The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Rayon Vert
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#26 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:43 pm

I guess I’ll post here the write-ups for the films that potentially fit the criteria for this project.

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Blonde Venus (Von Sternberg 1932). I watched this one again because of the new release. A strange beast, this film, which goes all over the place. It never really works for me as a whole, but it’s enjoyable for different bits and pieces, like the “springtime in Germany” risqué opening, the Hot Voodoo number, or those frequently gorgeously lit close-ups of Dietrich that reach their apex here.


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Dracula (Browning 1931). There’s those awful fake bats and some now ridiculous-appearing close-ups of Lugosi with the light shining in one eye, but apart from that there’s a lot to like here. The fact that it’s such an early talkie means the near absence of music combines with the slow pace to give it quite an effective chilly feeling, and the film has a lot of atmosphere with those great sets. It’s quite surprisingly both demonic and erotic, and it’s not hard to imagine how audiences must have been horrified at the time. Apart from those shots I mentioned, Lugosi cuts a striking figure. Meanwhile the scenes featuring Van Helsing are quite gripping. The ending is a little rushed and comparatively weaker though.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#27 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:41 am

Her Majesty Love (Dieterle 1931)
Mostly notable for the last screen appearance of Marilyn Miller and first appearance in a feature of W.C.Fields. Miller, an all singing all dancing star of the Ziegfeld Follies, plays a bar-girl wooed and pursued by a wealthy industrialist - an anodyne Ben Lyon - until his fusty family step in and put paid to any wedding plans. An intervention which is principally predicated on an uncomfortable dinner meeting with her Dad -an irreverent and irrepressible Fields, complete with some pretty nifty juggling tricks .
Otherwise Fields is remarkably restrained and believably paternal in his own environment which in addition to the interplay with the other comic cameo roles makes him the most endearing character in what is otherwise a rather lame predictable farce. A remake of a German production it may go to explaining the otherwise inexplicable and unconvincing decision to set it in Germany which a few miss-matched stock shots and the naming of the bar where Miller works as the 'Berlin Cabaret' do little to dispel. This veneer of Teutonic decadence probably triggered the hiring of Dieterle, fresh off the success of the WW1 tragedy 'The Last Flight'. He does indeed inject some zest into the proceedings particularly in the bar scenes with gliding elegant tracking shots scything through swirling cigarette smoke, Balloonzappopin' and scantily dressed floozies on tuxedoed laps. Arriving at the bar we find a sassy Miller and mooncalf Lyon who take the opportunity to croon at each other to establish the musical signature that will accompany them through their romantic ups and downs. Along the way we do encounter some bedroom scenes where feet are not on the ground and naked male torsos which probably scores in the lower reaches of the Pre-code scale but more so with the happy ending laced with a strong dose of cynicism that would not have survived the Hays code to come.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#28 Post by L.A. » Sun Oct 28, 2018 8:06 am

knives wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 7:43 pm
Yes, I wrote about it a bit in the '30s thread.
Thanks. Do you perhaps have a link for your text? I browsed the thread and couldn’t find it. :shock:

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#29 Post by knives » Sun Oct 28, 2018 9:24 am

That's weird, it seems to have disappeared. Here's the review all the same:
This story has been told so much that it has practically taken on the quality of myth so that it is almost more interesting for what it says about the tellers of the tale than anything particular to the telling itself. The choice of the three Barrymore's and how they are situated in the story really say it all. Despite being first mentioned Lionel's (I figure this is one case where last names are useless) Rasputin is more a Harry Lime figure working in the shadows. He doesn't make his first appearance until about 30 minutes in for example. Rather it's John's not mentioned prince that seems to be the lead or at least hero of the story. Though he's not completely clean as he shows selfishness and is willing to overlook things to his own advantage regularly. This is really a story in which everyone comes off as some shade of vile. Ethel's empress is the most interesting character though as it is not showy in the way of Rasputin or blandly heroic in the way of the prince. She's often in the background, sick and neurotic, a human representation of where this version of Russia was at the time. I haven't really been impressed by the other performances of hers I've seen, but this sickly matriarch is on a whole other level. All of the film's sense of theme and insights come through her and she shows herself really up to this tremendous challenge.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#30 Post by Matt » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:05 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:43 pm
I guess I’ll post here the write-ups for the films that potentially fit the criteria for this project.

