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Films You Wish Were Pre-Codes


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#21 hepclassic

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Posted 29 May 2016 - 08:48 PM

This does not directly answer your request, but...

 

I've always considered the most popular hit of Hollywood's Golden Age to be both post-code AND pre-code. The reasons Gone With The Wind got away with so much (and all producer Selznick had to do was pay some thousand dollar fine in order to include the line "I don't give a damn" in the final cut) is pretty obvious in hindsight...

 

The industry is ALL about making money and the whole point of the Production Code was so that they wouldn't lose a lot because people were protesting too much to such fare as the Mae West movies. They also feared that if Father Coughlin continued to be in a state of religious rage a.k.a. Trump-style on the nation's coast-to-coast Sunday radio shows, then the more conservative members in the federal government would use the industry's questioned "image" against them and try to break up their much protected monopolies over theater distribution (although that happened anyway post war).

 

However the book itself was a MAMMOTH best-seller in part because it was somewhat "smutty"... although not too-too much. It was still tasteful enough (and I will get into specifics in a moment) since there is a fine line you must walk in order to get away with a lot. It was apparent... just as in the case of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? decades later... that too much "blue penciling" of the original material could potentially backfire on the movie adaptation's popularity. Fans of the original in print or stage don't wish TOO many changes. In short, you have an "excuse" as to "why" you must push some boundaries: the original is an established hit with the masses and "they" (the consumers) don't wish it to be tampered too much.

 

The lead characters were hardly "moral", not only by Civil War Era standards but also by 1930s standards. However there were so many "moral" and "righteous" characters off-shooting the rebellious Scarlet and Rhett (and his mistress Belle he is allowed to keep despite being jealous of "faithful" Ashley holding his wife's interest... a double standard that actually gets addressed in a very rare moment in Ol' Hollywood) including "sweet" and "their hearts are in the right place" Melanie and Ashley and "conservative because that's the norm" characters like her "gentlemen" husbands preceding Rhett, her conformist sisters ("you can always tell a lady by her hands"), every woman over the age of 40 (and there are plenty voicing their opinions on screen... and Aunt Pittypat demanding her smelling salts) and even Mammy herself saying "if it ain't fittin', it ain't fittin" because... of course, the "colored" people must tow the line since they have no place to question The Establishment. It is as if we are allowed to see the two leads misbehave simply because there are so many lectures given to them throughout the movie by everybody else that the moralists don't need to lecture the viewers themselves.

 

I think one common problem with many films that followed the end of Hollywood censorship in the late sixties is that too many characters were populating them who were sticking their middle finger at The Establishment without The Establishment SHOWN in conflict with them... and givinng us a reason "why" we should agree with that middle finger. In Gone With The Wind, Scarlet and Rhett are fully fleshed out characters you understand. Although many consider M*A*S*H (the movie, not the TV show that was very different) a masterpiece of its era, it still bothers me that The Boys can rip down the shower curtain to determine if "Hot Lips" is blonde "in the correct places" simply because they mock her sense of military "conformity" and not because she did anything particularly bad to them that warranted it as pay-back revenge. To me, that invasion of her privacy is simply insensitive and unfeeling... and they are no different than the often insensitive moralists and conformists who use religion and The Bible to over-ride others' personal freedoms. You need a "why" in a story for an action to take place.

 

(Hate to go off topic, but I never liked Ghost because it is too judgmental of the villains in the "here after" scenes of dark figures taking them away to Pluto's lair when only Sam was killed in the movie and he found "peace" with it. I do like the scenes with the sympathetic angry ghost in the subway, who shows Sam some poltergeist 'tricks", because both he and Whoopi's performances make characters who may have been lackluster in the script better because of their performances. I guess my problem is more with screenwriting than anything else.)

 

But... I am going off topic here, I guess. Regarding its post-code nature, there are lines like "you should be kissed often and by somebody who knows how" (paraphrasing since these lines aren't exact) would obviously be a LOT more suggestive today... since kissing isn't that big of a deal in regards to a man's "prowess" in impressing a woman with his "capabilities". It is interesting how certain things are toned down too much, but others are considered OK... like all of the attempted rapes... from the Yankee "you're alone little lady?" and the guy attacking her on her carriage later... as a symbol that Scarlet is TOO strong of a woman and must be "taken down". Actually there is a lot of attacks made on the Establishment's unfair balancing of the sexes that are addressed in that movie (and novel) that I am surprised haven't been criticized by the conservatives... although they CERTAINLY would have been in a less popular movie.

 

... yet, if something is THAT popular, you don't question it like you would so much else.

Well, I don't know how to follow this because there is a lot that is worthy of discussion that hits on point and goes deeper, but I will try because I know there is more to talk about. 

 

With Gone With The Wind (1939), if the Code didn't exist, I would still like to see Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, but I would like to see them make love after he carries her up the stairs. Even if it's period sex. The original film got away with a lot of skin visibility, but that chemistry was fabulous and sometimes, when I see a classic movie kiss, I do wonder considering the classic move star sex lives we know of with accuracy (particularly the heterosexual ones), why are we left to our imaginations. I think classic movie stars were capable of doing on screen what is now called "cinema sex." 

 

With It's A Wonderful Life (1946) Capra got away with showing husband and wife sharing a bed and James Stewart's George Bailey not having his feet on the floor on the bed as he kisses Donna Reed's Mary Hatch Bailey. Not that I have pictured a James Stewart's sex scene immediately, but that's the only other film made during the Reinforcement Period that I would have liked to see more "exceptions" so to speak. 


