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Forbidden (1932)


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Barbara Stanwyck, for many, epitomizes pre-code film: her portrayals of hard-edged, strong women who were not afraid to use their sexuality to get ahead in the world most definitely contributed to stricter enforcement of the Hays Code starting in 1934. You can see from this montage of photos that Lulu Smith?s transformation in Forbidden is almost as stunning as Charlotte Vale?s in Now, Voyager but with a somewhat sinister twist. (The cryptic references are to avoid giving away too much of the plot.)






The plot, with elements of a romantic melodrama, centers on a timid and matronly young woman named Lulu Smith (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck). Lulu loses her job as a librarian when she is accused of having spring fever, after which she spends her life savings on a long overdue vacation cruise to Havana. During the cruise she begins a shipboard romance with Bob Grover (portrayed by Adolphe Menjou), a lawyer with political ambitions, and complications follow.



Aldolphe Menjou as Bob Gover and Barbara Stanwyck as Lulu Smith


Lulu approaches her friend Al Holland (portrayed by Ralph Bellamy), city editor of the local newspaper, for a job on his paper and she becomes the ?advice to the lovelorn? columnist. Holland has ambitions of writing a scathing expose on Grover and insists that Lulu help in this pursuit. Lulu refuses to aid Holland in his endeavor, seems she has a conflict of interest, and again those pesky complications follow.




Ralph Bellamy as Al Holland and Barbara Stanwyck as Lulu Smith



In Forbidden (Columbia Pictures, 1932), Nick, alias "Mary Sunshine" (Harry Holman) turns over his job as advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist to Lulu Smith at the request of Daily Record city editor Al Holland.



Daily Record managing editor Al Holland chews out his reporters because they can't get the dirt on a candidate for govenor in Forbidden (Columbia Pictures, 1932). Lulu Smith, the advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist "Mary Sunshine" watches in fear, since she has a certain conflict of interest.

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Hi WG! Forbidden is one of the few Stanwyck pre-codes I still haven't seen but I'm longing to. Your post makes it even more tantalizing. I really like the caps showing her transition from mouse to "Mouse"! :D


My favorite early 1930s actresses are Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis. They each possessed a "crackle" in those days that diminished as they got older, even if their powers as actresses did not.

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MissG: Thanks for your response to my posting on Forbidden (1932). I have to admit that, like you, I have not seen this film featuring Barbara Stanwyck, but it is high on my list of pre-code films to see. My favorite actresses of the silent era and early 1930s are Norma Shearer, Mary Astor and Myrna Loy, but I agree with about Stanwyck, Davis and Dietrich. I like how you phrased their characteristic crackle, and you are right that their powers as actresses remained as they aged.

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I saw this movie on TCM and I was amazed by the "mature" theme of this movie. It's funny how some people talk about the "good old days" where everyone was upstanding and Christian and peachy and in reality the stuff that goes on today happened then too. Thank goodness for pre-codes like Forbidden, that show that a woman can emerge from being a fumpy librarian to a hot blooded woman after discovering love or lust on a cruise ship like Barbara Stanwyck's character in Forbidden. Her transformation in this movie made me appreciate Ms. Stanwyck's range of acting .As a baby boomer my first experience with Ms. Stanywcyk was the Big Valley and Falcon Crest. Norma Sherarer used to be my favorite pre-code actress but watching Barbara Stanwyck's roles in Forbidden, Babyface, So Big, Night Nurse and The Miracle Woman gave me a whole new appreciation for her. She does not disappoint in Forbidden. This is a must see for pre-code fans! Hopefully TCM will schedule it again this year.

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kimbutgar: Thank you for your input regarding Forbidden. You are the first person I have found who has seen this film. I have mentioned this title to a number of my friends who are fans of classic films, and those who have heard of it have not seen the film, not even the fans of Barbara Stanwyck. Thank you for letting us know that this film is as good as we hoped. I agree that most of the films considered pre-codes seem somewhat tame by today?s standards, almost fanciful, but there are moments when I find myself wondering, ?How did they get away with this sort of material?? The answer is that they didn?t for long.



Scottman: Thank you for letting us know that TCM will be airing Forbidden within the next few months. I am looking forward to seeing this film and Ten Cents A Dance, since I have seen neither film. This will be a fun day with two early films featuring Barbara Stanwyck!

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Hi "W.G.",

FORBIDDEN is what would have been called in the 1930s, a "woman's picture".

To some degree it is soap opera like, but still it is an enjoyable film. Adolphe Menjou and Barbara Stanwyck are both excellent. It has some similarities to Joan Crawford's POSSESSED (1931),although they have very different outcomes. As a fan of pre-code and poverty row films, I liked it very much. TEN CENTS A DANCE was directed by Lionel Barrymore. I think it may be among his last directoral efforts, as he was talked into appearing in front of the camera for good after A FREE SOUL (1931).