Dracula (Browning 1931). There’s those awful fake bats and some now ridiculous-appearing close-ups of Lugosi with the light shining in one eye, but apart from that there’s a lot to like here.
On the off chance that it fits the theme (it was a major studio film but made for the export market), I recommend the Spanish-language version of Dracula filmed concurrently with and on the same sets as the Lugosi/Browning version. It misses Lugosi’s iconic performance and Karl Freund’s cinematography, but it adds a sense of humor about the Gothic proceedings, and Lupita Tovar is vibrant and fantastic as the female lead (and quite a bit more in the racy, carefree pre-code spirit than the dreadful Helen Chandler). If you have any DVD or BD release of the Lugosi version, you probably have this as an extra.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#31 Post by senseabove » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:50 pm

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Possessed (Clarence Brown, 1931)
Worth watching for some excellent moments, including some nifty visual tricks like an early shot of a train passing by to display everything Crawford could dream of through its plate glass windows, but it never really sings. I've seen better films by Brown (Flesh and the Devil) and worse (Anna Christie). Crawford isn't very convincing as an as-yet unspoilt girl from the sticks, but luckily we only have to watch her try for ~10 minutes before she turns it on to seduce Gable. She handles innocence tossed much better, especially in an excellent dinner scene where Gable's friend brings a low-class mistress to now-classy-but-still-a-mistress-Crawford's apartment. Crawford's balance of her sympathy and sense of injury in that scene is something to see. I'd've liked to see the woman actually call Crawford up later, as she says she would. And if I haven't mentioned Gable up to this point, it's because, surprisingly, there isn't much to mention: he never quite smolders, and he never quite does enough otherwise.



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What Price Hollywood? (Cukor, 1932)
Mostly interesting to see how all the pieces of A Star is Born are there before they're shuffled and recombined for greater effect, but there's not much that's especially standout. The climactic plunge into a final misery is effectively shot with an interesting use of special effects to show psychological state, but otherwise, this is my least favorite (proto)iteration of the story, as well as my least favorite of the eleven Cukor films I've seen to date.



Any other pre-code recommendations that are available on FilmStruck? I've got a hefty list already, but might as well add to it or bump things up while I can!

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#32 Post by Shrew » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:02 pm

Absolutely watch the Wellman pre-codes on Filmstruck if you haven't (though most of them are available in that Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3? set if you can track it down). The bold ones are imo essential: Night Nurse, The Public Enemy, Safe in Hell, The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, So Big, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary, Wild Boys of the Road, Lily Turner

Other films on there now:
Red-Headed Woman
Red Dust
Bombshell
The 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are also some other early Harlows that might apply but I haven't seen yet. Plus King Kong is on there if anyone hasn't seen that for some reason.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#33 Post by senseabove » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:29 pm

Shrew wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:02 pm
Absolutely watch the Wellman pre-codes on Filmstruck if you haven't (though most of them are available in that Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3? set if you can track it down). The bold ones are imo essential: Night Nurse, The Public Enemy, Safe in Hell, The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, So Big, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary, Wild Boys of the Road, Lily Turner

Other films on there now:
Red-Headed Woman
Red Dust
Bombshell
The 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are also some other early Harlows that might apply but I haven't seen yet. Plus King Kong is on there if anyone hasn't seen that for some reason.
Thanks! I've seen several of the Wellmans mostly thanks to a Summer-long Warner Bros. retro at a theater near me a while back—Night Nurse, Public Enemy, Heroes for Sale, and Wild Boys—all of which I liked a lot, and think I have most of your other recs on my list, but I'll do some prioritizing!

