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New to the idea of Pre-Code films...(Help!)


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Can some of you guys give me the heads up on what some of the most well-known classics are of the Pre-Code era? Also, if anyone knows of any titles coming up on television off the top of their head, that would also be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

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The dvd collections of "Forbidden Hollywood" #1 & #2 are good places to start. James Cagney and Joan Blondell worked together in several enjoyable "pre-code" films also. *Personal* *Opinion:* Whereas the "pre-code" films are tame when compared to todays full nudity, foul language and simulated sex, they are quite preferable (to me) when compared to the "fairy tale sweetness" of the later films where the strict standards of "the Code" were enforced. I feel that the "pre-code" films offered better charactor development, and more realistic "plot situations" than later films.

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I agree-- The Forbidden Hollywood collections are good starters, especially Baby Face A Free Soul and Red-Headed Woman.

Here are some more coming up in the next few months:


June 3 Bitter Tea of General Wu (I want to see this one!), Mask of Fu Manchu

June 4 Mary Stevens MD (Kay Francis decides to have a baby w/out marriage...and isn't doomed to a miserable life!)

June 5 Shanghai Express (assortment of people on a train in China that is hijacked by a warlord--Anna May Wong is great as a Chinese hooker--also Dietrich as the "White Flower of the China Coast--"It took more than one man to change my name to...Shanghai Lily")

June 12 The Thin Man (wonderful dialogue!)

June 27 Public Enemy (Cagney as a street hood who makes it big as a gangster--features the famous grapefruit scene)

June 29 Rain (Joan Crawford as a South Seas floozy)


July 19 King Kong

July 30 The Most Dangerous Game (a crazy millionaire hunts shipwreck victims on a desert island) The Old Dark House (Haven't seen this one--looking forward to it)



August 4 Dinner at Eight (snappy dialogue and Harlow all in white), Annie Christie (Garbo's first talkie)

August 7, Queen Christina (Garbo as a bisexual queen of Sweden), Mata Hari (Garbo as the famous spy) Grand Hotel (Joan Crawford as a stenographer who "understands")

August 19 pretty much the entire morning

August 20 Little Caesar (Edward G Robinson as Rico the gangster)

August 31 Man's Castle (Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young--I've been waiting for this one too)


Others that aren't too hard to find-- Blonde Venus, The Devil is a Woman, The Scarlett Empress, 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Trouble in Paradise and the Universal horror flicks (Dracula (1931) etc)

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  • 1 month later...

You'll enjoy The Old Dark House, although the print isn't the greatest (I assume it's the Rohauer print - I don't think you could get Universal to screen their much nicer print without blasting into the vault). BTW, you missed the early Busby Berkeley-choreographed The Kid From Spain which was on not too long ago. Goldwyn Girls, yum yum.


It's important to mention that not every film made before the code is a precode - a film like the very tame Rafter Romance doesn't have any real precode content, but a film like Heat Lightning does. Only rarely is there nudity (look at the see-through negligee that Dorothy Mackaill wears in No Man of Her Own, and of course there's nudity in Tarzan and His Mate and Blonde Venus), but the themes are more adult and women are portrayed as being much more independent than in code movies. You won't hear much in the way of cursing, only a little, and if you're really naive, you may not get the cues that a woman is having/has had sex. Not all the films are as blunt as Baby Face.

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Netflix recently sent me DeMille's "The Sign of the Cross" (1932). I ordered it because I read somewhere that this is supposedly "DeMille's greatest, most spectacular film." C.B. has turned out some pretty spectacular stuff, like "The Ten Commandments" and "The Greatest Show on Earth"... so I figured, this "Sign of the Cross" I have GOT to see!


Anyway. I loaded my DVD player and sat back to watch. And not long after the film opening, I saw Claudette Colbert, of all people, taking a bath -- nude -- in a tub of milk. And sure enough, every once in a while one or both of her nipples popped above the surface of the milk. Looks like it was planned that way.


Late in the film, there is a scene showing a young Christian woman tethered to a cross, and she is wearing nothing but a few strands of flowers. Sort of a floral bikini... and not an EARLY bikini, but one of the "mini" bikini types. I scratched my head and thought: "What the hell...? In 1932?"


Sure enough, this is a pre-coder. I should have known, DeMille would use the occasion to dip into his favorite fetishes. He tried pushing the envelope in one of his silent films, "The Affairs of Anatol" in 1921. So why wouldn't he do it here?


In case you haven't seen this, and you wonder: Yes, you see more of Mlle. Colbert's **** than you do of Fay Wray's, in "King Kong" (1933).

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SIGN OF THE CROSS is really over the edge! I read somewhere, that they used real milk in Claudette Colbert's bathing scene, and that with all the hot lights it smelled to the high heaven! It was also said that she was told to stand in the milk, topless, and they filled it up so it just barely skimmed her nipples!


I wonder what movie audiences thought of this movie at the time...?

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