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Guest Schaefer, William

Convention City/Gold Diggers of 1933

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Guest Schaefer, William

Hello. I've been spending the last twenty years watching old movies, so I only just now got a computer and can talk about them. For this category, I'd like to bring up "Convention City" again, which has been talked about before. It's been reviewed in some major works (David Shipman, Clive Hirschhorn, several others) and there must be an archival copy available to scholars somewhere. It quite clearly had an impact on the development of the Production Code of 1934 on the level of the Mae West films. It is very important to this category and must be found again and shown. As for the raciest films I've seen, I still believe that "Gold Diggers of 1933" stands out, not just for the Berkeley numbers but for the plot, which includes Aline McMahon framing Warren William by putting him drunk, in his underwear, in Joan Blondell's bed. If Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell hadn't given this film its dose of innocence, it may have come across much as "Convention City" did, which apparently lacked such sweet counterpoint. May I add that "Red-Headed Woman" and "Design For Living" also make my list for the Pre-Code Hall Of Fame. Thank you.

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Guest Schaefer, William

I'm new at this, and I didn't mean for my last meassage to be a discussion unto itself, but merely an addition to the Pre-Code discussion page. I must have done something wrong, because it's sitting all by itself in its own sub-category. Sorry about that.

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Guest Alix

William, I got really excited when I saw "Convention City" listed as a topic, so don't apologize! CONVENTION CITY is probably one of the most sought after films from the pre-Code era. To the best of my knowledge, there is no archival print. There are several stories offered, as to why there is no print known to exist. One is that once the code was actually enforced (1934) there was no way this one would be able to "pass," so it was shelved, and finally deteriorated. Second and to my mind most likely, is the story that although it was denied re-release, many conventioneers and private organizations begged MGM to let them screen it at their gatherings. Studio big-whigs (was it Mayer or Thalberg??) knew the best way to stop this from happening was to destroy the negative and prints. I read about a year ago that somewhere in Europe print footage was found from CONVENTION CITY but it had no sound, and people were frantically searching for more. I have not heard anything about this possible discovery since (DARN!). Other "naughty-naughties" in the pre-Code genre would be FOOTLIGHT PARADE, UNDER EIGHTEEN, BABY FACE, and NIGHT NURSE, LOVE IS A RACKET, and MANDALAY. Another supposedly "Hall of Fame" pre-Code is Joan Crawford's LETTY LYNTON, but we'll never get to see that one because of legal entanglements (come on--it's been 70 years, why can't we see this one??) It's good to talk with you William! Pre-Codes are my favorite types of movies!

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Guest son, jery

What I love about the pre-codes is that they had this raw, unpolished quality about them. You see sweat, hair that's not all that pomaded and the women have hair-dos that aren't sprayed down. And those gowns they wore! None of the gals look like they have underwear on and the material is so thin and sensual. It gives you an ambiance of a world that's really changed overnight, especially with the Great Depression and the advent of the talkies. I think Jean Harlow really sums it up in her first scene in "Public Enemy." You see her with that harsh, bleached hair, wearing heavy mascara, black lipstick, and you know this is a brand new woman--no soft chiffon gowns for her, or soft focus lighting or girlish flirting.

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Guest Schaefer, William

Thanks, Alix. You mentioned "Under Eighteen"--that's a little-seen beauty. Marian Marsh was a vivacious charmer. "Svengali" is worth watching for her many stunning scenes. Some moments in the pre-code realm that stand out in my mind: Robert Armstrong flipping the bird in "Lost Squadron," some distinctive profanity in "World Gone Mad," Cagney behaving rather outrageously in "Lady Killer," the working-up-the-building motif of "Baby Face," Miriam Hopkins "giving up sex...tomorrow" scene (as I remember it) in "Design For Living," Joan Blondell saying "move over, darling" (ostensibly to Cagney, as Claire Dodd listens by phone) in "Footlight Parade," and any one of countless Groucho remarx. But I REALLY want to see "Convention City."

