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Pre-Code Films


Guest TCMhost-Joy

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Guest precodekd

I quite agree with you- Ann is another lost star- who could ever forget her in Three On A Match? I have been digging through my precode films and found some more that she starred in. She had a bit part in a very noir-y Lana Turner film of 1950- don't recall the title but it's something like A Woman's Story. What is interesting is how much the role she plays in this reminds you of one of her pre-code vehicles. Would love to see a day or night devoted to her. What would be even better would be a Pre-Code festival!

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Guest precodekd

This is a general question but certainly for your ears as well, Alix! Have you ever seen a film called, Life of Virgie Winters? I looked this one up on imdb and found that Ann Harding was the star. The reason i've asked is that I saw almost two thirds of this film- it was fantastic by the way- and before the end, my tape ran out. I would love to see this one again. The film is one of those women against the world stories that I find so moving. Ann Harding was very different form many actresses of her time- her style is subtle and convincing. The movie has some wonderful literary devices- there's a scene where we get to hear the thoughts in the heads of audience members at a political speech. Alos, I am adding The Crash and Midnight Mary to my favorites list. Virgie belongs there too.

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If they did have a pre-Code festival, they'd probably schedule the movies from midnight to six am! I certainly think by the number of messages posted in this discussion (110+) that the "powers that be" should see how popular this genre is, and start scheduling these movies other than between 11:00 pm and 5:30 am! Sorry, didn't mean to whine, but inspite of the statistics posted in another thread about how high the percent of movies shown from the 1930's are, I know the prime time pre-Code percentage is very very small! And I find a very noticable difference between the movies of the early 30's and the late 30's. It's like the 1930's really should be divided in two--1930-1934 (pre-Code era) and then 1934-1939 (Code era). If TCM did schedule a pre-Code festival, I'd sure hope they'd trot out some pre-Codes we fans of the genre haven't seen (and believe me, I've seen a lot!) I'm sure BABY FACE, RED-HEADED WOMAN, SCARFACE, 42ND STREET would be shown, but hey...what about some that are rarely shown? Some real gems? Something obscure? Something that'd send everyone to the IMDB trying to find out something about this movie? Now THAT would be a festival--at least for me!

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I like Ann Dvorak too, and wondered why she never reached the heights of stardom she appeared to deserve. Have you seen her in SCARFACE? She is wonderful as "Cesca," Tony's sister. I too liked her performance in THREE ON A MATCH. I am always struck by how much action they crammed into a 60 minute film! It just is one thing right after another. (I also wondered how her character could leave that rich, handsome Warren William???)Wasn't Ann with Warner Brothers? I know WB wasn't a glam studio, and I wondered if that's why she didn't shine more. Wonder what might have happened if she'd been at MGM?

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Guest GrapeJug

I'd love to see a marathon of pre-codes, or if not a marathon, something like they're doing with the Essentials, showcase a few gems once a week. This would be great for all the experts and novice fans like me.

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Yes, I've seen VERGIE WINTERS, and liked Ann Harding. She is very "subtle and convincing," as you say, and unfortunately very forgotten today. Another movie I liked her in is THE ANIMAL KINGDOM. She plays the mistress of Leslie Howard, who gets dumped in favor of Myrna Loy. If you haven't seen that one, keep an eye peeled.I have not seen THE CRASH, or MIDNIGHT MARY, but have heard that it's definatley a good pre-Code. I hope to catch it sometime, if it's shown again.

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Guest TCMhost-Claire

I've been looking into what some of the films are that *inspired* the move towards censorship in Hollywood. The broad timeline of censorship is this:1922--Will Hays appointed head of the MPPDA1930--Production Code ("Hays Code") released1934--Production Code enforcedThe years 1930-34 were the most notorious years for pre-code films, when directors were consciously rebelling against the code. But as you can see by the timeline, the move towards censorship started 8 years earlier than that. 1922 is the year that saw Roscoe Arbuckle acquitted, Wallace Reid committed and William Desmond Taylor murdered. But in addition to the questionable activities of the stars, onscreen excesses also inspired the move towards censorship.I've found information on a few of the films made before 1922 that raised the ire of the censors. The Queen of Sheba included nudity, The Cheat (1915) included a scene of branding, and The Idol Dancer (1920) included an interracial embrace (which was forbidden by the Hays Code). What are some of the films that you've seen, from the early silent era, that inspired the censors?