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#34 Post by domino harvey » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:45 pm

It sounds like most of the Forbidden Hollywood sets are on there. If the Mind Reader is on FilmStruck, that's def worth catching-- it'll be on my list

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#35 Post by Shrew » Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:11 pm

Unfortunately, no Mind Reader. There have been more pre-codes on Filmstruck, but due to the cycling nature of the TCM library, most of them have already left. In related news, the Harlow movies expire on Nov. 2, and the Wellman films on Nov. 9 (they were set to leave even before the cancellation). So, uh, super-prioritize those, everybody with a subscription.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#36 Post by senseabove » Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:56 pm

Shrew wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:11 pm
Unfortunately, no Mind Reader. There have been more pre-codes on Filmstruck, but due to the cycling nature of the TCM library, most of them have already left. In related news, the Harlow movies expire on Nov. 2, and the Wellman films on Nov. 9 (they were set to leave even before the cancellation). So, uh, super-prioritize those, everybody with a subscription.
Oh, thanks for the heads up—the app doesn't list expiration dates as far as I can tell, and that's where I do most of my browsing.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#37 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:17 pm

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Arizona (George B Seitz 1931)
John Wayne’s hotshot footballer dumps his fuckbuddy, who gets revenge by marrying his mentor. Wayne eventually falls for the FB’s sister and so she fakes a rape to get Wayne out of the picture. This sounds like trashy fun, but I’d easily rank this among the worst Pre-Code films I’ve ever sat through due to its terrible pacing, acting, script, and fundamentally stupid ideas concerning Wayne’s sanctimonious actions. Tortuous.

By Whose Hand? (Benjamin Stoloff 1932)
WHO ON BOARD THE TRAIN STABBED THE JEWELER TO DEATH AND STOLE HIS PRECIOUS GEM-STUDDED BRACELET? WAS IT THE ESCAPED MURDERER? THE CHEATING FLOOZY? THE LOVEY-DOVEY HONEYMOONERS? THE ANNOYING JOURNO? OR ANY OF THE OTHER STEREOTYPES WITH A LOCO-MOTIVE TO KILL???? Perhaps of some minor, minor interest for opening with a POV knife-stabbing shot that beats slasher movies to the punch by almost half a century, but dear God, don’t sit through the other 64 minutes that follow it.

Shopworn (Nick Grinde 1932)
Barbara Stanwyck’s tough as nails waitress falls for a rich medical student, only the dude’s mom objects and frames her up on a morals charge, but not before trying to pay her off to skip town. This leads Stanwyck down a path to stardom (?) and when she meets the boy six years later, she gets her revenge on the man she thinks tried to buy her earlier by… falling back in love with him? Only the mom is still around and objects and so on. This is a stunningly bad film, with cardboard characters exhibiting motivations that exist only to complicate the plot, not resemble any human being that ever lived. I was literally shocked by the ending of this film, in which the mom, as rotten and irredeemable a “character” as has ever darkened the screen, is capitulated to by Stanwyck because she feels sorry for her. One of the most stunningly misguided finales I’ve ever seen— who the hell was the audience for this, rich old bags who want to fuck their sons? [P]

Three Wise Girls (William Beaudine 1932)
Jean Harlow’s small town girl moves to NYC to find fortune, but only finds rich men with busy hands. I liked how the film depicted Harlow’s life as one long string of molestations at the hands of entitled men, as there is at least something of a discernible world view here. But the film lays it on thick and the lack of subtlety or intelligence to use the hyperbolic depictions of the evils of men to the film’s benefit eventually derail the picture. And ultimately, as in all of the films I watched this round, the so-called freedoms of the Pre-Code era don't mean anything when they're used to aid decidedly un-progressive films like this.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#38 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Nov 03, 2018 11:56 pm

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Frankenstein (Whale 1931). I find it hard to watch it without a smile because of the many times the Mel Brooks film comes to mind (Henry really is an emotionally overwrought fellow and Wilder brilliantly played that up). I preferred Dracula this time, which usually is the opposite. The great sets and arresting visuals are the most enjoyable thing for me – including the village and the grand house in which the marriage takes place, as the camera goes through walls tracking movement from one room to another. The horror is quite grim and would have been been toned down years later, notably in the beginning with the retrieval of a fresh corpse from the ground, and the hanged man, and later on with the little girl scene. There’s also that quasi-sacrilegious moment when Henry compares himself to God.


