hepclassic

Films You Wish Were Pre-Codes

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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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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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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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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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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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In It's A Wonderful Life, you can also add that heavy breathing while they were listening on the phone. That could be taken to the next level, post-code.

 

I am sorry, Hep. I have to keep going "off tangent" here. Yeah... I would like more out-and-out sex in Bambi (enough with the twitterpating), Duel in the Sun, Rope (I mean... why was Jimmy Stewart so sympathetic to those guys if there wasn't some "experimenting" going on in their shared pasts?) and especially Crossfire... which, had it stuck to its original source subject, just might have made Hollywood impact a few changes for the better in society itself.

 

Sometimes there was plenty accomplished even with the code in effect.

 

Much of the charm of the Joe McDoakes comedies (all ten minute short films) made at Warner Brothers' in the '40s and '50s is just how ahead of their time they were despite all of the censorship. They didn't push the envelope too-too much, but did just enough for the sake of comedy... and were among the most adult material of Hollywood's old school despite being "short" films. Occasionally... not always... these showed shared bed scenes, along with the usual twin beds as well. (Basically they were a dozen years or so ahead of Bewitched on television.) There was little question that Joe and Alice did more than just sleep... and some hinted there was a lot of fun going on (with babies arriving later) and, when they weren't, HE was at fault. Not HER.

 

This dialogue always tickled me... enough to memorize it by heart:

 

So You Want To Hold Your Husband (1949)

 

Joe: Alice, where's this thing come from?

Alice: Well... this is our new bed. I put those old uncomfortable twin beds in the guest room.

Joe (testing the mattress): Not bad. Not bad at all. Now you can sleep here alone and me and Tiger (the Great Dane) can sleep in the twin beds. Then we won't disturb you when we read. C'mon, Tiger! C'mon baby! (Dog hops on the bed) C'mon here, baby. Good night Alice. C'mon... c'mon...

 

The Joe McDoakes were probably the most "feminist" comedies of the era... and it would be interesting to hear what Gloria Steinem would say about them. In one title, Alice works for the military and, in the very last one released in 1956, she is a high paid executive. Joe himself was more "in touch" with his "feminine" side than other male characters of the era (this being the so called Tea And Sympathy "act like a man" era) and wasn't as disturbed about her taking a more dominate role... even if he does fight it occasionally.

 

I don't view entertainment so much according to "what was allowed on screen" or not, but as reflections of what society was like. The Joe McDoakes are interesting in that they contrast from other material of the period. Remember that the Kinsey reports on female sexuality were more controversial in 1953 than that of male in 1948... not just because women were not supposed to "enjoy it", but also because society was more open to The Discussion shortly after The War and the Holocaust (making sex less of a big deal than so much else that happened) while McCarthyism several years later was forcing many Americans to conform as much as possible for fear of being branded "different". (This was NOT a good time to be "out of the closet" if you were gay, since you might also be labeled communist.) Even when Midnight Cowboy became the first Best Picture winner to get the coveted X rating a decade later, society hadn't changed THAT much. It was still a very chaste movie with hardly any nudity... and another "Joe" trying to prove to his lady clients that he is "straight", while guys who aren't are all fearful... the teenager who fears his mother finding out and the sixties-ish businessman who can't go through with it (but still suffers a fate that might have been the same as Ramon Novarro's although we are not 100% certain). Since it was released just before Stonewall, it is a time capsule of a radically different era than today. The 1980s showed little change since the '50s and may, in fact, have been as equally repressive under Reagan despite less actual movie censorship, especially in the teenage comedy genre where boys must band together so that they are not labeled as "narks". The reason Top Gun was such a smash was because Tom Cruise's character represented the stereotype so many men wanted to be like in order to be accepted by others.

 

Looking back... I don't think I would want The Best Years Of Our Lives to be any different. Americans were quite shy back then, but not naive. Dana Andrews accepts his wife's infidelity without anger. I think people were most psychologically adjusted just after that war... less so in other periods. The "seeds" of so much... the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution... got started then.

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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."

 

Ha ha! Hep, you are going to want to put me in the nut house with my posts here.

