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Pre-Code Films


Guest TCMhost-Joy

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Alix, I've written about this several times in several discussions, but for the sake of convenience I'll put it all here in the same space. . .

 

First of all, MGM does not own HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT. After its original release, MGM sold the film to Paramount. (That's why you won't find it in the TCM library.) Since Universal controls the distribution rights to the pre-1948 Paramount films, they probably control HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT, too.

 

HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT was filmed in a sound-on-disc process, and when the film was first restored in 1970, the disc for reel 2 was missing, so that reel was omitted from the finished product. This is supposedly where John Gilbert utters "I love you!" over and over. (Leatrice Gilbert Fountain mentioned this in her book about her father, DARK STAR.)

 

A few years ago, this incomplete print of HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT was screened at the Cinecon 33 in Los Angeles. The Silents Majority website reported that it was a beautiful print, with no signs that Gilbert's voice was tampered with. "Gilbert's voice sounded fine, period," they said.

 

The Library of Congress has long had the film on its most-desired list of restoration projects, especially since the missing disc for reel 2 was recently discovered in the UCLA Film and Television Archive, making a complete restoration possible. Let's hope they get started soon -- if they haven't already!

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Watched this one, Harold Lloyd's first full talkie... It was pretty good, much better than Welcome Danger, altho Barbara Kent was still lousy. A few really funny moments, but Lloyd still had a hard time incorporating the dialog into the comedic action. The redo of the building climbing didn't work well in this one (as opposed to Safety Last) because (in part) because of the sound. Lloyd's hanging off a building just wasn't as funny when you could hear him yelling for help. The film did ok at the box office, but foretold the future, one of diminishing returns. Lillian Leighton was kinda fun as Mrs. Tanner, but Noah Young (from several Lloyd silents) had basically nothing to do. Still have Movie Crazy to watch.

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Sorry Dan, if my question was redundant. I didn't mean for it to be.

 

Thank you for the information. I incorrectly assumed that since the film was made for MGM, TCM's library owned the film. You said that the reel where he says, "I love you! I love you" was lost? I thought I saw on a documentary that very scene! I remember seeing it and thinking it was so un-Gilbert like, and becoming curious about the whole picture. Like you, I hope the complete restoration is either in the works or set to start soon. Knowing that people have seen even an incomplete version and found no concerns with the "voice" issue makes me even more curious to judge for myself the finished product.

 

Hopefully, we'll get a chance to see it!

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People always think the "I love, I love you. I love you!" line is familiar because they've likely seen Gene Kelly say it in "Singin in the Rain." Just the fact that the line was used (as parody) in another film makes people think the line appeared for real in the previous film. Lillian Gish said in her biography that Gilbert said the line ONCE and that people were uncomfortable HEARING the line said, causing sniggers and chuckles. That doesn't strike me as realistic either. Until the film is played, we'' always wonder. But we've talked lots here about Gilbert's decent voice in the talkies that survive, specially "Dowstairs," so Gilbert's voice quality (whatever you think of it) doesn't seem to have warranted the ROTTEN talkies MGM gave him......

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Okay, here's my take--once more--on John Gilbert's connection with the ill-fated "His Glorious Night" where he is purported to have uttered those never-to-be-forgotten words: "I love you!" Three times! From my research on this matter for my book, "Kiss of King Kong", oldtimers today say the film colony back then was aghast that Louis Mayer would suddenly rush the studio's top male star into a "talker," with no planning. Irving Thalberg demanded that the great Garbo wait for more than a year before she "talked." Thalberg correctly assumed that the primitive sound equipment would have vastly improved during that year. This is why Garbo's voice registered so richly in "Anna Christie." Another important factor is that Thalberg hired a specialized voice coach who specialized in lowering voices. Garbo's natural voice until then was average, with a deep undertone. She realized her career was on the line with "Anna Christie" and she worked steadily every day for more than a year to lower her vocal timber. Numerous sound tests were made to check her progress. Poor Gilbert was never given this consideration. He was thrown to the wolves. Also, I try to imagine how I would have reacted if I had actually heard for the first time these incredible screen gods and goddesses actually talking like real people. That might account for the devastation of the silent stars who couldn't survive as "talkers". The glorious Vilma Banky, Pola Negri, Billie Dove, etc. An entire world of beautiful men and women literally vanished overnight after the box office returns were tallied up. Sometimes I listen to Rudolph Valentino's recording of "Pale Hands" he made in l922. This is on a compilation of silent stars and early "talkers" actually singing, and this is one weird experience. Valentino's voice comes across as light and hollow. Yet, Ramon Navarro does a delightful medley of light opera. It's a mystery as to why he never continued his movie musical career a la Nelson Eddy, Bing Crosby, etc.