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The Criminal Code (Hawks 1931). A lot of explicit criticisms of the judicial and prison systems here, even though the narrative focus is about the protagonists’ moral dilemmas. Not a great film, a little unsophisticated in its psychology for one thing, but it’s full of energy and stays intense throughout. Huston turns in the usual strong performance, and Karloff is quite sinister in his side role. Wong Howe shares duties with Tetzlaff and there are some effectively moodily-lit scenes.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#39 Post by Feego » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:54 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Nov 03, 2018 11:56 pm
Frankenstein (Whale 1931). I find it hard to watch it without a smile because of the many times the Mel Brooks film comes to mind (Henry really is an emotionally overwrought fellow and Wilder brilliantly played that up). I preferred Dracula this time, which usually is the opposite. The great sets and arresting visuals are the most enjoyable thing for me – including the village and the grand house in which the marriage takes place, as the camera goes through walls tracking movement from one room to another. The horror is quite grim and would have been been toned down years later, notably in the beginning with the retrieval of a fresh corpse from the ground, and the hanged man, and later on with the little girl scene. There’s also that quasi-sacrilegious moment when Henry compares himself to God.
Frankenstein is surely a lock for my list. It is worth noting that the two bolded scenes above were in fact censored after the movie premiered and remained so for many decades. I believe the drowning was only restored in the 1980s, and the line "Now I know what it feels like to be God!" wasn't reinstated until the late 90s. I was actually thinking about this film the other day in terms of how it differs from later Universal horrors due to its pre-code status. It amused me that the non-pre-code Bride of Frankenstein in many ways goes to even weirder and darker places, with strong suggestions of necrophilia (or whatever you would call the dead mating with the dead) and a much higher body count that includes both children and elderly people.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#40 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:15 pm

The Scarlet Empress is linked in the opening post, and I popped the new blu ray in to watch it again, but the "Approved by the Production Code" certificate appeared before the credits, so I guess it's not eligible. I see for '34 all films released after July 1 had to be approved, so you have to check what month the '34 film was released (this one was September).

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#41 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:24 pm

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American Madness (Capra 1932). An early Capra message film about a bank owner who refuses a merger and faces a bank run. This one is mentioned in the Wikipedia Pre-Code Hollywood article among movies of Depression-era life that involve angry mobs. I didn’t think as well of it the second time around. It’s directed with precision and panache, but the story involving also a bank theft and an almost adulterous affair with the bank owner’s wife feels like a lot of disparate elements thrown together without a meaningful overarching theme.


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Murders in the Rue Morgue (Florey 1932). Really delightful in terms of its strongly expressionistic visuals, with great sets and some strong images that make up for some of the cheap effects, resulting in potent atmosphere. This is such a gruesome, violent film for its era, kind of like the great-granddaddy of torture porn. There’s also a fun Frankensteinian vibe to the doctor’s twisted evolution-inspired ideas, which hints at taboo subjects like bestiality and syphilis. Did Renoir get his inspiration for the girl on the swing shot in A Day in the Country from a similar sequence in this film?


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The Black Cat (Ulmer 1934). This also gets grisly at the end, plus there’s that quasi-incest angle and the Satanic rituals. Watching this again just after Murders, I find it’s a more successful film overall, with a more serious tone. The atmosphere, acting and visuals are all superior, it has a strong sense of style, and the references to these survivors of the Great War as “the living dead” adds an almost poignant, real-life/historical dimension.


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Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (Murnau 1931). A lot of nudity. This is one the Murnaus I like more but I can only get so much out of them. The fable aspect of his narratives, and the deliberately simple characterizations, just aren’t for me in the end. There’s a strong visual resonance with Nosferatu in the scenes near the end when Hitu, the old warrior chosen to guard the young maiden, shows up with his ship to take her away.


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A Farewell to Arms (Borzage 1932). I didn’t like it as much this time, but this adaptation of the Hemingway novel is material that’s tailor-made for the director – a wildly agonizing love story as a spiritual force against the war. I still like the delirious ending that recalls the similar themed 7th Heaven.

You wouldn’t tend to think of this film as a “pre-code” but there are bits of naughtiness strewn throughout that this blog article lays out.


