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favorite pre-code film

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Today I was able to watch Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell in Night Nurse (1931), after my DVR recorded it overnight. I'd never seen it before, and I was pretty surprised seeing Clark Gable as one of the villains. He was very effective in menacing the Stanwyck character -- probably an indication of his fine acting prowess, which would lead to greater things ahead.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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The precode that got me hooked was undoubtedly "Three on a Match".

Seeing Bogie hooked on coke and Dvorak give one of the great performances of the 30's.

And I just wasn't expecting that ending.

I can't wait for Warners to release it on DVD in a clear transfer. The TCM print needs restoration.

 

Other precodes I rate highly are:

 

- Madam Satan

- Bed of Roses

 

and ofcourse De Mille's Sign of the Cross, with allthat Sadesque debauchery.

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I'm just starting off with PreCodes, but of the bunch I've seen I'd say that:

 

1. The Divorcee

2. Red Dust

3. Design for Living

 

are wonderful. Also got to see Animal Kingdom the other day and thought it was great. I missed Jewel Robbery with Kay Francis when it was on about 2 months ago, but a few of her movies are airing on October 9th which I plan on taping.

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Hi all! I'm learning so much about Pre-Code films and stars from these threads, thanks to all of you here.

 

If I had to name just one pre-code, it might just be JEWEL ROBBERY, but I can't stop there so I'll name a few runners-up:

WHEN LADIES MEET

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

LOVE ME TONIGHT

RED HEADED WOMAN

BABY FACE

RED DUST

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Hi, I've read a lot -- I mean a LOT -- about pre-code films, and how "edgy" and "racy" they supposedly are. But most of the ones I've been able to see, have disappointed me.

 

See, a "movie" is a Motion Picture. Accent on PICTURE.

 

So, when I view a pre-code, I expect to be blown away by amazing VISUALS. Instead, most precodes are just like most of the earliest silent films, only with dialogue. They are endless set pieces, with people just talking to each other, and nobody doing much that can't be done ON RADIO!!

 

Ouch.

 

Here are some of the precodes that I've seen, that have not delivered anything different.

 

Midnight Mary (1933)

Zoo in Budapest (1933)

Young Bride (1932)

Panama Flo (1932)

Kept Husbands (1931)

The Lady Refuses (1931)

 

Every single one of these so-called "pre-codes" is, in my humble op, dull in the extreme. They are dull because they are ALL TALK! Where are the exciting visuals?)

 

Now then. Here are some of the pre-codes that do -- again, in my humble op -- "deliver the goods" in the visuals department:

 

Kiki (1931)

42nd Street (1933)

Footlight Parade (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

King Kong (1933)

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

 

See the difference? Instead of being pictures of people just talking to each other, these films actually SHOW US something!

 

For gossakes, folks, don't hype precodes that are static and dull. Let us know which ones deliver moving pictures -- again, accent on PICTURES!

 

Cheers,

Dan N.

 

Message was edited by:

daneldorado

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Dan,

 

I think you may be missing the thing that makes the "racy" Pre-Codes important/interesting: context.

 

By today's standards, pretty much all of these films are tame, talky, etc. BUT, by the standards of when they were produced, they might have been quite shocking, scandalous, etc. I don't think many of the folks interested in Pre-Codes are expecting great doses of sex, nudity, violence, cussing, etc. Mind you, all of these things might be in there, in some (to our sensibilities) mild way, but what really makes the Pre-Codes stand out are the themes and subject matters they deal with or touch on.

 

Now, of course, this is a lot more subtle than what most modern audiences expect, but that doesn't mean these films aren't/weren't "adult" pictures. Barbara Stanwyck's own father pimps her out in BABY FACE. Paul Muni clearly lusts after his sister in SCARFACE. And every kind of vice and degradation possible is included in KONGO. And on and on. Just try to put yourself in the place of a movie-goer in the early 1930's, and imagine how you would respond to these films.

 

On a final note, if you want to see some even more shocking films from the 1930's-40's, I recommend tracking down Dwain Esper's MANIAC, or some of the Mom and Dad/birth of a baby films from that era. There are more than a few out on DVD, and they might really blow your mind. Adults only!

 

Max

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Thank you, MaxMania, for your thoughtful response to my inquiry.

 

But you seem to think that I'm missing the point on pre-codes, by expecting them to contain a lot of sex, nudity, and violence. That's not it at all. Please notice that I DID point to several pre-codes that DO pass the "daneldorado test," for example KIKI (1931), 42ND STREET (1933), and TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934). I guess I was expecting that every pre-code movie would contain the same elements that pleased me in those films. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd, but... I guess it ain't gonna happen.

 

See, the above films all contain pleasing PICTURES, as opposed to mere talk. The Production Code did not merely proscribe certain types of dialogue, it also outlawed certain types of playful IMAGES. I'm not hoping for nudity, God knows. But the images in the films I mentioned above DO deliver the goods. Most pre-codes I've seen, do NOT.