 

In a way, the characters are so fully developed in their personalities and themes that the Production Code really couldn't do too much damage. Anybody over the age of 13-14 "gets it" as to what happens next after Rhett carries her up the stairs. They also "get it" when she tells him later that she is going to have another baby... and then has that "accident" as symbolic that, while she DID enjoy it with her "glow" talking to Mammy the morning after, was still forced against her will (although that may be something she needed after her too "soft" previous husbands). When Rhett jealously says "indeed... and who is the lucky father", Scarlet is equally enraged because she hasn't... obviously insinuated in earlier scenes... exactly been "around the block". Ashley is only "mentally unfaithful" per Rhett's own words and he also contradicts himself by saying he could divorce her over Ashley when nothing has happened except "late hours at the lumber yard" when they were caught just talking by the "don't they have something better to do?" gossips. Jealous Rhett still makes sure her dress is red ("and wear plenty of rouge to look the part" since it WAS a performance actually and not reality). Always aware of everything, Melanie knows the truth anyway and simply asks Ashley to provide Scarlet "some punch" at his birthday party. Again, as stated in the previous post, GWTW is all about Society Norms and "living up to them" even if what you do isn't deserving of the scorn that Society gives you.

 

Unless you want the actual nudity (the only ingredient added in the 1960s)... we pretty much know "when" the sex acts happen in the movie. My guess is that Bonnie was conceived on the night Rhett soothed "little girl" Scarlet frightened by her nightmare on their New Orleans honeymoon... since that scene gets repeated later in London (in a non-sexual way obviously) with "conceived" Bonnie having a nightmare about an angry bear. (Scarlet's fear is going hungry again and not having enough m-o-n-e-y, but she sure had plenty of courage with human "bears"... Yankees invading the mansion a.k.a. "got anything else but these ear bulbs?" and fighting over her carriage en route from the lumber yard.) Rhett always wanted somebody he could coddle. Sexually he liked Belle because she was a "smart business woman" just like Scarlet.. and, yeah, his libido was quite strong when Scarlet fought him "take your hands off of me!" Only Rhett was so aggressive throughout the movie because Scarlet's own aggressiveness was such a turn on for him, but winds up leaving her in search of "charm and grace" (a.k.a. to be just like Ashley, who missed all of his "charm and grace... gone with the wind"). Go figure.

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In It's A Wonderful Life, you can also add that heavy breathing while they were listening on the phone. That could be taken to the next level, post-code.

 

I am sorry, Hep. I have to keep going "off tangent" here. Yeah... I would like more out-and-out sex in Bambi (enough with the twitterpating), Duel in the Sun, Rope (I mean... why was Jimmy Stewart so sympathetic to those guys if there wasn't some "experimenting" going on in their shared pasts?) and especially Crossfire... which, had it stuck to its original source subject, just might have made Hollywood impact a few changes for the better in society itself.

 

Sometimes there was plenty accomplished even with the code in effect.

 

Much of the charm of the Joe McDoakes comedies (all ten minute short films) made at Warner Brothers' in the '40s and '50s is just how ahead of their time they were despite all of the censorship. They didn't push the envelope too-too much, but did just enough for the sake of comedy... and were among the most adult material of Hollywood's old school despite being "short" films. Occasionally... not always... these showed shared bed scenes, along with the usual twin beds as well. (Basically they were a dozen years or so ahead of Bewitched on television.) There was little question that Joe and Alice did more than just sleep... and some hinted there was a lot of fun going on (with babies arriving later) and, when they weren't, HE was at fault. Not HER.

 

This dialogue always tickled me... enough to memorize it by heart:

 

So You Want To Hold Your Husband (1949)

 

Joe: Alice, where's this thing come from?

Alice: Well... this is our new bed. I put those old uncomfortable twin beds in the guest room.

Joe (testing the mattress): Not bad. Not bad at all. Now you can sleep here alone and me and Tiger (the Great Dane) can sleep in the twin beds. Then we won't disturb you when we read. C'mon, Tiger! C'mon baby! (Dog hops on the bed) C'mon here, baby. Good night Alice. C'mon... c'mon...

