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Why Pre-Code Is Loved? Why Did It End? Pre-code and Modern Films


PastoverPresent07
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What is everyone's reasons for liking pre-code films? If you prefer them over movies after the pre-code era...why?

 

I like pre-code films better then any other genre of classic films because of the realness and down to earthness...the pre-code era tackled stories about real life situations. It showcased the changining of morals and values in the world and that everything wasn't innocent anymore. Pre-code movies on love, sex, violence, trickery, backstabbing, pre-marital sex, race relations, illegitimacy, money, couples living together before marriage, golddigging were perfect examples of the changing lifestyles in America. The pre-code era ended because I believe the pre-code movie were starting to get deep and the world didn't want their "sins" expose to the social and class conscious world. They weren't as acceptings back then as everything is accepted now but at least movies back then had meaning and told a story and had a valuable point to learn. Movies today just throw in nudity, sex, and violence because they can't tell a story. I feel modern films should take notes from pre-code movies so they know how to tell a story including sex, violence and rawness but with allure, mystery, and glamour like pre-code.

 

I would love to read some of your descriptions of why you like pre-code movies and why you think they ended and how do they differ from today's movies even though pre-code films and modern films have similarities.

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To me, the things that make pre-code films so much fun to watch are exactly what was already mentiond, the gritiness, cloudy morals, etc. The production code of 1934 tamed all of the racey dialogue (example: in THE LITTLE GIANT (1933), Edward G. Robinson's character asks one of his assocites his opinion of a painting he had recently bought. The painting is a mish mash of designs that are supposed to be "modern art". "Have you ever seen anything like it?", he asks. The assocites replies, "Not since I gave up cocaine!". Or in LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932), Jeannette Mac Donald has just fainted,there is a search of the estate for a doctor. Charlie Ruggles asks Myrna Loy, "Can you go for a doctor?". She replies, "Sure bing him in!" This line had to be cut out of the film when Paramount wanted to re-issue it a few years later.) In the Production code of '34 if you commit a crime you must be punished. In TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), the main characters are jewel thieves who not only get away with bilking rich Kay Francis out of lots of money (an she thanks them too!), but they are living together without being married. When the Production code of 1934 went into affect, Paramount could not re-issue this movie. There were other films just as notorious (BABY FACE, CONVENTION CITY, THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE, etc.), but most often when these films did deal with realism, it was done with a bit more style. They still had to get around the "hays office" when all above mentioned films were made, so the had to be more creative in how some of the "sin" was portrayed.

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I like watching the pre-code films because they push the boundaries but never cross the line. I love both the raw subject matter and the subtleties. It's a lost art of storytelling, much like the silent films. Film makers were playing a game of "how much can I get away with?". Vastly more interesting to watch than today's show-all, tell-all style.

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I've always found it interesting that the initials for Pre Code are P.C.... because that's exactly what those films were NOT. They were not "P.C." as in "Politically Correct."

 

In Pre Code films, you'll see life in the raw, unencumbered by an industry-imposed Moral Imperative. You can see guys slapping around dames, dames slapping around guys, and sometimes you'll see them living together without benefit of a marriage certificate. In other words: Life as it was really lived -- by some -- back in those days.

 

But that is not to say that anything goes. Society, I think, knows where to draw the line on morally objectionable material. The old-time film makers knew that line, and they observed it scrupulously.

 

When the Production Code began to be enforced, in July 1934, it severely limited the material that movies could use. They couldn't cuss, they couldn't show intimate body parts, and all married couples slept in twin beds... even those who happened to be married to each other in real life!

 

I like the fact that we can see a pre code movie like THE LOVE PARADE (1929) and see the beautiful Jeanette MacDonald raising her skirt to show off her legs. And in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), Claudette Colbert doing the same thing.

 

And the skimpy costumes worn by Fay Wray in KING KONG (1933) were far, far more enticing than the complete nudity in films today. Ditto the loincloth that almost, but not quite, covered Maureen O'Sullivan in TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) -- which, fortunately for us, had its U.S. premiere in April 1934, beating the Production Code enforcement by three months.

