Pre-code films out from Warner Archive

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Re: Pre-code films out from Warner Archive

Postby Dien » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:39 pm

I heard about the Hay's Production Code recently while enjoying a sudden kick to watch Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (uncensored on YouTube). In the short A Tale of Two Kitties, featuring caricatures of Abbott and Costello. Babbit (Abbot) tells Catstello (Costello) to "Give me the bird. Give me the bird." Catstello proceeds to tell the audience, "If only the Hays Office would let me, I'd give him the boid alright."

But if it wasn't for censorship, we wouldn't have had the creative innuendos and choice words that came out of that era. It's bittersweet.

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Pre-code films out from Warner Archive

Postby Reza » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:36 am

Classic Hollywood: Pre-code films out from Warner Archive

Loretta Young and Joan Blondell play independent,
fun-loving types in these anything-goes films
predating the sober Production Code.

By Susan King, Los Angeles Times

January 9, 2012

Between the mid-1930s and the mid-1960s, American
movies could be fairly described as squeaky clean.

During that time, married couples depicted in
films slept in twin beds, and if there was a
romantic scene on a bed, one actor had to have a
foot firmly on the ground while kissing.
Violence, even in war films and films noir, was
more implied than illustrated, and language was
definitely G-rated. Just to get Rhett Butler to
say his famous "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a
damn" in 1939's "Gone With the Wind" almost took an act of Congress.

But the era before July 1, 1934, when the Motion
Picture Production Code, a.k.a. the Hays Office,
became strictly enforced was practically
"anything goes" in the movies. These "pre-code"
films were filled with violence, sexual
promiscuity, drug use, references to
homosexuality albeit with very stereotypical
portrayals and all kinds of innuendo. And
couples, married or not, shared a single bed.

Though a number of these films revolved around
the gangster world, including 1930's "Little
Caesar," 1931's "The Public Enemy" and 1932's
"Scarface," these pre-code films were generally
dominated by strong female actresses such as
Barbara Stanywick, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Clara Bow.

Women were much more sexually aggressive in
pre-code films, morals were loose. Their dialogue
was suggestive. And their often skimpy outfits
left little to the imagination. Some actresses
who starred in pre-code films flourished after
the code crackdown in 1934. But others, like Mae
West, whose image was so sexually charged, lost
audiences as a more sanitized version of herself.

With the erosion of movie audiences because of
the enormous popularity of TV and an influx of
far more sophisticated international films in the
1950s, the Production Code began to lose its grip
on Hollywood. In late 1968 the MPAA rating system went into effect.

Warner Archive recently released several of these
pre-code flicks with such rising stars of the
time as Loretta Young, Joan Blondell and Myrna
Loy as well as actresses who are faded footnotes
of the era Dorothy Mackaill and Alice White.
Here's a look at the pre-code films of two of the
stars Young and Blondell whose early work
might shock those who became fans later.

Loretta Young (1913-2000)

The Oscar winner is featured in five of the films
in the Warner Archive releases. The best of the
bunch is the 1930 comedy "Loose Ankles" (though
there is no explanation in the film as to what a
"loose ankle" is supposed to mean).

Directed by Ted Wilde, this comedy stars the
17-year-old Young as an heiress who will inherit
millions if her stuffy aunts and uncle approve of
her husband. She decides to get back at them by
trying to cause a scandal. She takes an ad out in
the paper to find a man who will put her in an
uncompromising position. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s
character, who at one point is running around in
his underwear and a woman's robe, answers the ad.
He also happens to be rooming with young gigolos.
Famed silent film comedian Louise Fazenda is on
hand as one of Young's aunts who gets drunk at a speak-easy.

The second film on the disc is 1931's "Naughty
Flirt" starring White, whose hammy comedic
techniques have not stood the test of time. The
film is noteworthy for Loy's performance as a vamp.

Another Young film from 1930, "Road to Paradise,"
cast her as twins one who has been raised by
crooks and the other living in the lap of luxury.
The crooked guardians have her infiltrate her
sister's house to steal jewels. That same year,
Young also starred in "The Truth About Youth," in
which she plays a young woman, the daughter of a
wealthy bachelor's housekeeper, who had been
promised in marriage to the man's ward (David
Manners). However, he has set his sights on a
money-hungry singer-dancer (Loy, in one of her early pivotal roles).

In the 1931 melodrama of redemption "The Right of
Way," Young plays a French-Canadian woman living
in the wilderness who falls in love with an
amnesiac (Conrad Nagel) who had been an insipid
womanizing attorney before he was beaten up in a
bar. And though morality is played fast and loose
in most pre-code films, in 1933's "Week-End
Marriage," Young is punished by family and
friends for taking a job when her whiny husband (Norman Foster) loses his.

Joan Blondell (1906-79)

This blond, wisecracking actress fit perfectly
into the mold of a Warner Bros. pre-code heroine.
She made her Broadway debut with newcomer James
Cagney in 1930's "Penny Arcade" and came to
Hollywood the same year to appear with Cagney in
the film version, "Sinner's Holiday." In 1930,
she also made an impression in a supporting role
as Mackaill's peppy younger sister in the
melodrama "Office Wife." (Mackaill also stars in
the 1931 drama "Party Husband," which is included on the "Office Wife" disc.)

Blondell has starring roles in the 1934 comedy
"I've Got Your Number" and 1933's "Havana
Widows," which are featured on one disc.

"I've Got Your Number" was released just before
the code crackdown. Blondell plays a telephone
operator who accidentally allows crooks to steal
money when she misdirects a phone call. A leering
Pat O'Brien plays a telephone repairman who seems
to be catnip to almost every woman he meets,
including some high-priced call girls who live in
a swank apartment and want him to provide them
with a longer chord for their bedroom phone.

"Havana Widows" was one of the four films in
which Blondell teamed with actress Glenda Farrell
as wisecracking working-class girls. This 1933
slapstick farce with music is about two gold
digger friends who go to Havana to seduce older
men into compromising positions for their money.

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