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Forbidden Hollywood Night 12/4/2006


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Time to warm up those DVRs, TIVOs or VCRs for tonight's salute to PreCodes.

 

Waterloo Bridge (1931)

Baby Face

Complicated Women

Red Headed Woman

Union Depot

Under 18

Night Nurse

The White Sister (tomorrow morning at 6:00am)

 

If only TCM would do a PreCode month, like they did for Design/Architecture in October.

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On the plus side, they did include a good pre code film in their Design/Archetecture series, SKYSCRAPER SOULS (1932) with Warren William. I hope that the box set sell well enough for more pre-code releases like BLOND CRAZY (1931) with James Cagney, and I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER (1934) with Pat O'Brien, or BLESSED EVENT (1932) with Lee Tracy....

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I was very let down by the original Waterloo Bridge. Mae Clarke kept the same hostile/ fighting with herself emotion going the whole movie, and the actor playing Roy had more makeup on than I've ever seen on a man. He had the thankless role of playing the stupidest chump ever, though. Other than the brief scene of the chorus girls changing clothes, my hubby was bored. It was pretty tough going. I much prefer the 1940 version.But it's just my opinion

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I agree, that Waterloo Bridge film was somewhat of a letdown. Dont get me wrong, I didnt hate the film, there were definitely some good moments there. When she first breaks down and starts crying in his arms was an emotional moment and was done well, and her convo with his mother as well. But there came a point in which I no longer felt sympathy for her character, or any kind of respect for her "go it alone" toughness and sense of battered pride. Same for him, at first I respected his drive to bring the poor girl up from the bottom no matter what, but after a while I wanted to just slap the guy silly.

 

Especially after the visit to his parent's house, and she totally goes off with the "I hate you, and your parents..." thing. I dont know about any of you other guys, but that would have certainly done it for me. I would have given her a few chances, love is love, but by that point I would consider it a lost cause.

 

Was I the only one who liked seeing a bomb dropped on her? Good Riddance!

 

 

Baby Face was a cool movie, what a dish that Babs was!

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jdsmom, I don't agree with you about "Waterloo Bridge." I was pleasantly impressed by this movie, which had a very interesting, small-scale look, sort of like a TV drama rather than a movie. I thought the acting, especially that of Kent Douglass/Douglass Montgomery was surprisingly natural, considering it was made in 1931. He was adorable, and his chump-ness was deliberate -- he was so sweet and was just the type of innocent lamb who would fall for a hooker and not realize that she might not be what she pretended to be.

 

Granted, his makeup was more 1913 than 1931, but his performance looked very contemeporary to me. I do agree about Mae Clarke. She wasn't bad, but I thought the problem was her performance was inconsistent. In any scene, you were never sure whether she was going to be hard-bitten, sweet, or hysterical. I also liked the actors who played Roy's parents - the old soldier was very endearing, and the mother was not too soap-opera-ish, considering what her character had to say and do. I found it interesting that I recognized Bette Davis right from the first moment of her first scene, even though you only saw her back. Well - I guess that's a star for you.

 

On the whole, I liked this version. By the way - wasn't it a bit much that Myra was in one scene a carefree, successful chorus girl, and in the very next scene, supposedly two years later, lamenting that she had to be a prostitute? Not a very graceful transition or backstory there.

 

I was a bit disappointed in "Baby Face" though, in that as terrific as Stanwyck was, I found the whole thing getting a bit repetitive, and toward the end, when George Brent came on the scene, they lost me. I really don't like him much, and I was tired of the whole exercise by then.

 

Unfortunately for me, I didn't see any of the others. I hope they are re-run - it was a worthwhile evening.

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jdb1, I agree with you regarding Waterloo Bridge, which really impressed me last night. Mae's performance, granted, was conflicted and there was no natural transition from her character's chorus girl to streetwalker evolution, but the final scene on the bridge between Clark/Douglass was very heartfelt. His performance was very subdued - unusual for the time - but sincere.

 

"Baby Face" was great, but I'm biased in favor of Stanwyck. Not so much for Brent who I've always found rather bland. He's definitely no Warren William.

 

"Red Headed Woman" was awesome. Chester Morris was much better here than he was in "The Divorcee", though Harlow shines throughout and steals every scene.