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TCM will be showing it again in August, along with TEN CENTS A DANCE (1931) which also stars Ms. Stanwyck.


Very cool! Even better - looks like August 19th is Barbara Stanwyck day. All Barbara - all day - all night.


12:45 am - Crime of Passion

2:15 - Clash By Night

4:00 - B.F.'s Daughter

7:00 - Illicit

8:30 - Ten Cents a Dance

10:00 - Night Nurse

11:15 - Forbidden

12:45 pm - Shopworn

2:00 - Ever in My Heart

3:15 - Baby Face

4:45 - The Bride Walks Out

6:15 - You Belong to Me

8:00 - The Locked Door

9:30 - The File on Thelma Jordan

11:15 - Witness to Murder


Now that's one fantastic schedule! All Barbara and lots of Pre-code too. Let's just hope that TCM doesn't change the schedule (as they often do) between now and then. Stay the course, TCM; stay the course!

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jjelmquist: interesting that you should mention the possibility of a change in the August schedule. I was reading a thread that originated in April and the contributors were excited about the pre-code lineup in June, but the schedule was changed due to licensing restrictions.


I am still relatively new to pre-code films, beyond the short list of titles that I have watched, but I realize that not every film made during the early sound period from 1929 to 1934 fits the pre-code category. I was wondering if you could help me decipher the pre-code potential of a few films that interest me: I have either read about or heard about these films. Will you let me know, in your opinion, if these films qualify, and which titles you have seen?


Skyline (1931) with Myrna Loy, Maureen O?Sullivan and Thomas Meighan~Uncertain

The Animal Kingdom (1932) with Myrna Loy, Ann Harding and Leslie Howard~Yes

The Crime of the Century (1933) with Frances Dee and Jean Hersholt~Uncertain

Penthouse (1933) with Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter~Yes

The Black Cat (1934) with Boris Karloff and Bella Lugosi~Uncertain

Black Moon (1934) with Fay Wray and Jack Holt~Uncertain

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◘Skyline (1931) with Myrna Loy, Maureen O?Sullivan and Thomas Meighan~Uncertain


I haven't seen Skyline, and don't have it in my collection. Based on the plot synopsis in the AFI catalogue it sounds like a pretty routine drama. Plot revolves around a young man who dreams of being an architect. The possible pre-code element in the story would be that the hero was born out of wedlock, doesn't know who his father is, but of course discovers this by the end of the film.


◘The Animal Kingdom (1932) with Myrna Loy, Ann Harding and Leslie Howard~Yes


As your notes indicate, most definitely a solid pre-code. Lots of seduction, infidelity, etc. Been a long time since I've seen it, and I honestly don't remember if there are "graphic" scenes. I'll pull this one off the shelf and give it a screening in the next couple of days. Will get back to you with details.


◘The Crime of the Century (1933) with Frances Dee and Jean Hersholt~Uncertain


I don't have this one in my collection, and have never seen it. Again, the plot synopsis in the AFI catalog makes it sound like a rather standard crime drama centered around a bank robbery.


◘Penthouse (1933) with Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter~Yes


Definitely an example of pre-code crime drama. Lot's of illegal booze, speakeasies, gangster molls, etc.


◘The Black Cat (1934) with Boris Karloff and Bella Lugosi~Uncertain


This is one of my favorite pre-code horror films! Karloff AND Lugoisi! Doesn't get any better than that. An excellent film filled with "graphic" pre-code elements: Karloff as the leader of a satanic cult, scenes of a cultic ceremony involving attempted human sacrifice, the villain being skinned alive, etc. Gruesome stuff. Really a great film. And yes, it is available on DVD. It's in the Bela Lugosi Collection. Which, by the way, contains even more great pre-code horror films: The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Raven. Highly recommended!


◘Black Moon (1934) with Fay Wray and Jack Holt~Uncertain


Don't have this one, and haven't seen it. Based on the AFI Catalogue it sounds like this is another classic pre-code horror: Voodoo cults, human sacrifice, native Hatian islanders rising up to murder the white population, etc. Sounds great! Not available on DVD. But I have seen bootleg copies on Ebay.


Hope that helps. The difficult thing with identifying pre-codes is that so many films from the 1930-34 period aren't "forbidden hollywood" films on the level of Baby Face or Red-Headed Woman, but do contain brief pre-code moments; sexual innuendo, double entendre, etc. For me that's one of the things that's so fun about all films from this period.

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Okay...was able to watch The Animal Kingdom and Penthouse last night.