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Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch 1932). Not necessarily Lubitsch’s funniest film, but there’s just as much pleasure to be had in appreciating the elegance and charm of its construction and direction. It’s also still quite naughty even though it doesn’t have the cruder sexual innuendoes of the Ruritanian musicals. I’d forgotten that it’s quite a Depression-conscious film as well. The ending always leaves me a bit puzzled, though, as to why Gaston, smitten as he’s become with Mariette, ends up making the choice he does.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#42 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:04 am

It’s directed with precision and panache, but the story involving also a bank theft and an almost adulterous affair with the bank owner’s wife feels like a lot of disparate elements thrown together without a meaningful overarching theme
The theme is loyalty and it's one of the greatest films ever made on the subject

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#43 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:06 am

Alright, makes sense.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#44 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:16 pm

The ending always leaves me a bit puzzled, though, as to why Gaston, smitten as he’s become with Mariette, ends up making the choice he does.
I've always read it as a classic example of water finding its own level. He may love the ritzy dame, but deep down he's a cad and needs to be paired with the same. Plus, without the pairing we wouldn't get one of Lubtisch's best endings (though it only just barely cracks the Top 3 for Lubitsch endings!)

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#45 Post by knives » Thu Nov 15, 2018 1:45 pm

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The Bishop Murder Case (dirs. Grinde & Burton)
This is a delightfully weird introduction to this set of characters. With Rathbone, Young, and a whole host of people I don't know the names of character seeps entertainingly throughout. Likewise the murders, based on nursery rhymes, are so weird they become somewhat reminiscent of Giallo. The film has a much stronger sense of narrative though so some of the nonsense you see from the Italians doesn't fully pop up here. The limitations of the sound technology, this was actually shot in '29, cause the film to do some weird angles and editing which actually helps to make the film even weirder. It's not a perfect movie though with an excessive amount of downtime. It's kind of boring for much of its time as a result. Still, for images like the above it is worth one spin.

The Kennel Murder Case (dir. Curtiz)
For whatever reason Warner only included this, the last film where Powell played Philo Vance who is essentially a sober Nick. He falls into the background of the film though which overall is very bland and uninvolving. I greatly liked it basically only because the central murder is great and Eugene Pallette gives some of the best reaction shots of his career.

The Struggle (dir. Griffith)
This is a sad sight in terms of it being Griffith's final film, puttering along and also a enjoyable in that its separate pieces are all compelling even as the whole does not congeal. The movie is rather stiff and bizarre often resembling Glen or Glenda right down to an arch and alienly conceived party. This is a story of how alcoholism destroys and you can tell it has a lot of personal shades as Griffith delivers a drunk unlike any other seen in the movies and instead more like one in real life. There are also a number of great choices which while adding to the unreal feeling of the movie give it a sense of something that did happen. For example we're blessed with a happy drunk rather than a mindlessly aggressive one which is new and gives more avenues for pathos than a more traditional struggle would provide. This more empathetic view of alcoholism is probably also what got the film in such trouble with the Breen office in revival attempts. The movie is basically without incident instead allowing the story to be the titled verb. Before their marriage he swears to get on the wagon and seems to stay so for many years until social pressure knocks him down again. From there Griffith explores how this, as a disease, effects the personality and causes lasting damage. All the while he is looked at as the victim of his own liver. Not someone to punish nor necessarily being allowed a pure redemption. Instead he is merely ordinary and that on the narrative level seems to be the censors problem.

Now, all of that is beautiful and makes me raise my feelings into a mixed weirdness, but aesthetically the film is so off that I can't quite come to love it though there is so much Griffith brushes against.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#46 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Nov 16, 2018 3:34 pm

Transatlantic [William K. Howard] - as I wrote elsewhere, it's every bit the revelation Dave Kehr made it out to be, a technical marvel that in 1931 builds on the cinematographic breakthroughs Murnau and others made before that transition period when sound recording seemed to hamper filmmaking like a lead weight. In many ways, it also looks forward to the stylistic innovations of Citizen Kane. The recent restoration is also amazing. Apparently NO print of the domestic version exists, so what they created was a Frankenstein version pieced together from various exported versions that had been dubbed in different languages, and then matching the visuals to a copy of the English soundtrack. (A few sections of English dialogue were still missing and had to be covered with subtitles.) MoMA projected a DCP and what they had looked pretty hazy and often VERY grainy, but considering the circumstances, it's a commendable job.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#47 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:52 am

From now on for me in this LP it's films I've never seen before, so I'm excited but I'm bracing myself for a fair amount of duds!