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Speaking of John Gilbert (this is sort of related), has anyone seen or heard anything about a movie called Hollywood Revisited? I found it on the IMDb and supposedly it was made in 2001 about a scandal during the silent era. Only three of the characters are listed which consist of Gilbert, Virginia Rappe, and Lupe Velez. I recognize some of the actors' names and am so curious to see it. Any info would be helpful--Thanks.

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Hi friends! In case you haven't read through the May schedule, I'm happy to report that May is full of pre-Code movies! I have gotten to the place where there have been no movies recently shown that I haven't seen, but boy--am I going to be using the old VCR this month!!

 

I am looking forward to seeing 1933 TORCH SINGER w/Claudette Colbert. Has anyone seen this? I read somewhere that it is an excellent movie, seldom seen. I missed FEMALE the last time it aired, and hope to catch it on May 13. SINNER'S HOLIDAY, James Cagney's movie debut is scheduled for May 15! Anita Page Alert--WAR NURSE from 1930 is playing on May 21. Glad to see another of her talkies seeing the light of day.

 

Has anyone seen any of these? What pre-Codes did you notice were playing that you hope to watch??

 

Suffice it to say I will NOT be complaining about a lack of pre-Codes this month. I am one contented viewer.

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Yo Alix-----Torch Singer and War Nurse will be new for me too. Also Taped Design for Living last night, which I wanted to see again after seeing Complicated Women special, which was very good. But it showed clips from films I've never seen and TCM has never shown--always annoying to us fans. I was very pleased to see a fave of mine--Miriam Hopkins--so prominently displayed during this speacial. I've always thought she was underrated.

 

I always like Ruth Chatterton, and Female is one of her better films. Holiday for Sinners is famous as Cagney and Joan Blondell's film debuts. The film really stars Evalyn Knapp and Grant Withers, but Blondell and Cagney blow them off the screen. Witchy Lucille Laverne is fun too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello Dredagain. Ohmygosh, wasn't DESIGN FOR LIVING one of the classic pre-Codes? I thought it was a very excellent movie. The only thing I wondered about was how Miriam Hopkins could ever look at Fredric March while Coop was in the room!! heeheehe. Seriously, a terrific film, I glad I caught it!

 

I just got finished w/TORCH SINGER. Claudette Colbert was very good as the singer who gives her baby up for adoption. I also enjoyed seeing my favorite blonde, David Manners, as the baby's father. I noticed Ricardo Cortez too--in a role where he's not killed by the leading woman. Overall, a satisfying movie. Another one I'm glad I caught on tape.

 

I am currently awaiting FEMALE to come on. I have never seen this one, although I know it's played before. I admire Ruth Chatterton. I think she always presents an intelligent performance, at least in the films I've seen her in. So far, my favorite Chatterton film is DODSWORTH.

 

I agree with you about Miriam Hopkins. I don't know that she made a whole lot of films, but she has been memorable in the ones I've been able to catch. I'd still like to see THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE on TCM. It was quite notorious in the 1930's, and I'm sure Hopkins did the title role justice. Another intelligent actress, although I've read that she was somewhat of a diva and hard to work with.

 

Did anyone catch the 1934 movie SPITFIRE on Tuesday night? What a weird movie! I had such a hard time listening to Katherine Hepburn's strange hillybilly accent for over an hour. I did enjoy Ralph Bellamy though. I've never been a big fan of his, but I've seen him in a couple of things lately that made me sit up and take notice. I'd love to hear anyone else's take on SPITFIRE.

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I taped Female and will watch it later this week, but I did watch Torch Singer and Baby Face---wow! The storlines were over the top but the performances of Claudette Colbert and Barbara Stanwyck were stunning. Two of the underrated stars of the 30s, Stanwyck abd Colbert could play anything. And these films showcased their talents as dramatic as well as comic actors, plus Colbert had a damned good singing voice. Two wonderful films with lead performances that make recent Oscar winners like Halle Berry and Hilary Swank look pretty pale. These two films also offered a parade of interesting leading men (victims) like George Brent, John Wayne, Ricardo Cortez, Donald Cook, David Manners and, oddly, blonde showgirl Toby Wing in both films!

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"Torch Singer" blew me away. I was thrilled with the beautifully restored print and Claudette Colbert was a revelation. And oh, migod, there was that gorgeous David Manners who looked so cute I just wanted to reach into my TV screen and bottle him up. He's never been sexier. Did anyone notice the symphathetic, and surprisingly meaty roles, of the black maids in both "Torch Singer" and "Babyface." They were treated like real, live members of the cast, especially in "Torch Singer." I also caught "Picture Snatcher" and "Smart Money" before these two. All I can say is: nobody could beat Warner Brothers during those early 30 flicks for capturing the sweaty, gritty feel of that time. The women never looked all that glamarous and everyone had beads of sweat glistening on their faces and hair. At the pace Warner movies were made, there was probably no time for make-up retouches!