 

Thanks again for your reply.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

 

Message was edited by:

daneldorado

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Ah, but you see, what is "dull" to you is "fascinating" to me---by which I mean dialogue. The pre-code movies were, after all, called "talkies", so a good deal of stage material was adapted to the screen and they just couldn't get enough of dialogue it seems. And that is ambrosia for me, personally, because I am a big fan of the talky directors, such as Mankiewicz.

 

This is another reason most current films bore me because the accent is almost entirely on visuals and special effects, and not on clever or witty dialogue. I can forgive "staginess" or uninspired camera movement, but I can't forgive dull dialogue.

 

Miss G

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All the foresaid having been, er, foresaid... can anyone here tell me if the ONE FILM we are all looking forward to, with eager longing -- I'm talking about the "restored" version of Barbara Stanwyck's "Baby Face" (1933) -- is all talk, or does it have exciting visuals too?

 

I have read review after review about this long-sought pre-code, and have heard, ad nauseam, that Lily Powers' (Stanwyck) own father pimps her out. Yes, that's shocking. But are there any PICTURES that show this? Or is it all Miss Goddess' "ambrosia?"

 

The IMDb tagline for the film is:

 

"She climbed the ladder of success - wrong by wrong!"

 

Yeah, okay, fine. But do we simply HEAR about Lily's sinful ascent up that ladder... or are there PICTURES that show it?

 

The projected "release date" for the "Baby Face" DVD is this December sometime. It would be nice to know if it's worth the money.

 

Dan N.

 

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daneldorado

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Hey Dan,

 

Thanks for your kind response to my response. You clearly took what I said in the spirit it was intended.

 

As for the restored BABY FACE, I saw it in a theater last year, and, no, there are no risque or shocking visuals in it that i can recall. But it is crystal clear that Stanwyck's father is pimping her out, and, I think, there is a pretty clear lesbian subtext to the relationship between Barbara Stanwyck's character and her maid, Chico (the lovely Theresa Harris).

 

I hope that the lack of "sexy' visuals won't keep you from watching (and enjoying, I have no doubt) this excellent film. It's one of the best Pre-Codes I've seen, and its ever-rising critical reputation is well deserved, in my opinion.

 

Have you seen KONGO yet? Or SAFE IN HELL?

 

Max

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Daneldorado, her "ascent" is certainly implied...with great visuals zooming up the facade of a skyscraper, as she "sleeps her way up" the ladder of success until she reaches the top floor. "Baby Doll" really is a delight...I saw it earlier this year, and was very glad I did. Don't miss it; it's really one of the most enjoyable pre-codes. Needless to say, Stanwyck is terrific.

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tmob wrote:

 

"Baby Doll" really is a delight...I saw it earlier this year, and was very glad I did. Don't miss it; it's really one of the most enjoyable pre-codes. Needless to say, Stanwyck is terrific.

 

 

Elia Kazan's "Baby Doll" (1956) is an okay film made right on the cusp of Hollywood's revolt against the Production Code. But as such, it still does not contain the elements of true pre-code, which came much earlier.

 

"Baby Face" (1933) is set to explode with a bang, this December when the restored, unedited version will be released on DVD. There has been so much press about this film, I hope it won't be another fiasco like the one we movie fans faced last year, over the "unearthing" of the 1922 "Beyond the Rocks."

 

The 1922 film, pairing silent stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, was much anticipated. But when the DVD came out and we saw it, there was no hint that it had been "restored." The picture was filled with scratches, jump cuts, and deteriorated frames.

 

For this reason, any new DVD release of a classic film becomes -- for me -- a rental at first, then a purchase IF it appears to be "restored."

 

I will indeed look forward to seeing "Baby Face" (1933) when it is released. Hopefully, it will have been restored to near-perfection, like some of those precodes we get to see on TCM!

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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...another fiasco like the one we movie fans faced last year, over the "unearthing" of the 1922 "Beyond the Rocks."

...when the DVD came out and we saw it, there was no hint that it had been "restored." The picture was filled with scratches, jump cuts, and deteriorated frames.

 

Each to his own expectations, but I thought - I haven't carefully watched it all the way through at one sitting - they did a fine job. What I saw was "razor-sharp," new score, tinting (though not quite what I expected there); when working from a probable unique piece of film, without several to choose scenes (or even frames) from, what you have is what there is. It could have looked like "The Young Rajah!" Or like lots of films we see from the '30s or even '40s, which should have multiple prints around.

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I thought the restoration of Beyond the Rocks was first rate given the source materials. It was unfortunate that despite the stars the movie sank under the weight of the turgid story by Elinor Glyn. Talk about melodramatic claptrap!

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Earlier this week, I got the chance to watch NIGHT NURSE (1931).