 

The Joe McDoakes were probably the most "feminist" comedies of the era... and it would be interesting to hear what Gloria Steinem would say about them. In one title, Alice works for the military and, in the very last one released in 1956, she is a high paid executive. Joe himself was more "in touch" with his "feminine" side than other male characters of the era (this being the so called Tea And Sympathy "act like a man" era) and wasn't as disturbed about her taking a more dominate role... even if he does fight it occasionally.

 

I don't view entertainment so much according to "what was allowed on screen" or not, but as reflections of what society was like. The Joe McDoakes are interesting in that they contrast from other material of the period. Remember that the Kinsey reports on female sexuality were more controversial in 1953 than that of male in 1948... not just because women were not supposed to "enjoy it", but also because society was more open to The Discussion shortly after The War and the Holocaust (making sex less of a big deal than so much else that happened) while McCarthyism several years later was forcing many Americans to conform as much as possible for fear of being branded "different". (This was NOT a good time to be "out of the closet" if you were gay, since you might also be labeled communist.) Even when Midnight Cowboy became the first Best Picture winner to get the coveted X rating a decade later, society hadn't changed THAT much. It was still a very chaste movie with hardly any nudity... and another "Joe" trying to prove to his lady clients that he is "straight", while guys who aren't are all fearful... the teenager who fears his mother finding out and the sixties-ish businessman who can't go through with it (but still suffers a fate that might have been the same as Ramon Novarro's although we are not 100% certain). Since it was released just before Stonewall, it is a time capsule of a radically different era than today. The 1980s showed little change since the '50s and may, in fact, have been as equally repressive under Reagan despite less actual movie censorship, especially in the teenage comedy genre where boys must band together so that they are not labeled as "narks". The reason Top Gun was such a smash was because Tom Cruise's character represented the stereotype so many men wanted to be like in order to be accepted by others.

 

Looking back... I don't think I would want The Best Years Of Our Lives to be any different. Americans were quite shy back then, but not naive. Dana Andrews accepts his wife's infidelity without anger. I think people were most psychologically adjusted just after that war... less so in other periods. The "seeds" of so much... the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution... got started then.

My only argument against the usual "this was how it was back then" is that the people who usually look at it are looking at it through the rose colored glasses of romanticism. Sure, movies had "morals" back then, but after seeing a Judy Garland musical, you saw GLBT individuals arrested at the bar across the street, and after seeing Gone With The Wind, you probably went to a "Negro barbecue" (fill in that blank). 

 

Sure, a heavily-moneyed lobby influenced film censorship for 31 years, and while we have certain evolved in our understanding of gender and orientation (we are still in the rose-colored glass illusion of race, i.e. "Gone With The Wind actually happened, Twelve Years A Slave is revisionist!"), I think we need to challenge the romanticism with honesty. I still appreciate the cinematic value of the films you mentioned, but I look at them differently. I would like to have seen Clark Gable strip while making love to Vivien Leigh in cinema sex-style in Gone With The Wind. Call me crazy, but art is a reflection of humanity and I find artistic value in cinema sex so long as it says something about character. I'm left with drunk, mad passion as Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs, only for it to go up, black out, and a satisfied smile on Scarlett's face the next morning. There is a false narrative in believing that sex is best left to the imagination and shows signs of maturity, when even to this day, people cringe at mention of it and condemn people who are open about it. 

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Ha ha! Hep, you are going to want to put me in the nut house with my posts here.

 

In a way, the characters are so fully developed in their personalities and themes that the Production Code really couldn't do too much damage. Anybody over the age of 13-14 "gets it" as to what happens next after Rhett carries her up the stairs. They also "get it" when she tells him later that she is going to have another baby... and then has that "accident" as symbolic that, while she DID enjoy it with her "glow" talking to Mammy the morning after, was still forced against her will (although that may be something she needed after her too "soft" previous husbands). When Rhett jealously says "indeed... and who is the lucky father", Scarlet is equally enraged because she hasn't... obviously insinuated in earlier scenes... exactly been "around the block". Ashley is only "mentally unfaithful" per Rhett's own words and he also contradicts himself by saying he could divorce her over Ashley when nothing has happened except "late hours at the lumber yard" when they were caught just talking by the "don't they have something better to do?" gossips. Jealous Rhett still makes sure her dress is red ("and wear plenty of rouge to look the part" since it WAS a performance actually and not reality). Always aware of everything, Melanie knows the truth anyway and simply asks Ashley to provide Scarlet "some punch" at his birthday party. Again, as stated in the previous post, GWTW is all about Society Norms and "living up to them" even if what you do isn't deserving of the scorn that Society gives you.