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Guest Baker, Hansel

Hey, William, I really loved your comments. I am a big movie fan, too. I have a favorite movie of all time. The name of it is Summer of '42. I have loved it ever since I was a child. Jennifer O'Neill is my favorite actress. The innocence, the naivete, the plot of the movie is wonderful! I hope this movie will come on Turner Classic Movies one day. I love the Now Playing magazine. Do you get it in the mail? William, your comments are SUPERB! If you would like to get in touch with me, email me at b_hansel@bellsouth.net. Thanks for reading my reply, man! I love you as a friend, buddy! May Blessings come your way, Hansel Baker III

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Guest Schaefer, William

Thanks for the nice words, Hansel. I like to stay off on the sidelines these days, but I still read the posts, and it's great to know that some of my opinions made a good impression. This is a wonderful community of fans, and I love the support and encouragement everyone provides to everyone else. Classic movie fans are made of good stuff. Thanks again, and take care!

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Guest son, jery

William, I've not read any postings from you for quite awhile and when you do write something, it's always quite interesting. Do you know if there is an original version of "Baby Face" anywhere? Robert Osbourne said TCM couldn't find one. It's horrible to think that all these decades, TV viewers have watched censored, heavily edited-for-TV versions of Hollywoods greatest movies. Like "King Kong", "Grand Hotel," etc. I remember watching the latter back in the 50s. All the bedroom scenes between Garbo and Barrymore were edited out. That means these two beauties were only briefly glimpsed since nearly ALL their scenes were in Garbo's silken boudoir.

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Guest Schaefer, William

I'd be surprised if a complete copy of "Baby Face" turned up. (Frankly, I can't believe there was even racier stuff cut out of it.) As for "King Kong," there's a lost scene with a man-eating spider I would love to see. Anyone who would cut a scene between Garbo and Barrymore out of "Grand Hotel" must be, well, unimpassioned, to say the least. I would also like to see the original, complete versions of "Lost Horizon" and the 1929 "Show Boat" (both still exist only in fragments).

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Guest Alix

Any chance of TCM reconstructing CONVENTION CITY like they apparently have LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT? Wouldn't that be a treat? I read some years ago that a reel of this movie was possibly found, minus the sound. Oh to get a chance to see this pre-Code!

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As for "Baby Face," I don't think the original version was ever shown to the public. I've read that the ending as shown was created in editing after the Hays Office complained following a pre-release screening. There was some Hays Office pressure during the pre-code period and some things got cut or changed even then but it was much less frequent than after the Breen Office got started.

 

-Brian

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Do you have any idea of the "real" ending? The one in the movie is pretty lame, after all that happened in the movie.

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I've tried posting an answer for two days but I keep getting kicked out. Okay, one last time. I wish and wish some wise studio mogul would issue these priceless pre-codes on DVD, along with commentaries from surviving cast and crew. "Babyface" is a perfect example of some original cast/crew member to clear up what happened to that bizarre ending. So many of the pre-codes were sabatoged by the horrible Breen office and then later by the Catholic League. When they were released for TV in l950, they were butchered even more. I remember watching a 30 minute version of "Grand Hotel" back in l958--because it was so heavily censored, only 30 minutes remained, which made this classic totally confusing. "Marked Woman" wasn't available for viewing on network TV--like ABC, CBS, etc.--until just recently because the censors said--are you ready--the women depicted were of "questionable character"! Translated: they were prostitutes!

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Patypancake, it sounds as though the 30 minute "Grand Hotel" version that you saw might have been so heavily censored that Lewis Stone would have looked like the lead--I'd love to see it now, just for fun.

 

Re: the original ending of "Babyface", Axel Madsen wrote in a pretty good bio called "Stanwyck" (you know, bibliography, index, decent prose style) back in 1994 that Stanwyck, Darryl Zanuck and writer Howard Smith had a series of story conferences in the Fall of 1932 about the movie. Interestingly, Zanuck and Smith seemed to have alot of respect for Stanwyck's judgement and she is said to have contributed ideas for some of the tougher sequences, including an early scene that was toned down. Said scene showed Stanwyck's character being forced by her father into a room with a man and told exactly what was expected...the implication's still there in the existing version, but Smith and Zanuck had to lighten up a bit on the star's push for frankness. According to Madsen, the original ending was to have Stanwyck's character taking off for Paris again, letting the chips fall where they may. Yet, this ending may have been censored not so much because of the production code or the Legion of Decency, but due to studio politics; specifically, Zanuck's falling out with the Warner Brothers during post-production of the movie.