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Guest TCMhost-Joy

Since the production company is RKO, chances are TCM has this film in their vault. To request that TCM play this film, use the "Request a Movie" link on the top of the page. (And be sure you have plenty of tape loaded.) :)

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Did anyone catch this one during the day long Kay Francis movie festival? My mouth dropped open with disbelief at the scene where Kay and George Brent are on their date in the double decker bus, and he tells her he likes her voice, and wants to hear her speak. She starts in with the little poem, "Thirrty days hath Septembwr,Apwill, June..." and then George interrupts her and says, "What??" Then he jokingly makes her repeat a sentence with lots of "r's" which, of course due to her speech impediment, she can't do very well. Then she says, "Now you know the worst."She must have been a REALLY good sport, because I don't think I'd have enjoyed playing that scene myself, if I were Kay. I wonder if she did it as kind of a parody of herself.I am amazed that the screenwriters who wrote scripts for Kay's movies didn't look for more ways to avoid that "r" that she couldn't pronounce. I don't know how many times she plays someone who's involved with a character named something like "Gwegory!" Why couldn't those character's have been called "John," "Mike" or "Ben?"

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Guest precodekd

My thoughts exactly- she did seem to be enjoying the scene though- I think she might have been a woamn with a keen sense of humor. Though I loved the day of Kay, I wish that there had been more of her early films included. Keyhole was delightful- and I found Storm at Daybreak interesting as well but why not a few things from 1931-33 as well?Loved Stranded in particualr- not Pre-code but wonderful regardless- like her character in this one. Guess that TCM will have to trot out more of her films to satisfy me! In reference to her r thing- One Way Passage goes out of it's way to avoid the impediment. Did anyone catch Chatterton in Female recently? And what about the superb and gripping 20,000 Years in Sing-Sing? Warren Hymer who played Steve Burke was in this one- both hilarious and moving as a kind of dim-bulb convict.

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Thanks for responding--I was afraid I was the only one who watched those movies! I too found KEYHOLE delightful, although for the life of me, I can't find anything romantic about George Brent! Yet he's always the one who gets the girl! I read somewhere that he was Bette Davis' favorite leading man. STORM AT DAYBREAK was interesting, but seemed to go on forever. Or maybe I just kept getting interrupted when I tried to watch the tape, and it felt like that. Loved the Hungarian music at the party! And I liked STRANDED too (George Brent again) and was absolutely distraught when I thought she was actually going to quit the Traveler's Aid and just become a Mrs. How very 1930's that was! I still think after they got married that he probably insisted she quit, stay home, and have 3 kids! I have not noticed that ONE WAY PASSAGE goes out of it's way to avoid Kay's troublesome "r" but I will watch that one again. I can't believe I missed FEMALE. I had it marked on my calendar, but forgot to set my VCR. I have seen 20,000 YRS. IN SING SING before, and agree that it is a gripping drama. Kinda held my breath there at the end! Another one like that is TWO SECONDS with Edward G. Robinson. OH my!

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Guest Shadownlite

I would have to say that the "Petting In The Park" number in Gold Diggers of 1933" (not sure of the year) was the most shocking thing I have seen in a musical! All about "Petting in the Park" and with women undressing while being backlit and a little boy dressed midget looking under the cloth concealing them. I sit there and just watch with a smirk on my face it is so overtly sexual!Another would be the "Young and Healthy" number in "42nd Street". All about being young and healthy hinting that there is "nothing else to do" but have sex. I actually like this number the best in "42nd Street" because Dick Powell has such a enthusiastic look on his face while he sings it to Toby Wing.

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Guest MrMovies

When I first saw Barbara Stanwyck in this pre code gem I said Wow! Barbara looked so alluring and sexy. These films have real sex appeal that today's films have lost. The imagination is very sexy indeed. Implied Cinema is sexier.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can't believe I hadn't seen this one before last weekend. I found this movie at Sam's Club and couldn't resist buying it. I know it's been on TCM countless times, but it usually plays while I'm at work or in the middle of the night, and I forget to set the VCR. Warren William was fabulous--and I love his character's name--"Dave the Dude." They don't get much better than that, do they. Anyone else seen this one? Kind of nice to see William in a "nice guy" role, for a change. Can't believe he resisted Glenda Farrell like he did all through the movie. She sure tried hard!