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Scottman, I taped that one (one I'd been waiting to see for a few months) when it aired and love it. I'd add "Three on a Match" to your list of possible movies for the next set and would be glad to pre-order it.

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"In any scene, you were never sure whether she was going to be hard-bitten, sweet, or hysterical." jdb1, to me that sort of behavior is pretty consistent with a character that grew up like she did, raised in East St. Louis by two drunks and leaving home in her teens out of fear they would kill her. Myra has post-traumatic stress disorder and extremely low self-esteem. She can't believe a nice boy would fall for her or would like her if he really knew her, but what really kills her is she knows she's too damaged to be any good for him, and yet when she finds herself in his arms she wants to stay there forever. It's very sad to watch.

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"there was no natural transition from her character's chorus girl to streetwalker"

I've been thinking about that white fur stole of hers. She got it as a gift from a beau when she was a chorus girl, but apparently she told him or hinted broadly that she wanted it. So in a way she was already accepting payment, gifts, favors, and based on my reading of her character, it would have been in exchange for intimacies.

I wonder if the whiteness of it was symbolic? Or perhaps just to draw attention to it.

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> Scottman, I taped that one (one I'd been waiting to

> see for a few months) when it aired and love it. I'd

> add "Three on a Match" to your list of possible

> movies for the next set and would be glad to

> pre-order it.

 

I would love to see them release all the films in the two Forbidden Hollywood LaserDisc box sets. While this would substantially reduce the value of those in my collection, having them on DVD would be worth the price. :-)

 

MM

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I didn't catch WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931), but I did watch the other two pre-codes last night: BABY FACE (1933) and RED-HEADED WOMAN (1932).

 

In my humble op, the promised and long-awaited pre-code "thrills" of BABY FACE failed to materialize. Yes, the Barbara Stanwyck character was cold-hearted and cynical; and yes, she "slept her way to the top," as promised. Then, in the final reel, she made amends for her misdeeds by returning to George Brent and helping him to heal his wounds, though he is now penniless.

 

But where was the "skin?" Stanwyck remained completely clothed, all the way through. There was more Stanwyck flesh on view two years earlier, in NIGHT NURSE (1931), where she seemingly changed into and out of her lingerie in every other scene. There's none of that in BABY FACE.

 

(Incidentally, even during the Golden Age, when the Production Code was in full force, we can see more of Stanwyck in BALL OF FIRE [1941] and LADY OF BURLESQUE [1943] than we did in the supposedly "shocking" BABY FACE.)

 

The Jean Harlow character in RED-HEADED WOMAN was just as cold-hearted as Babs, sleeping her way to wealth and fame... but not lasting love. At the end, she was still basking in her ill-gotten privileges. A cynical story indeed, and I'm not surprised it is one of the films that triggered the Hays Code crackdown in 1934.

 

But Harlow, at least, did give us one fantastic moment of female flesh. When she is still tormenting the Chester Morris character, she pauses, lifts her skirt, and gives him (and us) a nice, long, uncompromising look at her bare legs.

 

Now THAT's what I call a Pre-Code!

 

Dan N.

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I don't understand why we need female flesh to qualify as a bonafide pre-code film. Scantily clad women was only a part of what makes up the genre. The main thing about pre-code films are strong-willed, independent women ("Baby Face"), innuendo ("The Divorcee") , topical subject matter ("Heroes for Sale" - a classic pre-code) and a host of other subjects that tried to bring at least a smattering of reality to some of the films. "Waterloo Bridge" is another excellent example. TGo concentrate on women in their undergarments is to miss most of the point of the pre-code era.

 

MM

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"I don't understand why we need female flesh to qualify as a bonafide pre-code film. Scantily clad women was only a part of what makes up the genre."

 

 

It's no big thing, simply a matter of preference. You like movies that show us strong-willed women, I like films that let us see them en deshabille.

 

Dan N.

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But Harlow, at least, did give us one fantastic moment of female flesh. When she is still tormenting the Chester Morris character, she pauses, lifts her skirt, and gives him (and us) a nice, long, uncompromising look at her bare legs.

 

And I've got a lovely TCM provided background of it.

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> I meant to ask yesterday -- was it my imagination, or

> did the TCM announcer, in the spot right before "Baby

> Face," say "The drapes don't match the carpet."

> Naughty, naughty.

 

 

You're right! I totally forgot about Osbourne's ribald opening commentary.

