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do you find pre-code movies slightly disappointing?


dfordoom

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I love the concept of pre-code movies, but I find that in practice most of them end up disappointing. There are so many that show independent women, but by the end of the movie the independent women is shown willingly giving up her independence to fulfil her true destiny as dutiful wife and mother. There are exceptions of course, but on the whole I find that pre-code movies promise more than they deliver. The overwhelming sexism that is such a depressing feature of classic Hollywood cinema always seem to assert itself.

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  • 1 month later...

I find pre-code movies more than slightly unnerving. If anyone has seen Public Enemy or Freaks, you'll know what I'm talking about. I spent my childhood in an era where kids were (and still are) becoming numbed to depictions of sex and violence. I guess it's a credit to me that I felt shocked and alarmed when I saw the endings to both of this movies.

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I think the people who were interviewed in the documentary that TCM showed with the latest batch of Forbidden Hollywood made a pretty compelling case that there were better and stronger roles for women before the code than those made after the code, where women were often put in more unfavorably conditions (both in terms of the characters and as actresses themselves).

 

I'll keep an eye out for the documentary next time it airs, it's hard to come up with specific examples right off the top of my head but they gave some excellent examples.

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I don't find pre-codes dissappointing, they are what they are. Alot of people build them up, but really what do you expect during the era of which they were made? After watching post-code materials, they are really a breath of fresh air to the staunchness of the Hays code. Of course, really the term "pre-code" is false. The Hays code really did exist, but only was not enforced. So some of these films I believe still abided by some of the rules pertaining to the code. I'm sure some others know alot more about this than I do, I was just really excited when I found out about pre-codes. Even with all the hype I never found myself dissappointed, though. IMHO.

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After watching post-code materials, they are really a breath of fresh air to the staunchness of the Hays code.

Agree, 100%. It's a shame we went from pre-code to the Code, and then later on to the noxious MPAA ratings. We've come a long way and we still have a long ways to go. :(

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> I think the people who were interviewed in the

> documentary that TCM showed with the latest batch of

> Forbidden Hollywood made a pretty compelling

> case that there were better and stronger roles for

> women before the code than those made after the code,

 

I dated some of those kinds of women. Woopie, but they are not the kind to marry.

 

> where women were often put in more unfavorably

> conditions

 

Yeah, like mother, wife, decent girls.

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> I think the people who were interviewed in the

> documentary that TCM showed with the latest batch of

> Forbidden Hollywood made a pretty compelling

> case that there were better and stronger roles for

> women before the code than those made after the code,

> where women were often put in more unfavorably

> conditions (both in terms of the characters and as

> actresses themselves).

 

I've always believed that a major part of the agenda behind the Code was to put women "back in their place" after the gains women had made during the 1920s.

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> mother, wife, decent girls -- or femme fatales in the

> case of noirs, no?

 

Or bad women who must be punished for being uppity, and sent back to the kitchen. Or bad women who realise by the end of the film that they don't really want a life of their own, and so they agree to be good little girls and obey the rules.

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I've always believed that a major part of the agenda behind the Code was to put women "back in their place" after the gains women had made during the 1920s.

 

The documentaries that have been made about the code certainly seem to suggest that! :(

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I don't find the pre-code films disappointing. I find them quite smart in their handling of hot topics. I just watched two pre-code films on DVD: Waterloo Bridge with Mae Clarke (1931) and Red Headed Woman with Jean Harlow (1932) and for me the sauciness of the subject matter was due more to sexual nuance instead of bold, "in your face" presentation, especially in Waterloo Bridge--Red Headed Woman was a bit more blatant.

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For the most part, no. You must keep in mind when they were made and the social pressures that were around then. In 1928 D.H. Lawrence's book "Lady Chatterley's Lover" was banned in the US. In the 20's and 30's you had people like Anthony Comstock and John Saxton Summer in a moral war against anything they felt were obscene or immoral. People who crossed the line were in great danger of moral campaigns of the day and the forces that they promoted. I take my hat off to the people in Hollywood that bucked the trend until the Hays code took effect on 1 July 34 and thankfully died in 68!

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I think some can be. Some precodes are so over the top they aren't realistic, some are just routine and you know what's going to happen before it happens, and many have one thing in common: traditional endings. Husbands and wives re-united, for example, after having affairs. Gangsters finding out 'crime doesn't pay' (and it usually doesn't in real life too). So the precodes might have explored some risque matters but underlying most of them is still a morality that leads them to a conservative ending 9 times out of 10.