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Guest CoffeeDan

I am in total agreement with you on Ann Dvorak. Her work shines, especially in SCARFACE and THREE ON A MATCH. One of the reasons for her downfall was that she began to believe her own publicity.It started right after she had starred in G-MEN with James Cagney in 1935. Cagney had just gotten wind of how much money his films were pulling in and wanted a proportionate raise in his salary. When the Warners refused to give it to him, he left the studio and made a couple of films for Grand National. In his absence, the Warners felt the pinch and eventually gave him what he wanted.Watching all this, Ann Dvorak thought she could do this too, so she made the same pitch to the Warners, and they called her bluff. She didn't have as much weight to throw around as Cagney, and she wasn't a major box office attraction like Cagney, although she had drawn good notices. But in the long run, when she left Warners, nobody missed her.I remember a headline from a fan magazine of the time: "WATCH YOUR STEP, ANN DVORAK!" But she didn't, and there's the tragedy.

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Guest CoffeeDan

Warren William was one of my favorite actors when I discovered the films of the pre-code era. One of his first films I saw was THE MOUTHPIECE, a great shyster masterpiece. He was soooo good at playing schemers, connivers, and downright bad eggs. The only bad thing about him is that he couldn't affect a light touch when it was called for, and I think this mars his work in LADY FOR A DAY. Although I like him as Dave the Dude, I can't help wondering what William Powell, who was originally considered for the role, would have done with it.Another great WW film is THE DARK HORSE, where he plays a political campaign manager who transforms Guy Kibbee from a small-town hick into the people's choice, with Bette Davis lending grand support.

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Guest CoffeeDan

With all the talk about the great lines and writing in the pre-code films, I'm surprised no one has mentioned a word about the largely unsung people who wrote the screenplays for those movies.I'm a big fan of James Cagney's pre-code films, and I found out that a lot of my favorites were written by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright, either separately or together. After the success of PUBLIC ENEMY, the Warners hired them to follow Cagney around and watch his manner isms and listen to his talk, and capture them in their screenplays. The great raconteur and adventurer Wilson Mizner was a constant writing presence in Cagney's films as well.I've read much about Jean Harlow and RED-HEADED WOMAN here, but nothing about the woman largely responsible for creating Harlow's image on the screen -- Anita Loos. Many famous screenwriters, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frances Marion, labored hard to bring RED-HEADED WOMAN to the screen, but it was Loos who wrestled it into its final form. Loos (also the author of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES) and her husband John Emerson also wrote the screenplays for HOLD YOUR MAN, THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI, and other Harlow vehicles.And you can't overlook Ben Hecht. He worked on SCARFACE, VIVA VILLA, THE FRONT PAGE, CRIME WITHOUT PASSION, THE SCOUNDREL -- often with his longtime partner, Charles MacArthur. In fact, the two of them were practically an industry by themselves in the 30s, and you hardly hear anything about them today. Let's not forget James Seymour as well, who wrote the books for those great Busby Berkeley movies 42ND STREET, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, and FOOTLIGHT PARADE. Favorite line from Joan Blondell in the last: "As long as they keep making sidewalks, you'll still have a job!"There are many others I could mention here -- John Lee Mahin, W. R. Burnett, Samson Raphelson, Donald Ogden Stewart -- but I'll save them for another time. Let others gush about the stars all they want, but MY heroes are the writers.

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You're so right...we shouldn't overlook the terrific writing that went on during this period. After all, the actors (unless they were allowed to ad-lib) were reciting lines written by someone else! Thanks for bringing this up! These people are heroes.Anita Loos has long been a favorite of mine. I like her sharp wit and the way her movies move along rapidly. You never get bored in a Loos' movie.

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Guest bluebird

I seem to have missed this one myself and I'm a great fan of Frank Capra. Does anyone read Damon Runyon today? His short story "Madame La Gimp" is the basis for the screen play of this production."Guys and Dolls" (1955) is probably the best known movie inspired by his Broadway low life characters. My own particular favourite Damon Runyon story is, "Little Miss Marker". The screen versions are however, far too sentimental and don't convey the final tragic irony of this poignant, funny, bittersweet tale.

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Guest Moyers

Can anyone send me the name of the WW2 movie starring Gary Cooper and Lana Turner about a German ship escaping the British blockade from Australia to North Atlantic via Chile? E4TOPI4@YAHOO.COM

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Guest TCMhost-Claire

Are you sure about the casting? The internet movie database (imdb.com) only lists one film that the two made together, and that's not a WWII film.

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