Freaks (Browning 1932). I was prepared for the content so what actually shocked me more was how awful I found the film, both in terms of story/narrative and general acting. I guess the intention must count a lot in the regard the film holds today for many. The bad transfer may have biased my appreciation but I thought it looked generally crappy too, and I was surprised this was made by the same director as Dracula. Can’t quite understand the horror label either, as apart from the ending this is more social drama.


The Wet Parade (Fleming 1932). An ambitious 2-hour, star-studded (Huston, Loy, Durante, Robert Young) adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel, released the previous year, a portrait of alcoholism before and after Prohibition. Not a bad film but it suffers from undeveloped characters subsumed to functions about the wider theme, and there’s a discontinuous saga-like feel that isn’t entirely satisfying. There’s a particularly shocking scene here with Huston involving domestic abuse.


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Manhattan Melodrama (Van Dyke 1934). MGM’s take on the gangster film is an odd, and ultimately strangely winning, concoction that’s something like a cross between The Public Enemy and The Thin Man. Clark Gable and William Powell are orphans bonded early in life through tragedy, and they respectively grow up to be gangster and district attorney, with Myrna Loy as the woman they’ll share (this is Powell and Loy meeting up just before The Thin Man). Even though crime does not go unpunished, it’s quite shocking to see how sympathetically Blackie (the gangster) is portrayed, and then see him mow someone down with no remorse. It’s an enjoyable movie that just gets more serious and better as it goes on, climaxing in moral dilemmas that are quite terrible and agonizing, and in the end it’s a terrific film about friendship. Lots of prime talent here on this picture, including Selznick producing, Mankiewicz co-writing and Wong Howe lighting.

Released in the first half of '34, this was one of the films condemned by the Chicago Legion of Decency, in the worst subgroup labelled "immoral and indecent" (Jewell 2007, p. 131).

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#48 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 18, 2018 12:57 am

And of course best known for being the movie John Dillinger got captured at, allegedly due to his Myrna Loy crush

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#49 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Nov 18, 2018 1:10 am

Well at least he left with a smile on his face, because she's quite fetching here!

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#50 Post by senseabove » Sun Nov 18, 2018 4:56 am

Shrew wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:02 pm
Absolutely watch the Wellman pre-codes on Filmstruck if you haven't (though most of them are available in that Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3? set if you can track it down). The bold ones are imo essential: Night Nurse, The Public Enemy, Safe in Hell, The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, So Big, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary, Wild Boys of the Road, Lily Turner

Other films on there now:
Red-Headed Woman
Red Dust
Bombshell
The 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are also some other early Harlows that might apply but I haven't seen yet. Plus King Kong is on there if anyone hasn't seen that for some reason.
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I'm trying to hit the Wellmans that aren't available on DVD (afaict?) and I haven't seen before, so I watched So Big! tonight. I wish someone would just give Todd Haynes stacks of money to keep doing melodrama remakes, because what I wouldn't give to see this movie with the breathing room of a mini-series. It starts with city-girl Stanwyck getting sent to the country after her (Honorable and caring! Definitely pre-code...) gambler father dies unexpectedly. With no other prospects for her, a family friend arranges for her to take a school teaching job in a small farming town. As you'd expect, when she arrives, she and the locals eye each other wryly, but we quickly move on to following her through brief scenes spread over several years as she settles in to a completely different way of life.

The ending it loops around to is so heartfelt and sweet it's almost as shocking for a precode as precode scandal is for newcomers to the "genre". I was expecting a fish-out-of-water comedy, and there's certainly a bit of that—including one memorably grotesque shot of country table manners—but it quickly moves on to focus on Stanwyck's integration, and the film's total lack of bitterness about that is surprisingly beguiling. It's got several of Wellman's typical, wonderful one-off shots—the close-up of
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young Stanwyck's smooth hand shaking that of the much younger than she looks farmer's wife
when she first arrives is a time bomb, made especially powerful by that lack of bitterness. The middle bit that ties the two ends together is unfortunately too rushed and moralistically signposted, but I suppose it's worth it for that exceptionally rare sight: Bette Davis acting sweet. And it's definitely worth it for that teary-eyed ending. I don't think this could be called one of Wellman's best, but it's nevertheless a great example of what I love about him...

(No to get off-thread, but I see that Robert Wise directed a remake with Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden... Is it worth hunting down?)

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