 

Apparently, corporate sleight of hand was all the rage then as now...It seems that Zanuck had a close look at the Warner Bros. bookkeeping around that time. Zanuck had personally promised the people working under him at Warner's that the pay cuts they'd swallowed when things looked their blackest for the movie industry, (you know, due to that pesky Great Depression),would be restored once the worst was over--a promise that the Academy and Price Waterhouse had also assured the workers would be kept at the time of the cuts. Zanuck realized that the Warners would renege on this promise, raised holy heck, and eventually left Warners for Fox not long after. Consequently, "Babyface" was kinda given the shaft--censorship was one thing, but tick off the bosses--forget artistic integrity.

 

Anyway, terrific little rancid slice of life that it is, "Babyface" certainly gave Babs, the human sedative George Brent, and a divinely gawky John Wayne some entertaining moments on film.

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Wow, I always thought the scene where her father acts as her pimp was pretty powerful as it remains! It is in such utter bad taste, that the first time I saw it I was dumbfounded. The scene does, however, set up for the viewer some of Babyface's motivation for doing and acting the way she does.

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In spring of 1933 this wonderful film was submitted to the New York State Board of Censors, who rejected it, demanding a number of cuts and changes. Warner Brothers made these changes prior to the film's release in July 1933. In 2004, a "dupe negative" copy of the film as it existed prior to being censored was located at the Library of Congress. This uncensored version received its public premiere at Film Forum in New York City on 24 January 2005, more than 70 years after it was made. It has been shown several times since at film festivals and is being digitally restored for release on DVD later this year, along with RED HEADED WOMAN and the 1931 version of WATERLOO BRIDGE with Mae Clarke.

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I am glad to get the chance to see the uncut version of BABY FACE! It will be interesting, to say the least.

 

I also want to urge people who haven't seen the 1931 version of WATERLOO BRIDGE to do so. I feel it is by far the better version of the movie. Any one else who's seen both versions want to comment?

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i don't know where i've been(probably under a rock) but i've never heard of Convention City. whats its about? and why is it so scandalous?

 

i love Footlight Parade. Cagney and Blondell are wonderful in it. has Baby Face really been released on DVD? i'll have to get that.

 

it seems to me that the pre-code B movies were much more scandalous than the A movies which makes them more fun to watch sometimes. ;)

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from what i gather from seeing stills and lobby cards from the film, Convention City is a comedy about some salesmen (guy kibbee, dick powell, adolphe menjou) who attend a convention and get mixed up with a prostitute (joan blondell).

 

you can see some images from the film here:

http://homepage.mac.com/mhall600/.Pictures/jb/page2/conventioncity.jpg

 

i wonder if there's a working script from the film still floating around somewhere? that might give more insight into why it was banned.

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I, too, am awaiting the DVD release of Baby Face (1933). But I'm leery of it, because I've had only slight success with the pre-code films I have acquired in recent years.

 

What I mean is that many movies made in the 1929 to mid-1934 period -- before the Production Code was enforced -- are "edgy" in ONLY the dialogue. If you played them all on radio, you would get just as much bang for your buck. WHERE are the PICTURES to go with the dialogue?

 

After hearing so much talk about the "risque" movies of the precode era, I expected to get a real treat from such as Midnight Mary (1933), Kept Husbands (1931), Millie (1931), and The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932). Well, I've got a "word" for them: Misleading! There's a little risque talk, yes, but there are no exciting visuals. As I've said, these "pictures" would be just as effective, played on the radio.

 

Well, okay, there IS one scene in Greeks... where Joan Blondell falls down and her skirt flies up, slightly. But that's all.

 

Probably the only precode films that deliver visual excitement are the musicals -- 42nd Street (1933), for instance, or its de facto sequels Footlight Parade (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). Oh, and Mary Pickford's Kiki (1931) is a winner in this department, too.