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I think the term "pre-code" means a lot. Many of the films made from the beginning of sound up to 1934 really do have something quite special about them. As previously mentioned in this thread, there was a lot of techinal experimentation going on at the time, and although there was skin in silent movies, pre-code talkies were able to play with the visual elements, and especially dialogue, in a way never possible before or after (or until the '50s, anyway). It was in this period that I think static camera work started to be done away with, and that acting began to be toned down and become more realistic. Performing in silents was a completely different ball game. It certainly was a fascinating period. Yes, it was a period of transition, I suppose. I think we can tend to overlook the effect that the coming of sound and dialogue must have had on the picture-going experience. It allowed movies to become a lot more adult in their content and a lot more "real".

 

Incidentally, I was watching "the Barbarian" with Ramon Novarro and Myrna Loy the other night. The scene where she was in the rose petal bath, and afterwards in a see through top was fantastic :) I love Myrna. Loved the movie, too. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

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Mryna wrote in her autobiography that she was wearing a body stocking in that scene in the bathtub. After I read that I watched the film again and it's obvious she was telling the truth, the skin is too smooth and she has no nipples. ;)

 

Next time you watch precodes watch those conservative endings. In The Barbarian she leaves Reginald Denny and marries Ramon, her supposed 'rapist', after trying to flee him through most of the picture. In The Divorcee, Norma is not having a grand old time having multiple affairs, in fact she is miserable and wants nothing more than to get back to her husband, whom she has never stopped loving. In Downstairs Virginia Bruce stays with her husband whom she loves instead of running off with the scumbag character played by John Gilbert. In Baby Face Barbara's character uses men but then discovers she loves her husband and will sacrifice the money and freedom to stay with him when he's in trouble. And on and on.

 

Precodes may have had a bit more freedom to explore risque topics but in the end the great majority of them had traditional endings in line with basic morality. That's what makes most films interesting anyway, wondering if characters will reform or learn something from bad behavior at the end, or whether they will be destroyed by sin.

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There is nothing disappointing about pre-codes. What is the most fascinating is that the issues covered are the same ones today. I watched Washington Merry go round recently and was taken back by how the lead character Lee Tracy characterizes how Washington D.C really is. The movie was in 1932 and the same stuff is going on today. I have to laugh when I hear people say we have to go back to the old days when morals were better. The same stuff was going on then as now. To me movies like Baby Face, Bedside, Divorcee and Gabriel over the White House are still relevant today. The dialog in these movies are spontaneous and more natural. Of course I have seen some snoozer pre-codes with sappy endings. But all in all when you watch a pre-code you get a good story, with interesting acting and interesting camera techniques as film makers were allowed to be experimental and creative. I wish I had known about pre-codes phenomena earlier. I have a lot of catching up to do.

 

And Madame Satan is so over the top. Just watching it and that party on the dirigible all I can say is WOW!

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Morals generally were better back then, even in the precode days, not only that but audiences expected the films to be likewise and complained when they weren't. That was why there was a backlash against the rougher types of films during the precode years and why the studios brought Breen in in 1934. They never allow anything like that unless it would help their bottom line. Their ticket sales were suffering and they knew they would have to clean up their act.

 

More people went to church and synagogue, most American girls were virgins when they got married (I know my mother and grandmother were because I asked them!), you didn't have AIDS, you didn't hear the filthy language back then that you hear now. There were more intact families, fewer divorces, fewer doing illegal drugs, etc. I'm talking about the heartland of America now and not Hollywood. Hollywood has never truly reflected the values of most Americans in the rest of the country, then or even now.

 

If anyone behaved in real life like some of the precode characters behaved in these films they would be ostracized from society.

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I love pre-codes, but that's because I they showed the truth of everyday life. I mean, we all have been led to believe that life was much more simple, and wholesome back then, but thats only what it appeared on the surface, if you dig deeper one will find out how life really was, and that is reflected in pre-codes. I mean, if you do research you will find out that there was always a "dark side" to life if one can call it. The things you can find out include: out of wedlock pregenancies,

abortions,pre-marital sex (which jumped after WW1)and so forth. And can tell you for one thing my family history is full of this stuff.

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Why would I want to? Porn of any age throughout history demeans women and turns them into objects, and contributes to other crimes as well in society. There have always been peep shows but they were never mainstream nor did they reflect the typical morality of those earlier times, when more people went to church and synagogue and believed in God and a Judgment Day. People with good morals avoid pornography.

 

Why are you promoting it?

 

On TCM's page New Code Of Conduct it states that this is prohibited:

 

? Any content that provides material that exploits people in a sexual or violent manner

 

The disc you are promoting contains this material. I think you should consider removing your post.

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