 

Unless you want the actual nudity (the only ingredient added in the 1960s)... we pretty much know "when" the sex acts happen in the movie. My guess is that Bonnie was conceived on the night Rhett soothed "little girl" Scarlet frightened by her nightmare on their New Orleans honeymoon... since that scene gets repeated later in London (in a non-sexual way obviously) with "conceived" Bonnie having a nightmare about an angry bear. (Scarlet's fear is going hungry again and not having enough m-o-n-e-y, but she sure had plenty of courage with human "bears"... Yankees invading the mansion a.k.a. "got anything else but these ear bulbs?" and fighting over her carriage en route from the lumber yard.) Rhett always wanted somebody he could coddle. Sexually he liked Belle because she was a "smart business woman" just like Scarlet.. and, yeah, his libido was quite strong when Scarlet fought him "take your hands off of me!" Only Rhett was so aggressive throughout the movie because Scarlet's own aggressiveness was such a turn on for him, but winds up leaving her in search of "charm and grace" (a.k.a. to be just like Ashley, who missed all of his "charm and grace... gone with the wind"). Go figure.

We also collectively forget that Ashley married his cousin Melanie, and that Melanie's illness could have been an unmentioned STD that comes from bedding your first cousin. Oh Lord of Wales, can you imagine contraception back then?

 

"Oh, miss Scarlett, I don't know nothing about birthing no babies"

giphy.gif

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My only argument against the usual "this was how it was back then" is that the people who usually look at it are looking at it through the rose colored glasses of romanticism. Sure, movies had "morals" back then, but after seeing a Judy Garland musical, you saw GLBT individuals arrested at the bar across the street, and after seeing Gone With The Wind, you probably went to a "Negro barbecue" (fill in that blank). 

 

Sure, a heavily-moneyed lobby influenced film censorship for 31 years, and while we have certain evolved in our understanding of gender and orientation (we are still in the rose-colored glass illusion of race, i.e. "Gone With The Wind actually happened, Twelve Years A Slave is revisionist!"), I think we need to challenge the romanticism with honesty. I still appreciate the cinematic value of the films you mentioned, but I look at them differently. I would like to have seen Clark Gable strip while making love to Vivien Leigh in cinema sex-style in Gone With The Wind. Call me crazy, but art is a reflection of humanity and I find artistic value in cinema sex so long as it says something about character. I'm left with drunk, mad passion as Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs, only for it to go up, black out, and a satisfied smile on Scarlett's face the next morning. There is a false narrative in believing that sex is best left to the imagination and shows signs of maturity, when even to this day, people cringe at mention of it and condemn people who are open about it. 

 

I liked Twelve Years A Slave except that I thought the lead was too "handsome" and the dialogue seemed too much like today's style than mid-19th century. They got the costumes right and, yes, there was brutality in those days that was shown unflinchingly.

 

I agree that too many view the history through "rose colored glasses". You know what annoys me even in my favorite old movies? How every Asian and darker-skinned character addresses the Caucasian character as Mr. or Miss/Mrs. while they are addressed on a first name basis. Yes... I know... there is nothing THAT bad or "wrong" technically... except that society's cast system was so ingrained that everybody behaved like that subconsciously. I do cringe during some of the Shirley Temple features because even she acts more "adult" (Little Miss Disciplinarian) than the slaves (in the two Civil War films) and servants (modern day) older than her.