 

So, I'll look forward to Baby Face as well, but with not a lot of hope of getting my chimes rung.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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For shocking visuals, check out Josef von Sternberg's Scarlett Empress. It's filled with depraved imagery including the props (clocks that feature torture scenes when it strikes the hour); sets (staircases featuring bared, tortured caryatids); as well as a cast of hundreds of stripped and bound damsels and a chorus line of beheaded gentlemen. Truly bizarre. While Sam Jaffe's insane Peter tortures everyone, Marlene Dietrich is making love to the entire army. John Lodge's knowing leers at her are more obscene than any act they could have performed. This movie that could not have been released a year later...

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John Lodge was later a Republican Congressman and Governor of CT. He is of the Lodge family of Mass.

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"no exciting visuals"

 

i guess it depends on your definition of exciting visuals. i find beautiful women in lingerie and slinky braless dresses pretty exciting, and you can find those kinds of scenes in plenty of precode films (though maybe not so much in the ones you mentioned seeing, though i know for a fact that in Greeks Had a Word For Them, Joan Blondell is sporting a negligee in atleast a few scenes). just don't expect 70's style sexuality, its usually just a brief moment here or there, usually in the form of a gratuitous clothes-changing or bathing scene that is completely unnecessary to further the plot. and like you said, suggestive dialogue, and also plot situations you'd never see in later films, like unmarried people sleeping around, pregnancy, drug use, and even homosexuality, though those were often just hinted at, using dialogue or subtle visual cues in such a way so the average viewer might not get it unless they were paying careful attention. i think that's part of the fun of pre-codes, figuring out all the hinted situations that aren't clearly spelled out for the viewer.

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vitaphony wrote, in part:

 

"... just don't expect 70's style sexuality, its usually just a brief moment here or there, usually in the form of a gratuitous clothes-changing or bathing scene that is completely unnecessary to further the plot."

 

 

A little misunderstanding here. Yes, I do realize that by the 1970s, with the Production Code a distant memory, movies were dealing in every conceivable risque subject, nudity being only one of them. Today's film makers are still free to make movies that appeal to perverse tastes. The only barrier is the MPAA rating system, mandating PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 ratings, depending on each film's content.

 

But I wasn't looking for 21st century-style audacity or nudity in pre-Code films. Rather, as a straight male, I was hoping for some female skin, for example putting on her stockings, or taking them off, or doing something else on screen that shows off her body... in a discreet way, of course.

 

MIDNIGHT MARY (1933) was hyped to me as a really really "daring" precode. But when I saw it and recorded it, there was absolutely nothing visually exciting about it. It was all talk.

 

But there are some good leg shots in the musicals of that era, for example KIKI (1931), 42ND STREET (1933), and especially GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933). Joan Blondell -- who may have been the busiest actress in these precode flicks -- is seen putting on her stockings, in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933). Mary Pickford is seen doing the same, in KIKI.

 

Here's a good example of what I mean, about the duplicity of some precodes:

 

There is a good publicity photo -- I have it scanned on my computer -- of Loretta Young, sitting on the ground in front of a bramble bush, putting on her stockings, her skirt tantalizingly pulled up. The scene is supposedly from a film called ZOO IN BUDAPEST (1933). When I saw that pic, I said to myself: I've GOT TO SEE that movie!

 

But what a disappointment! When ZOO IN BUDAPEST was screened on one of the cable channels, the scene with Loretta putting on her stockings was there, all right... but in the movie, she was BEHIND the bramble bush, not in front of it as she is in the publicity still. We can see the action if we look through the branches and leaves, but most of the action is effectively obscured. What's with THAT?

 

Perhaps, by 1933, Loretta Young had enough clout with her studio (Fox) to insist that her limbs not be shown on screen. And if you think about it, never once in her long Hollywood career, did we ever see her in a short outfit. I don't believe there is even a bathing suit shot of her.

 

In a word, what I look for is: Cheesecake.

 

The Busby Berkeley musicals have it in abundance. Most other precodes don't.

 

Dan N.

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