Both are definitely solid pre-codes - but they are very different from one another.


Animal Kingdom (1932) is quite mature in subject matter - Leslie Howard's character had a "free", "open" and "intimate" relationship with Ann Harding's character. But now he's engaged to Myrna Loy's character. Most of the film focuses on the temptation of being unfaithful to the new wife because the lure of the former relationship is so strong. Lots of frank dialog about sex, affairs, "free love", love triangles, etc. A rather slow and drawn out soap opera. Certainly not on a level with the films like Baby Face, Read Headed Woman etc. A couple of rather sensuous scenes with Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy but nothing that would be considered "graphic". Myrna Loy looks ravishing in her negligee, although it looks more like an evening gown. In fact, I thought it was a dress until she said the line: "Do you remember when I found this negligee?" This is available on DVD from Alpha Video. Don't know how good the transfer is. My experience with Alpha is that usually my home recordings from TV are just as good as their DVDs.


Penthouse (1933) is much more in line with the more "Forbidden Hollywood" pre-codes. Although it's also pretty tame in comparison with the more infamous films. Warner Baxter plays a lawyer who excels in representing "undesireable clients" - gangsters, bootlegers, chrous girls, etc. More of a murder mystery, this one - although with some "gratutious" shots of scantily clad dancing girls. Like Animal Kingdom, some frank dialog about sex between Baxter and Myrna Loy. "Shall we go back to my place our yours?" As I mentioned earlier, lots of scenes in speakeasies. A pretty good pre-code over all. Being an MGM film it's much more polished and glossy - not gritty like the pre-codes from Warner Bros.

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jjelmquist: Thank you for your feedback and for the great information on these films. I really appreciate the time and thought you put into your answers: the information is very helpful. I wonder if you would be interested in another question that I have. I am trying to find pre-code films that will prove this is a genre that appeals to men as well as women and that these are not simply ?women?s films.? I realize, of course, that the gangster films of the period should apply, but when I mention them to my male friends, they claim that they are strictly gangster films. I think Animal Crackers (1930) would be a good example, but I?m not entirely sure why this is a pre-code film. I always thought this was just another great film featuring the Marx Brothers doing what they do best. I will, in the future, be sure to mention The Black Cat and I think that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) with Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins might be another title that illustrates how pre-code films are also of interest to men. Do you have any other suggestions?
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*whistlingypsy*: Don't know that I have a really good response. Pre-code is an era rather than a genre, and within that era many pre-code films of numerous genres were made. Some are more characteristic of "womens films"; I immediately think of The Easiest Way, The Sin of Madelon Claudet, and Baby Face. Pre-codes that focus on the challenges women face in trying to make it on their own in the world, struggling against the power/oppression of men. I suppose this genre of Pre-codes may not be very popular with men. I don't know. I'm a man, and I still enjoy these. First, I enjoy them for the stars. Constance Bennett and Barbara Stanwyck are two of my favorite actors, and they made a lot of Pre-codes. But I also appreicate the strong female characters and the frankness of the stories. These are powerful women who later, when the code was strictly enforced, would be opporessed and subjugated. I'm thinking of Marriage is a Private Affair from 1944 with Lana Turner. Ten years earlier this film would have been a totally different production. As is, it's a rather sexist view of marriage (especially from our 21st century perspective). James Craig's line stating his surprise that Lana's character can cook is to me a prime example. Good cooking and a nice figure (he makes an hour-glass motion with his hands) just don't go together. Ugggh!


I think there are many Pre-Code genres that are more naturally appealing to men. The gangster films, as you've pointed out. Don't know why someone would refer to them as "strictly gangster films". There's a definite difference between Pre-Code gangster films and those made later. They are much more violent, sordid, graphic, and gritty. Pre-Code horror films is another example. They are miles ahead of the horror films from the late 30s and 40s. Much creepier, even disturbing. Take Murders in the Rue Morgue for example. Bela Lugosi mating beautiful women with apes! No film would even go anywhere near the subject of beastiality after 1934. Not even close. Now, I don't want to be sexist myself. I'm sure some women may enjoy these films too.


As far as Pre-Codes that would appeal to both men and women, the first one that comes to mind is Red Dust with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. That is a great film with both a strong leading lady and leading man. Great steamy story of a love triangle. Plenty of eroticism and tittilation. A great romance but also very macho. With Clark Gable in the lead, how could it not be? This is one of my favorites. Really, a great film. Don't know why it hasn't been released on DVD. Maybe in Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3? We can only hope.


Of course all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. It's only my opinion after all. I'd be very interested in hearing the opinions of others. It's a very interesting question. What pre-code genres do men like? Which do women like? Do they like the same ones? Why? Why not? I hope others will chime in.