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> "I don't understand why we need female flesh to

> qualify as a bonafide pre-code film. Scantily clad

> women was only a part of what makes up the

> genre."

>

>

> It's no big thing, simply a matter of preference.

> You like movies that show us strong-willed women, I

> like films that let us see them en

> deshabille.

>

> Dan N.

 

 

Oh, I have nothing against scantily-clad dames and they *were* a major part of the draw during the period. It is just that they do not define pre-code. I have seen statements here that question why a film is classified as pre-code when there is no female flesh. That misses the point of the genre. One of the best pre-code films ever made is "Heroes for Sale" and there is very little in it that could be classified as sexual material. Admittedly, it was films like "Baby Face" and "The Divorcee", with their innuendo, that caused the Catholic church to take up the shibboleth and get Joseph Breen as its point man. A lot more than sexual content disappeared after the Breen Code went into effect, in Juy of 1934. I often wonder where film might have gone and what its influence might have been had it not been gutted.

 

MM

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I didn't finish WATERLOO BRIDGE yet, but I am enjoying it a lot. I'm intrigued by many of the comments here. I thought it was very clear what had happened to her between the closing of her show and then two years later. The ratty stole and the '3rd smash year' sign in front of CHU CHIN CHOW told me all I needed to know.

 

I like Mae Clarke's performance and find it quite modern. I especially enjoyed her moment preparing to return to work when he leaves after their first meeting. Of course I haven't finished watching it yet, but overall I'm very pleased with it.

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I was lucky enough to buy the Forbiden Hollywood laser disc sets when they first came out, but would love to be able to see them without having to turn over the disc to see the rest of the film. I would hope that maybe TCM might add PROFESSIONAL SWEETHEART (1933), and THE HALF NAKED TRUTH (1932) either to a "Forbdden Hollywood" set or at least run them again on TCM. Both are very funny pre-code gems. I have a movie herald (an ad handed out by theaters promoting upcoming films) for PROFESSIONAL SWEETHEART, it has Ginger Rogers on the cover wearing a teddy with high heels and a garter. It has the tag line "The Girl Who Wanted To Be Bad!" The inside has a couple of quotes from the movie by Rogers' character, "I want to be like other girls...to smoke and drink and swear and love and...EVERYTHING!" "I want to sin and suffer! And all I do is suffer!" Fun stuff!!!

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I know men love how women were scantily clad dressed but if that is the only reason for liking pre-code then your cheating yourself. I love the realness and rawness and how everything didn't have a happy ending. Pre-code dealt with stories you really could relate to, an average human being could relate too and you could learn something from others mistakes. It's hard for me to relate to movies after the pre-code era, their so fairytale-like. I liked how pre-code movies showed the changing of morals and values but pre-code never was filthy and tasteless like today's movies that have no plot, substance or story. Pre-code could get low down but still had class, allure, and mystique. Pre-code movies were bringingt a lot out of the closet which is the reason why the code came around. Times sure have changed back 70 years ago in the 20''s, 30''s, and 40s all women had to do was show their legs and that was considered shocking then, now and days women show way more, women walk around half nude or partially nude today and people don't care.

 

Message was edited by:

PastoverPresent07

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> I know men love how women were scantily clad dressed

> but if that is the only reason for liking pre-code

> then your cheating yourself. I love the realness and

> rawness and how everything didn't have a happy

> ending. Pre-code dealt with stories you really could

> relate to, an average human being could relate too

> and you could learn something from others mistakes.

 

My sentiments exactly. Although, the reality presented by pre-code films was still skewed, vis-a-vis racial stereotypes and the like, Hollywood was headed down a path that was starting to reflect the realities of the times. This is not to say that this was always true though. One of the attractions of the films of Busby Berkeley was their sheer opulence in the midst of the Depression. However, they still contained relevance to the times. One of my favorite Berkeley numbers is "Remember My Forgotten Man" at the end of "Gold Diggers of 1933". It dealt with the plight of veterans at the time.

 

The pre-code films of Richard Barthelmess are also particular favorites of mine. "Son of the Gods" dealt with racial bias against the Chinese. However, it still had a cop-out ending and contained typical stereotypes when it dealy with African-Americans. Still, things were heading in a direction that might have proved interesting had not Joseph Breen and the Catholic League of Decency stepped in and put the hammer down.

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