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I couldn't wait to post this a.m. that I love, love, LOVE Claudette Colbert. As you said paty, she was a revelation. I've seen her in soooo many things, but her performance in TORCH SINGER made me want to watch all of her movies all over again. I know she was never considered a classic beauty but there is something so sexy about her...is it that velvety voice of hers? Makes me remember her bathing in that goat's milk in SIGN OF THE CROSS--woohoo!

As for the maids in the films--I too noticed how they were given more credence than usual. And both of them were strikingly beautiful! Not that "Aunt Jemima" stereotype we're used to seeing.

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Anyone else catch this one? I enjoyed Cagney & Blondell's movie debuts and could see the beginnings of their movie persona's beginning to develop. Wasn't Blondell a knockout as a brunette? I thought it was pretty obvious why 1930's movie patrons left the theatre clammoring for more of these two--and they weren't even the leads! Grant Withers & Evelyn Knapp were suppose to be the stars of the movie! Who was watching them? It sure wasn't me (and apparently lots of others!)

 

Interesting note from Robert Osborne -- The actress who played Ma Delano also supplied the voice for the witch in Snow White.

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It's interesting to see that a Tallulah Bankhead movie, Faithless is being shown (in the wee hours). Ms. Bankhead does not get many of her movies shown on TCM. This is an interesting curio for someone that is not familar with Tallulah. Speaking of Pre-Code movies, I keep having that fat guy from Baby Face's voice ringing in my ear, "Have You Had Any Experience".

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Nick, you hit the nail on the head about that sweaty, ****-up fat guy in "Baby Face." And how that guy could leer! Babs STanwyck one-word reply is a classic. "Plenty!" I would love to have seen them prepare this scene and how they were coached into spitting out those classic one-liners. And oh, boy, I'm dying to tape the Tallulah Bankhead gem. I interviewed her for a gay magazine way back when and this woman was something else! She drank straight vodka and smoked through two packs of cigarettes in four hours. Most of the stuff I wasn't able to print--even in a gay mag. It was all juicy dish on people she had known--especially the divine Bette Davis.

Miriam Hopkins came off even worse.

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Anyone see our beautiful Anita Page in WAR NURSE (1930)?

I thought this was an intersting movie, and very sad too. I'm sure that real WWI nurses had similar experiences in the field. Anyone who who played the brunette heroine, Babs, I think her name was?

 

Also, what was the rash that Kansas had on her chest? TB maybe? I had no clue what that was all about, but figured the 1930 audiences would have known. Can anyone help me with this one??

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Okay, as long as we're talking about pre-Code movies that I haven't seen before, what about this one? I enjoyed it, mostly because it was something new to me.

 

I had accidentially filled out the videotape label as "Sins of the Father," and I sat through this whole film wondering just what sins the father had committed! I couldn't figure out the title at all. Then I checked the film listing, and saw it was "Sins of the Children," and all made sense!

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Get your blank tapes ready for tonight! Even the NY Times is urging readers to watch TCM's very rarely shown "Murder at the Vanities" tonight. This is the one that was featured so heavily in "Complicated Women" and where Kitty Carlisle posed in that daring little outfit. She's in that "Marihuana" number. Also, "MOrocco" will be shown just before that one. Oh, boy, just watching those two beautiful sex creaturesp--Marlene and Gary--is enough to melt my VCR. cholly hoo, until tomorrow!

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Murder at the Vanities is not even listed as being in the TCM vault and was not listed in my May satellite guide....

 

Of course the TCM Vault info is incredibly bad, incomplete, and frustrating because it (and this web site) are so poorly maintained......

 

shoddy

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After watching The Nuisance during last month's pre-code festival I must say that Lee Tracy is certainly one of the most under-appreciated and forgotten actors of not only the pre-code era but of all-time. Tracy, wasn't a typical good-looking guy but that motormouth of his reminded me why I liked him so much. I always get a kick out of the story of Tracy **** from the top of a balcony onto the Mexican army during the filming of Viva, Villa which got him fired. I hope more Lee Tracy movies make their way to TCM and not just Bombshell which is shown frequently. Tracy is fantastic in that too!

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Nick, Lee Tracy can be seen in color and at his peak in Warner Brother's terrific fright-fest, "Doctor X," l933, starring the gorgous Fay Wray at her screaming peak. The movie is filmed in beautiful two-strip Technicolor and gives the fright scenes a dream-like fantasy quality. In one early scene, he goes into a brothel to make a telephone call. Hard-talking Mae Busch--what a shock--swivels through the room in an open robe, her hair bleached white, and she deadpans: "Hey, didn't I know you in Havana?" This must have been a familiar code word to audiences back then and probably got lots of yuks from the knowing public since Havana at that time was famed for its bordellos. Lee does his famous double-take and nasal laugh. I've got to admit, though. He became a little tiresome as the forever wise-cracking reporter in this one.

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Yep, I like him too. He personifies the 1930's wisecracker perfectly. I agree, he can be a little irritating though. Cagney pulls off that wisecracking thing in a way that annoys you far less than Tracy does.

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