 

The comments on Midnight Cowboy that I addressed on the gay cinema threads and here go along with a lot here. That film is clearly "of another era" so radically different than today... although some conservative politicians may wish America to go back to that time. The psychology of the characters who are not "straight" and have "desires" that don't conform to the "norm" are depressed... except, rather unusually, the transvestite who is quite confident. Then again, the same director returned to the UK to film Sunday Bloody Sunday, a film that has aged considerably less... probably because the Brits adjusted faster in their acceptances of multiple kinds of relationships than the Americans.

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I liked Twelve Years A Slave except that I thought the lead was too "handsome" and the dialogue seemed too much like today's style than mid-19th century. They got the costumes right and, yes, there was brutality in those days that was shown unflinchingly.

 

I agree that too many view the history through "rose colored glasses". You know what annoys me even in my favorite old movies? How every Asian and darker-skinned character addresses the Caucasian character as Mr. or Miss/Mrs. while they are addressed on a first name basis. Yes... I know... there is nothing THAT bad or "wrong" technically... except that society's cast system was so ingrained that everybody behaved like that subconsciously. I do cringe during some of the Shirley Temple features because even she acts more "adult" (Little Miss Disciplinarian) than the slaves (in the two Civil War films) and servants (modern day) older than her.

 

The comments on Midnight Cowboy that I addressed on the gay cinema threads and here go along with a lot here. That film is clearly "of another era" so radically different than today... although some conservative politicians may wish America to go back to that time. The psychology of the characters who are not "straight" and have "desires" that don't conform to the "norm" are depressed... except, rather unusually, the transvestite who is quite confident. Then again, the same director returned to the UK to film Sunday Bloody Sunday, a film that has aged considerably less... probably because the Brits adjusted faster in their acceptances of multiple kinds of relationships than the Americans.

It must be said that the British had more open, let alone tolerant views that made their censorship bodies more political than body political. 

And, since it's Josephine Baker's birthday, it must be said that she didn't go to France for the patisserie regarding artistic freedom and opportunity. . 

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I have always been disappointed in TCM's "Pre-Code" movies and I watched a lot of them. Basically a lot of hype and innuendo about what was supposed to be there.

For this discussion though, anything that would have been improved by making it before the "Code" has been made after the "Code."

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Well... there was a "code" already in effect in 1930 so the films only went so far... then were forced to go farther still in 1934.

 

When you read magazines and newspapers of the period, there were a lot of complaints about Hollywood and you can understand why the industry got so nervous. This was especially true during that last year of the Hoover administration (1932-33), when movies like KONGO were chewed apart... although they seem rather tame today.

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Well... there was a "code" already in effect in 1930 so the films only went so far... then were forced to go farther still in 1934.

 

When you read magazines and newspapers of the period, there were a lot of complaints about Hollywood and you can understand why the industry got so nervous. This was especially true during that last year of the Hoover administration (1932-33), when movies like KONGO were chewed apart... although they seem rather tame today.

I do find the daringness of The Divorcee (1930) to still be daring by today's standards. I have yet to see a film match the bravery of the film whose tagline was: "If the husband can philander, why not the wife?"

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Also, William Hays was a frontman who allowed circumvention. The Enforcer didn't come in until Joseph Breen became head of the Production Code Administration. 

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... and he was quite the character, having strong opinions about Jews in a Jewish-dominated industry. It is fitting that the Catholic Legion of Decency got started the very same year that Hitler took charge of Germany even though... on the surface... there is absolutely no connection what-so-ever. However my "vibe" is that somebody didn't think the "ones in charge" of America's top form of entertainment (at that time) could be trusted with America's morality. Regardless of his personal "feelings", somebody like Breen was perfect as a "front man" thanks to his staunch Irish Catholic background.

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... and he was quite the character, having strong opinions about Jews in a Jewish-dominated industry. It is fitting that the Catholic Legion of Decency got started the very same year that Hitler took charge of Germany even though... on the surface... there is absolutely no connection what-so-ever. However my "vibe" is that somebody didn't think the "ones in charge" of America's top form of entertainment (at that time) could be trusted with America's morality. Regardless of his personal "feelings", somebody like Breen was perfect as a "front man" thanks to his staunch Irish Catholic background.