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"Sometimes you have to look at a person and see that he's doing the best he can." Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer in 1981's "On Golden Pond."
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#22 Jlewis

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 08:29 AM

This does not directly answer your request, but...

 

I've always considered the most popular hit of Hollywood's Golden Age to be both post-code AND pre-code. The reasons Gone With The Wind got away with so much (and all producer Selznick had to do was pay some thousand dollar fine in order to include the line "I don't give a damn" in the final cut) is pretty obvious in hindsight...

 

The industry is ALL about making money and the whole point of the Production Code was so that they wouldn't lose a lot because people were protesting too much to such fare as the Mae West movies. They also feared that if Father Coughlin continued to be in a state of religious rage a.k.a. Trump-style on the nation's coast-to-coast Sunday radio shows, then the more conservative members in the federal government would use the industry's questioned "image" against them and try to break up their much protected monopolies over theater distribution (although that happened anyway post war).

 

However the book itself was a MAMMOTH best-seller in part because it was somewhat "smutty"... although not too-too much. It was still tasteful enough (and I will get into specifics in a moment) since there is a fine line you must walk in order to get away with a lot. It was apparent... just as in the case of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? decades later... that too much "blue penciling" of the original material could potentially backfire on the movie adaptation's popularity. Fans of the original in print or stage don't wish TOO many changes. In short, you have an "excuse" as to "why" you must push some boundaries: the original is an established hit with the masses and "they" (the consumers) don't wish it to be tampered too much.

 

The lead characters were hardly "moral", not only by Civil War Era standards but also by 1930s standards. However there were so many "moral" and "righteous" characters off-shooting the rebellious Scarlet and Rhett (and his mistress Belle he is allowed to keep despite being jealous of "faithful" Ashley holding his wife's interest... a double standard that actually gets addressed in a very rare moment in Ol' Hollywood) including "sweet" and "their hearts are in the right place" Melanie and Ashley and "conservative because that's the norm" characters like her "gentlemen" husbands preceding Rhett, her conformist sisters ("you can always tell a lady by her hands"), every woman over the age of 40 (and there are plenty voicing their opinions on screen... and Aunt Pittypat demanding her smelling salts) and even Mammy herself saying "if it ain't fittin', it ain't fittin" because... of course, the "colored" people must tow the line since they have no place to question The Establishment. It is as if we are allowed to see the two leads misbehave simply because there are so many lectures given to them throughout the movie by everybody else that the moralists don't need to lecture the viewers themselves.

 

I think one common problem with many films that followed the end of Hollywood censorship in the late sixties is that too many characters were populating them who were sticking their middle finger at The Establishment without The Establishment SHOWN in conflict with them... and givinng us a reason "why" we should agree with that middle finger. In Gone With The Wind, Scarlet and Rhett are fully fleshed out characters you understand. Although many consider M*A*S*H (the movie, not the TV show that was very different) a masterpiece of its era, it still bothers me that The Boys can rip down the shower curtain to determine if "Hot Lips" is blonde "in the correct places" simply because they mock her sense of military "conformity" and not because she did anything particularly bad to them that warranted it as pay-back revenge. To me, that invasion of her privacy is simply insensitive and unfeeling... and they are no different than the often insensitive moralists and conformists who use religion and The Bible to over-ride others' personal freedoms. You need a "why" in a story for an action to take place.

 

(Hate to go off topic, but I never liked Ghost because it is too judgmental of the villains in the "here after" scenes of dark figures taking them away to Pluto's lair when only Sam was killed in the movie and he found "peace" with it. I do like the scenes with the sympathetic angry ghost in the subway, who shows Sam some poltergeist 'tricks", because both he and Whoopi's performances make characters who may have been lackluster in the script better because of their performances. I guess my problem is more with screenwriting than anything else.)

 

But... I am going off topic here, I guess. Regarding its post-code nature, there are lines like "you should be kissed often and by somebody who knows how" (paraphrasing since these lines aren't exact) would obviously be a LOT more suggestive today... since kissing isn't that big of a deal in regards to a man's "prowess" in impressing a woman with his "capabilities". It is interesting how certain things are toned down too much, but others are considered OK... like all of the attempted rapes... from the Yankee "you're alone little lady?" and the guy attacking her on her carriage later... as a symbol that Scarlet is TOO strong of a woman and must be "taken down". Actually there is a lot of attacks made on the Establishment's unfair balancing of the sexes that are addressed in that movie (and novel) that I am surprised haven't been criticized by the conservatives... although they CERTAINLY would have been in a less popular movie.

 

... yet, if something is THAT popular, you don't question it like you would so much else.


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#23 hepclassic

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 06:34 PM

Great topic. Of course, this can also be applied to films we wish were post-code (implying the production code got in the way of adult storytelling).

By all means  :)


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"Sometimes you have to look at a person and see that he's doing the best he can." Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer in 1981's "On Golden Pond."
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#24 TopBilled

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 12:20 PM

Great topic. Of course, this can also be applied to films we wish were post-code (implying the production code got in the way of adult storytelling).


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#25 hepclassic

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 11:44 AM

We know there are Pre-Code versions of The Letter (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1931) and An American Tragedy (1930) (better known as A Place In The Sun (1951)- but what films do you wish were Pre-Code and whom would you want to star if they were? 


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"Sometimes you have to look at a person and see that he's doing the best he can." Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer in 1981's "On Golden Pond."
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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