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Films like I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932), HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932), while crime dramas, would not fall into the "gangster" genre. Also THE LAST FLIGHT (1931), CENTRAL AIRPORT (1933) and UNION DEPOT (1932), would appeal to men too. Also in the Horror genre I would add ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932). It's pretty creepy too, turning animals into "human-like" beings is pretty creepy stuff! Most any James Cacney or Edwad G. Robinson film from that period would work. Cagney's non gangster roles would include BLONDE CRAZY (1931), TAXI! (1932), JIMMY THE GENT (1934). For Robinson, FIVE STAR FINAL (1931), THE HATCHET MAN (1932), TWO SECONDS (1932) would be good Robinson's gangster spoof THE LITTLE GIANT (1933) is a real hoot, with some wild dialogue it in. Lots of movies to choose from.

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jjelmquist and Scottman: Thank you both for your comments and for the recommendations that you made. You made an interesting point to keep in mind: pre-code films are a period in filmmaking and not a genre, and this is why I don?t understand the use of these labels. I realize that this might be an oversimplification, but it clearly shows that rigid genre labeling is somewhat pointless when you're considering a period in which genres, and talking pictures, were still inventing themselves. You also proved my point, somewhat in reverse, when you mentioned films that might be considered a ?man?s film,? which I have also enjoyed watching.


I have determined that there might be one element, one silly and slightly macabre element, that might distinguish a pre-code film as either a ?woman?s film? or a ?man?s film? (can a film be ?gender-ized??) I have noticed that in a ?woman?s film? death often comes as a result of suicide: Coquette, Baby Face, Strangers May Kiss, Christopher Strong Three on a Match and even Reckless (1935). However, in a ?man?s film? death often comes as a result of a murder: The Public Enemy, Little Caesar and Scarface to name a few. I could be attempting to make a trend out a simple phenomenon (in fact I don?t want to read anything into this), but filmmakers certainly seem to have seen suicide as a passive/female act and murder as an aggressive/male act. Please feel free to tell me that I, well, have gotten this all wrong?

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There seems to be something to your theory. Although I can think of a couple of exceptions.










In THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1933) it is the man, Yen who commits suicide, and in FRISCO JENNY (1932) it is Jenny who end up paying the price for murder. In WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND (1932) the evil Edward T Norton, (played by Alan Dinehart) commits suicide rather than go to trial. That being said, it would seem that in the majority of pre-codes, when there is a suicide, it it usually committed by a woman, and a murder generally committed by a man.

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I think I should have been a little clearer; I was probably in too much of hurry to share my theory. I didn't mean that suicide was strictly the realm of women, but that suicide seemed to occur only in those films that might be termed "women's films." In Coquette, Baby Face and Reckless the male character commits suicide, neverthless, it is a somewhat morbid theory.


I realize that I might have disproved my own theory by including Coquette in the list. The male character who commits suicide does so because he is on trial for murdering his daughter's beloved. If I had paid closer attention to the title of this thread, I would have remembered that this film also disproves my theory, since Lulu commits murder in this plot.

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UNDER EIGHTEEN from 1931--with Marian Marsh, Regis Toomey, Anita Page and the wonderful Warren William. Who else but William could deliver a line like this, "Why don't you take off your clothes & stay awhile?"


CALL HER SAVAGE - 1933 with Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland & Thelma Todd


HOOPLA - 1933 with Clara Bow

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THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! This array of photos and poster art is some of the most stunning stuff i've seen on this site (i'm biased -i'm a Stanwyck fanatic, but a newbie of sorts to the genre), i think i'm going to print this out in color! When can we expect Forbidden on DVD?

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One of my favorite Pre-Code movies is "Three Broadway Girls"AKA "The Greeks Had a Word for Them." It's the usual gold-digger story with a lot of shots of pretty girls in underwear, but it also contains, if I remember correctly, a rather steamy scene featuring Joan Blondell. Blondell is making out with one of her suitors and there is a close-up of her face---and I swear she gives every indication of penetration and/or ****. Has anyone ever seen this scene? Certainly one of the hottest from pre-code WB.

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No i haven't, but would love to! The title alone is fantastic! Really enjoying this thread and want to give props to the poster who put the Stanwyck pics and poster up -- quite thrilling for this reader!


Re: another matter entirely, I hate to see Paramount spending so much money releasing Blu-Ray dvds when they should have allocate a bigger budget for dipping back into their library! But when you view the release calendar, it clearly shows that men are assumed to be the big spenders, as about every single war movie (or John Wayne movie) already seems to be out on Blu-Ray! (or darn close it seems). Sorry to get off track, i know this is a pre-code thread!

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