There was a period of about a year in the early 40s, where he stepped down, citing overwork. He took a temporary post at RKO, but eventually went back to his old job at the production code office. Later on, he would ironically have trouble with RKO (when Hughes gained control) over the releases of two Jane Russell pictures-- THE OUTLAW and THE FRENCH LINE. 

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I think it must be said that some studio executive or film historian said "Classic films were made by Jews to please Catholics and appeal to Protestants." I may have the quote wrong. 

 

 

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SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH with the same stars, but without bowdlering Tennessee Williams.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) with Blanche seducing the boy as written in the script

 

Rebecca (1940) where Maxim and the Second Mrs. de Winter make love behind a palm tree and Maxim admits his crime. 

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Baby Doll (1956)

Girl From Missouri (1956)

Gaslight (1944)

All This, And Heaven Too (1940?)

Wife vs. Secretary (1935-6)

The Wild One (1954)

Mad Love (...was it made during Pre Code or not? Starring Peter Lorre)

Hands of a Stranger

Rope (1948)

ANY Edward G. Robinson film post--Last Gangster (1937)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1948)

Possessed (1941)

David and Bathsheba (Gregory Peck!!!!)

The Women (1939)

The Snake Pit

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (195-)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946?)

Jezebel (1939)

EVERY GANGSTER MOVIE James Cagney was in post--G-men (1935)

High School Confidential

Don't Bother To Knock (1955)

 

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Mad Love (...was it made during Pre Code or not? Starring Peter Lorre)

 

It was released in 1935, which was a year after the code began to be more rigorously enforced. The original story was published in 1920.

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Baby Doll (1956)

Girl From Missouri (1956)

Gaslight (1944)

All This, And Heaven Too (1940?)

Wife vs. Secretary (1935-6)

The Wild One (1954)

Mad Love (...was it made during Pre Code or not? Starring Peter Lorre)

Hands of a Stranger

Rope (1948)

ANY Edward G. Robinson film post--Last Gangster (1937)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1948)

Possessed (1941)

David and Bathsheba (Gregory Peck!!!!)

The Women (1939)

The Snake Pit

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (195-)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946?)

Jezebel (1939)

EVERY GANGSTER MOVIE James Cagney was in post--G-men (1935)

High School Confidential

Don't Bother To Knock (1955)

What in those stories would change if they were pre-codes that you would have liked to see? 

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So many movies! Actually some of these movies I listed are pretty out there as it is...for instance Rope, "Rope" was a metaphor or unspoken code for "Homosexuality." They couldn't come out and say "Farley Granger, Frank Dall and James Stewart's characters were playing homosexuals") back in 1948. Very suspenseful movie! It's also based on a real life case, I heard tell, of two school chums who murder a fellow student. Jezebel would have made a good pre-code, like Red Headed Woman with Jean Harlow. I liked Jean Harlow playing "the bad girl" so when I bought Girl From Missouri that was made right when Hayes code took effect. So Harlow wasn't playing a bad girl in fact as her movies progressed, she seemed to be more and more of a good girl--nothing wrong with that, but you know what I mean...another movie... Gaslight... it would have been cool if Ingrid Bergman's character (Paula) would have knifed Charles Boyer near the end when she learns what kind of guy she married... or the Joseph Cotton character beating the stuffing out of Charles Boyer for driving Paula crazy and stealing her deceased aunt's death. There is also a moment in the film when Boyer and Angela Lansbury (Nancy, a young maid) were exchanging pleasantries and talking about what their evenings had in store. Boyer makes a comment about Lansbury's love life, and something about being careful with the men she dates. They kind of almost have this moment where they are almost flirting, cos Boyer knows that Lansbury is no shrinking violet, when it comes to men, to which Lansbury says boldly, (Paraphrasing) "I know how to take care of myself" and you know what she means but it's not said. They both give a knowing smile to each other after she says that line...yeah, these are some movies where I wish it were pre-code.

 

I notice that around post 1967, the Hayes kind of gets thrown out the window, and the taboo topics are back, out and proud and if you disliked a movie for sex scenes, violence, and what have you, YOU had a "Hang Up." Sorry for babbling... :rolleyes:

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