 

Today's wide-open film making is NOT a return to "pre code" movies. The old films had class, and though they were frank and often a little vulgar, they knew where to draw the line. Today's film makers don't know that. Pity.

 

Dan N.

 

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

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I like your reply daneldorando. It's funny that lifting up the skirts and showing legs was considered shocking and racy, to me, that's innocent and non-offending compared to what women show today but then again the 1930's was an supposed innocent time so I can see why it may have been shocking to some.

 

Barbara stanwyck did a movie called Illicit about a couple not married but living together and it was a good movie; a little racy but telling a story of what's really right or wrong.

 

I very much liked how women would be sexy with clothes on. They left something to the imagination but their clothes flattered their figures making them more sexy then just downright nude.

 

In a lot of pre-code movies, women would undress and you could see a silhouette of their body and curves...that was very sexy.

 

One thing about pre-code is that they did make love, romance, and sex look interesting, mysterious, and alluring. Modern movies have lost all respect for sex. You hardly if ever see a man romancing a woman. Men and women today just get naked and jump in bed for no reason - just for shock factor but it does nothing for me. It's just a time filler for a dull movie with dull actors and actresses who hope by people seeing them do a sex scene they'll be considered a great actor or actress. Classic movies made love seem like the mot wonderful thing in the world.

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filthgrinder wrote:

 

"I allmost hesitate to ask this....but whats 'Pre-Code'?

For a internett nerd like me it sounds like movies made before Divx/Xvid...haha!

 

Or is it just a term for the 'squeaky clean' movies back in the day? Were actors said "Oh golly!" and have white picket fences kind of thing?"

 

 

Your question requires two answers.

 

First, "Pre-Code" refers to talking pictures made before the implementation of the movie industry's Production Code -- sometimes known as the "Hays Code." The Production Code, which severely restricted what could and could not be done and said in films, was adopted by The Association of Motion Picture Producers in 1930. However, it was not fully implemented until July 1934.

 

Thus, you can find a lot of pre-July 1934 movies that show risque elements, such as partial nudity, a man and woman sleeping in the same bed, crime going unpunished, etc. The film producers probably felt they could get away with it, since the industry wasn't strictly enforcing the code.

 

Then came the crackdown. Will Hays, president of the producers and distributors association, in connection with Joe Breen, president of the Production Code Administration, forced film studios and theater owners to conform strictly to the letter of the Code, which, after all, the movie industry itself had adopted, four years earlier.

 

Second: "Pre-Code" does NOT refer to "squeaky-clean movies"... just the opposite!

 

Squeaky-clean films with the white picket fence around every suburban home were ushered in by the enforcement of the Code, in July 1934.

 

The Code was finally scrapped by the movie industry in 1968, but it had already been flouted by post-WWII films which "pushed the envelope," e.g., "The Moon is Blue" (1953) and "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959). By the dawn of the 1960s, it was pretty clear that audiences were ready for more "adult" movies, so the Code died a quiet death.

 

As I wrote in an earlier post, I still prefer Pre-Code films to modern movies, because in those early days, the producers seemed to at least have a conscience. You have so much filth in some of today's films, you have to wonder if modern film makers have even heard of a conscience.

 

Dan N.

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Wow, filthgrinder, I wonder if your young. I'm in my 20's and at first I thought the early Hollywood movies were squeaky clean but they weren't. They didn't have to curse every minute and be overly filth to be risque and raw. I love the pre-code movies because there was consciousness and glamour but everything didin't have a happy ending or work out. In the 1960's tv shows like Leave It To Beaver you saw the squeaky clean and "Oh Golly!" but once you start watching classic movies you'll learn, the movies back then weren't as innocent as you think. You'll find out there was a lot of sexual innuendos that were more clever then today's films that just let it all hang out which isn't sexy at all.

 

Modern movies is excessively filthy because of lack of talent they curse, do sex scenes, unnecessary violence and nudity for entertainment.

 

Movies of old told a story, something movies today don't know how to do.

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What does my age have to do with my question? I'm 30 if you must know. I watch a lot of classics, and know everything you mentioned. I am even sure I know some things you don't. Especially since we have several family members in the movie/TV business (one director another an editor). Although I dont talk to them often since they live out of the country.