 

Wow!

 

Usually I watch precodes in hopes of spotting female flesh, and there is some of that here. Hey, Joan Blondell is in the cast, so flesh is a given. But what a story!

 

Barbara Stanwyck stars, playing Lora Hart, a young woman who inveigles her way into a nursing class, and manages to graduate. One of her first jobs has her watching over two young girls who -- much to Lora's dismay -- appear to be starving to death.

 

Of course she alerts the adults in the family, but none of them seem to care. In fact, one of them, Nick the chauffer (Clark Gable in an early role), even threatens Lora bodily harm if she doesn't stop talking about the kids. Then, Nick actually knocks her down! We don't see the punch land -- it's all Hollywood fakery -- but the event is shocking enough.

 

It seems the adults, including the girls' dipsomaniac mother (Charlotte Merriam), are starving the girls, hoping to get their hands on their trust fund.

 

Along the way, Lora meets Mortie (Ben Lyon), a bootlegger. (This was during Prohibition, remember.) He's technically a criminal, but other than his booze peddling, he seems like a nice guy. So Lora enlists his aid in getting the girls free from their virtual imprisonment. He succeeds by using subterfuge, and the ending even suggests that Mortie is complicit in murdering Nick.

 

Zowie! NIGHT NURSE delivers a socko scenario! This is one you won't be able to look away from, folks -- whether it's to watch Clark Gable behaving like a hoodlum or to watch Joan Blondell slipping in and out of her lingerie.

 

I give it 20 million stars.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

http://dan-navarros-blog.blogspot.com

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There are so many great ones. I love:

 

-Design For Living

-Red Dust

-Red-Headed Woman

-42nd Street

-Gold Diggers of 1933

-Footlight Parade

-Three on a Match

-Blonde Crazy

-Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise

-No Man of Her Own

 

By far the greatest movie genre of all time!

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I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing James Whale's "Waterloo Bridge" on TCM 12/04! With Mae Clarke and (in a small part) Bette Davis!

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Here are 4 outstanding long unseen pre-code titles to look out for on TCM in April 2007:

 

Double Harness" (RKO-1933) Powell and Harding comedy/drama about pre-maritial sex.

Rafter Romance (RKO-1933) Ginger Rogers comedy about sharing a flat with a member of the opposite sex. Fantastic shot of Ginger's bare back while undressing.

One Man's Journey (RKO-1933) Terrific Lionel Barrymore drama. Deals with out-of-wedlock pregnancy and other social issues.

Stingaree (RKO-1934) Irene Dunne is kidnapped by Richard Dix in this lavish musical comedy/drama. Mary Boland gives a standout comedy performance. Use of the word VIRGINITY, pushed the code office to the limited.

 

(All 4 titles have been unseen for nearly 50 years.)

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Here are 4 outstanding long unseen pre-code titles to look out for on TCM in April 2007:

 

Double Harness (RKO-1933) Powell and Harding comedy/drama about pre-maritial sex.

Rafter Romance (RKO-1933) Ginger Rogers comedy about sharing a flat with a member of the opposite sex. Fantastic shot of Ginger's bare back while undressing.

One Man's Journey (RKO-1933) Terrific Lionel Barrymore drama. Deals with out-of-wedlock pregnancy and other social issues.

Stingaree (RKO-1934) Irene Dunne is kidnapped by Richard Dix in this lavish musical comedy/drama. Mary Boland gives a standout comedy performance. Use of the word VIRGINITY, pushed the code office to the limited.

 

(All 4 titles have been unseen for nearly 50 years.)

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> Here are 4 outstanding long unseen pre-code titles to

> look out for on TCM in April 2007:

>

> Double Harness (RKO-1933) Powell and Harding

> comedy/drama about pre-maritial sex.

> Rafter Romance (RKO-1933) Ginger Rogers comedy

> about sharing a flat with a member of the opposite

> sex. Fantastic shot of Ginger's bare back while

> undressing.

> One Man's Journey (RKO-1933) Terrific Lionel

> Barrymore drama. Deals with out-of-wedlock pregnancy

> and other social issues.

> Stingaree (RKO-1934) Irene Dunne is kidnapped

> by Richard Dix in this lavish musical comedy/drama.

> Mary Boland gives a standout comedy performance. Use

> of the word VIRGINITY, pushed the code office

> to the limited.

>

> (All 4 titles have been unseen for nearly 50 years.)

 

This isn't entirely true, is it. At least a couple of these ("Double Harness" and "One Man's Journey" appear to have been shown at Cinefest in 2004. Of course, that is a narrow audience and I, for one, am very appreciative of the fact that TCM has managed to get this and will be able to present them to a larger audience. I am very much looking forward to seeing these. Maybe TCM will even present them in prime time on a Saturday or Sunday. :-)

 

MM

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