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Favorite Pre-Code Men


hepclassic

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Ive always liked Robert Montgomery in precodes. He has this edge to him,like he's always looking for an angle, but he's likeable too. Favorites: Private Lives, Man in Possession, The Divorcee) Jimmy Cagney is also a lot of fun in precodes, especially when he's a fast-talking guy trying to pull a fast one (Blonde Crazy, Footlight Parade etc)

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Several years ago, TCM made a documentary based on the Mick LaSalle book Complicated Women, called, unsurprisingly, "Complicated Women." One of the precode plotlines it highlighted was women committing or getting away with murder and that they were all murdering Ricardo Cortez. It was kind of funny--they pointed out about 5 or 6 movies where the female star shoots, poisons or stabs Cortez (whose name was really something like Joseph Krantz--no Jacob Krantz).

Here's a link to a blog that makes the same point:

http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/162206.html

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Tracey, 

 

I have seen that documentary. In fact, I posted it in parts at the Classic Film Union. Cortez does get shot at a lot, but to be fair to the movies, he played the sexy creep very well, and since the PreCodes were "subversive" being female-centric in their storylines, Cortez did be a good equal foil to whatever the film was exploring. In Midnight Mary's case, it was the bitter and more rewarding fruit of temptation for Loretta Young's character. Naughty Marietta- naw- I prefer Naughty Loretta! 

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Tracey, 

 

I have seen that documentary. In fact, I posted it in parts at the Classic Film Union. Cortez does get shot at a lot, but to be fair to the movies, he played the sexy creep very well, and since the PreCodes were "subversive" being female-centric in their storylines, Cortez did be a good equal foil to whatever the film was exploring. In Midnight Mary's case, it was the bitter and more rewarding fruit of temptation for Loretta Young's character. Naughty Marietta- naw- I prefer Naughty Loretta! 

 

Tracey, 

 

I have seen that documentary. In fact, I posted it in parts at the Classic Film Union. Cortez does get shot at a lot, but to be fair to the movies, he played the sexy creep very well, and since the PreCodes were "subversive" being female-centric in their storylines, Cortez did be a good equal foil to whatever the film was exploring. In Midnight Mary's case, it was the bitter and more rewarding fruit of temptation for Loretta Young's character. Naughty Marietta- naw- I prefer Naughty Loretta! 

 

 

I would love it if TCM would make that documentary available on DVD. It would also be interesting to see what they would do with LaSalle's companion book, Dangerous Men.  Speaking of dangerous men, Clark Gable got his start in precodes. He was pretty sensational--all dark and dangerous and raw sexual energy just oozing off of him. I love him in Red Dust (all sweaty and manyly and tough) and like him in A Free Soul (a very interesting and subversive movie) and Night Nurse (downright evil in that one!). He still had something of that quality later--the surface has smoothed out, but the danger is still under the surface.

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I would love it if TCM would make that documentary available on DVD. It would also be interesting to see what they would do with LaSalle's companion book, Dangerous Men.  Speaking of dangerous men, Clark Gable got his start in precodes. He was pretty sensational--all dark and dangerous and raw sexual energy just oozing off of him. I love him in Red Dust (all sweaty and manyly and tough) and like him in A Free Soul (a very interesting and subversive movie) and Night Nurse (downright evil in that one!). He still had something of that quality later--the surface has smoothed out, but the danger is still under the surface.

That would be excellent if TCM did something on PreCode men. At the Classic Film Union a while ago, I did an article on Pre Code Women of Color that would be interesting for TCM to explore as well. 

 

As for Clark in the precodes, Red Dust remains one of my favorites. Very earthy and virile. 

 

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post-29241-0-35341900-1403409383_thumb.jpg

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I adore Warren William, that seedy scoundrel.  Even when he plays someone respectable, there's an undertone of the subdued seducer.  

 

Cagney's kind of a sexy pre-coder -- love his rapid fire dialogue. 

 

Overall, though, I think pre-Code presented more interesting women than men.  

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I adore Warren William, that seedy scoundrel.  Even when he plays someone respectable, there's an undertone of the subdued seducer.  

 

Cagney's kind of a sexy pre-coder -- love his rapid fire dialogue. 

 

Overall, though, I think pre-Code presented more interesting women than men.  

 

I think the women were more interesting too--probably becasue it was women's roles that changed the most after the code. They suddenly had to stay all virginal until the wedding night, then give up their careers and become housewives (or ladies who lunch, if their hubby was rich enough). I can;t think of too many movies after the code where a woman is as free as a man. One is Irene Dunne in a pair of screwballs she made with Cary Grant--My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth. She swears there's nothing between her and "Adam" in the first (what did they do for 7 years? play Scrabble?) and nothing between her and her singing coach in the second, but it's obvious there was something going on. Yet she gets away with it AND gets Cary Grant back in the end, without suffering too awfully much for her "sins."

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I think the women were more interesting too--probably becasue it was women's roles that changed the most after the code. They suddenly had to stay all virginal until the wedding night, then give up their careers and become housewives (or ladies who lunch, if their hubby was rich enough). I can;t think of too many movies after the code where a woman is as free as a man. One is Irene Dunne in a pair of screwballs she made with Cary Grant--My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth. She swears there's nothing between her and "Adam" in the first (what did they do for 7 years? play Scrabble?) and nothing between her and her singing coach in the second, but it's obvious there was something going on. Yet she gets away with it AND gets Cary Grant back in the end, without suffering too awfully much for her "sins."

 

Ernst Lubitsch knew how to circumvent the Code very well regarding getting away with things. When I saw The Awful Truth, I kept imagining it as a Pre-Code. Screwball comedy made it easier to get away with things that if it were straight drama would be very hard to get away with. 

 

I especially love the way Irene Dunne always looked like she had another man in her bedroom even though she didn't, but what bothered me in my modern eyes was that her supposed infidelity was the only one in question. If it were Pre-Code, there would be major exploration of that double standard. I practically thought that The Awful Truth was the Code-approved The Divorcee minus the sex. 

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  • 1 year later...

James Cagney, Franchot Tone, Chester Morris, Edward G. Robinson (pre-Last Gangster), Lionel Barrymore (early), Clark Gable, Wallace Ford, Robert Montgomery, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Herbert Marshall, Walter Huston, Leslie Howard, Warren Willliam, Gary Cooper (early), Conrad Nagle and James Stewart.

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  • 3 weeks later...

James Cagney, Franchot Tone, Chester Morris, Edward G. Robinson (pre-Last Gangster), Lionel Barrymore (early), Clark Gable, Wallace Ford, Robert Montgomery, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Herbert Marshall, Walter Huston, Leslie Howard, Warren Willliam, Gary Cooper (early), Conrad Nagle and James Stewart.

James Stewart didn't start his career until the mid 1930s, is this the other James Stewart of the musical remake of In Old Arizona (1928)?

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Hey Hepclassic, no I was talking about the more famous James Stewart, and you're definitely right, the earliest James Stewart film I've seen is The Last Gangster with Edward G. Robinson from 1937. I think one of James' first movies was Next Time We Love (1936) which didn't do that well, I believe (I haven\t seen it yet ;) ) But yes, his movies seem to be post 1934.

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