorite is his police procedural Radio Patrol (1932), which follows a class of cadets from the academy into the St. Louis police department, which happens to be in the grip of a gang war. Its focus on proletariat beat-cops gives it a completely different sensibility from other gangster films of the era (its practically a forerunner of the "docudrama"), and it doesn't pull any punches as it goes along.

His long-lost controversial chain-gang drama Laughter in Hell (1933) was recently rediscovered, and I hope against hope that I get some chance to see it. I also have Emergency Call (1933) (which Mike Grost pinpoints as his masterpiece) in my kevyip, waiting to be watched.

And while were at the studio, I'll also shoutout the superlative Night World (1932), headlined by Lew Ayres, but really belonging to Boris Karloff. It was essentially Universal's Grand Hotel, but knowing they could never match MGM's star-power, they pushed the film deep into Pre-Code sleaze territory. There's even a Busby Berkley number! A must for pre-code buffs.

No official releases, so consult your neighborhood bootlegger.

Speaking of which: are there any other particular Universal Pre-Codes of notes? As the most underrepresented of the majors, I'm curious what's lying in their vaults (beyond the obvious horror films).

PillowRock
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#24 Post by PillowRock » Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:34 pm

Something that I picked up based on something that I read here a few years or so ago:

There's a double feature DVD from Image of a couple Pre-Code, micro-budget indies: The Sin of Nora Moran (starring Zita Johann) and Prison Train.

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gcgiles1dollarbin
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Re: Hollywood Pre-Code Films

#25 Post by gcgiles1dollarbin » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:02 pm

Thought I would float a few more that mostly remain unmentioned:

The Barbarian (Sam Wood, 1933, Warner MOD) Remarkable for its audacious interracial abduction plot between Myrna Loy and Ramon Novarro. Totally offensive to “Arabs” (and a likely violation of the "miscegenation" prohibition) but nonetheless entertaining and well-done. We get to see Loy in a flower petal bath.

Heat Lightning (Mervyn LeRoy, 1934, Warner MOD) Goddess Ann Dvorak in sultry rebellious mode, trying to escape a dull life at her older sister’s gas station in the Mojave Desert. Aline McMahon is longingly intense as the older sister. Perhaps pushing the "pre-Code" designation given its release date, but it still has the early '30s Warner/First National vibe that most people associate with the term "pre-Code."

Gabriel over the White House (Gregory La Cava, 1933, Warner MOD, MGM pressed originally) A mind-boggling political fantasy that imagines a U.S. president using fascist means to address society’s ills. There’s no way this would float after 1934, although there are no direct decrees against particular political attitudes (even if the catch-all against disrespecting "institutions" would probably provide some justification for censorship).

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (Lewis Milestone, 1933, MGM pressed) Fantastic Al Jolson vehicle, featuring a trash collector played by Harry Langdon who spouts Marxist propaganda. Wonderful Rodgers and Hart music.

The Lost Squadron (George Archainbaud, 1932) Great flyer drama. Featuring the delightful/fateful moment when Robert Armstrong gives Richard Dix the middle finger from his cockpit. Sure, there are no raspberries permitted per the Code, but this is something else altogether. I’m just reading the Hawks biography, with its inevitable coverage of Kenneth Hawks’s tragic death (as well as nine other film professionals) in an airplane collision, and to see his widow Mary Astor in another flyer pic so soon after the accident makes the film a bit more poignant.

The Mask of Fu Manchu (Charles Brabin/Charles Vidor, 1932, Warner pressed) Delightful yellow peril madness. A favorite of politically correct and morally punctilious Jonathan Rosenbaum (perhaps because Fu Manchu intends to wipe out the white race)!

The Mouthpiece (James Flood/Elliott Nugent, 1932) Warren William is a god. Sharply written and faintly ridiculous plotting (would that attorneys would drink the poison), this film features an unusually ambiguous, live-or-die moment in the finale. Lawyers were so romantic and entertaining in this period!

Murders in the Rue Morgue (Robert Florey, 1932, Universal pressed) Mentioned in passing elsewhere on this thread, but I had to re-emphasize. Astoundingly shocking bestiality/blood transfusion premise. My favorite Lugosi role after Vitus Werdegast.

Rain (Lewis Milestone, 1932, PD) Underrated Sadie Thompson version--better, I believe, than Raoul Walsh’s silent Gloria Swanson vehicle. Lots of camera mobility Milestone was known for at this time (cf Hallelujah, I’m a Bum), and a drenched atmosphere of repressed sexuality. Walter Huston is fantastic, as the hypocritical Alfred Davidson.

Rasputin and the Empress (Richard Boleslawski, 1932, Warner MOD) The Barrymores letting it all hang out. Lionel is amazing as the mad monk, culminating in a ghastly, lurid death scene.

ADDITION: Remembering von Stroheim's memorable role as repulsive film director in The Lost Squadron, as an aside, I wonder if there were any other examples of self-implicating, unscrupulous, asshole directors in this period. In the silent era, I recall William Powell in The Last Command, but otherwise this kind of self-criticism seems unusual, unless I'm forgetting something obvious. I also wonder if the von Stroheim character is elliptically targeting Howard Hughes's reckless usage of stunt flyers in Hell's Angels, three of whom were killed during filming.

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