I seriously doubt you knew what "Pre-Code" meant before you looked it up or asked someone.

 

You did manage to leave out the answer to my questsion in your long and uhelpful post, but you did get to toss out your arrogance a bit, so nice job!

 

Thanks to daneldorado for the explanation and Bill_McCrary for the helpful link!

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I really wasn't trying to be arrogant and sarcastic. I asked if you were young because most young people think old movies were so goody goody like I use to think.

If you know so much about old movies then I would think you would know what pre-code meant. Be careful what you ask for, you're the one that asked like you didn't know and you got an answer whether it was helpful or not, I explained pre-code films aren't filthy like today's modern films though there was a lot of sex, violence, and sin, there was substance, there was a story to it. My post wasn't long like others so if you were trying to insult me by implying my post was long and unhelpful it doesn't apply. I never had to ask I knew exactly what pre-code movies were all about without having to ask anyone after watching different genres of movies of that eras. You can see my previous post here about pre-code that I love them and prefer them and know a lot. You know everything about old movies except pre-code, huh? I would never know from your original post. Anyone who truly knows about classic movies would know the movies weren't squeay clean and goody and goody, and said "Oh Golly" and "aw shucks." Don't contradict yourself! You need to go get educated about classic movies by your family who you claim are in the movie business.

 

Don't be so sensitive!

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Daneldorado, Have you seen War Nurses? TCM airs it every now and then but it stars Anita Page and Robert Montgomery it's the film that Cry Havoc was remade from.

 

The film is basically about the trials of war nurses in WW 1. Anita Page gets involved with a solider, gets pregnant by him, then finds out later that he's married. Robert Montgomery tries to convince a nurse into having intercourse with him before marriage and thinks he's a nice guy for being honest and asking for it opposed to tricking her into it. It's really a good movie!

 

Marjorie White says "Well, what the hell are you crying about" to Janet Gaynor in sunny side up. I always that was cute and funny. Anyone know any other films with curse words?

In Diplomaniacs, an actor, I forget his name says to Marjorie White, "This is no time for sex" and she says, "That's what you think." It's nothing shocking by today's standards but I bet it was back then.

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pop07: Nope, I have not yet seen WAR NURSE (1930). Probably I will see it eventually, though, because I'm on a mission to see every pre-code film ever made, before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

 

As for cursing in early films: Yes, I've heard the words "damn" and "hell" in early soundtracks; the line you quoted from SUNNY SIDE UP (1929) being one of them. Can't remember any of the other pre-code titles, just now.

 

But I'll tell you what I did find startling, one evening years ago, watching the late late show on TV: There was a movie released in 1943 -- remember, that isn't pre-code, that's The Golden Age, where cursing was usually not allowed in movies. The film is called THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), and it startled me because one of the lines in this squeaky-clean movie is the famous line attributed to Civil War admiral David G. Farragut, "Damn the torpedoes... Full speed ahead!"

 

In the movie, Charles Coburn says that line, nice and loud, and more than once. And do ya know, he won an Academy Award for this film!

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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DD, we have a lot in common. I want to see every pre-code film I can before I die. I don't care much for other genre of films.

Have you seen Lonely Wives? Now that is a sexy and funny movie that TCM broadcast in the past. It's filled with obvious sexual innuendos and raciness but still surprisingly classy. No nudity, no curse words but it's obvious the characters were sex-crazed.

When I first started watching old movies, I knew nothing about pre-code era and I was watching mostly iconic and popular films that everyone else loved. I enjoyed them but for some reason those movies didn't move me. I started tuning into TCM at different times and viewed films that appealed to more, and they happen to be pre-code and completely different then the 1940's films I was watching. People I never heard of I enjoyed more then the well-known legends.

 

To make sure I don't miss another early talkie or pre-code I check the whole schedule.

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I love pre-codes - but prefer glamorous hotels and cruiseships to seedy, realistic views of life! I will watch any pre-code once, but my favorites usually have a happy ending - and probably a happy middle! I love snappy patter and the double entendres.

"Do you know what I always say?"

"No."

"That's right."

B

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