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Pre-code superstars!


msladysoul
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I favor pre-code movies more now. Since I've been into classic movies for the past 6 years, I've seen all the well-known movies and stars. Pre-code provides me with a chance to discover "new" talent. Pre-code films are a treat. The pre-code superstars were Nancy Carroll, Lillian Roth, Joan Blondell, Peggy Shannon, Dorothy Jordan, Sally Eilers, Anita Page, Constance Cummings, Kay Francis, Frances Dee, Mary Brian, Ann Dvorak, Constance Bennett, Thelma Todd, Lila Lee, Leila Hyams, Alice White, Una Merkel, Billie Dove, Helen Twelvetrees, Ona Munson, Laura La Plante, Marie Prevost, Patsy Ruth Miller, Esther Ralston, Mary Doran, Lois Moran, Marian Nixon, Winnie Lightner, Evalyn Knapp.

 

These are the most obscure pre-code era stars. Paramount, Warner Bros, Fox was the best of pre-code. Even Myrna Loy was greater to me in pre-code era films. Every now and then TCM shows pre-code films but in very early morning or late nights when most decent folks are sleep. MGM have preserved their movies, why didn't the other studios? Most of these pre-code movies from Paramount are terrible in viewing and sound by worth the trouble. I agree with Bollywood - I'll watch a B movie anytime over MGM's A films.

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Miss Shearer's career seems to be on the upswing again, with help from Mick LaSalle's writings. Whenever The Women plays at the local theatre, it's sold out. Miss Francis is mainly known today for Trouble in Paradise; but I don't think people on the street recognize her name, as they would Miss Shearer's...

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I would say it was Ms. Shearer. She was one who was mostly likely not to do these type movies and did.This open the door for everyone else to follow her steps. Bring fourth some great movies for all to see...

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Kay Francis is the most popular pre-code era star in my opinion because that was her prime. Norma Shearer was a star before, during, and after pre-code so she was always known.

 

Pre-code stars are the most forgotten because their films weren't preserved.

 

Vallo, what is it that you like about Ann Dvorak? I'm quite fond of her too. She was a triple threat, a singer, dancer and actress and good at all. I read the studio was destined to make her a huge star before Bette Davis but because of her demanding more money or something her career went down.

 

Ann Dvorak rose to fame fast - from being a chorus girl then to a leading role.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i love Jean Harlow's pre-code films(and her post-codes films and pretty much all her films) shes pretty mainstream now. she wasn't the best actress ever but she was entertaining and beautiful. i also love Morocco with Marlene Dietrich. she was gorgeous.

 

i love watching pre-code films because they're so entertaining and i'm usually surprised by how risque they are since thats not what people expect from early hollywood, they expect everything to be prim and proper.

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  • 1 month later...

I've always had a soft spot for Thelma Todd and Joan Blondell.

 

The sophisticates are Kay Francis and Norma Shearer.

 

The whores, Miriam Hopkins and Clara Bow, and there is no better **** than constance Bennett

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Dorothy MacKaill was a very popular movie star and a darn good actress in the pre-code era. TCM shows many of her films that she made at Warner Bros. It was something about her acting that was just natural and moving. She became her roles, she became the person, she just didn't play or say lines. She played sophisticates, whores, but always she was down to earth and she could move you. She's a favorite of mine. Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy has nothing on Dorothy. Dorothy was an independent woman but at the same time not too bitchy, she never acted like a man like Katharine Hepburn is accused of. Dorothy was independent but still a human who had feelings and wanted love and people. She was a woman any woman could relate too. She was a woman woman's and a woman's man. I don't know why she isn't hardly remembered or well-known and well-loved today. Her films aren't iconic but still entertaining. Her films were short but jam-packed. She was just real nothing fake about her!

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You're quite right, about Dorothy Mackaill being one of the bright lights of the pre-code era. I've seen only three (3) of her films so far, but she has wowed me in every one of them, even when the films haven't!

 

Dorothy was dainty, demure and often blonde. I didn't realize, until I looked at her profile in the IMDb, that this quintessentially American star was born in the U.K.! Apparently she came to America in the early 1920s to become a chorine in the Ziegfeld Follies. From there, it took only one screen test to get her jobs in silent films. With a strong voice and perfect enunciation, she survived the transition to talkies, and appeared in films until 1937.

 

Last week I recorded her THE OFFICE WIFE (1930) from TCM, and found it a delightfully entertaining way to spend an hour (It lasts 59 minutes).

 

In this one, Dorothy plays private secretary to a millionaire publisher (Lewis Stone), and they fall in love. At first, I thought: Whoa, this can't be! Stone is way too old for Dorothy, right? Wrong. He was 24 years her senior, but his wealth ameliorates the age difference, and they make a perfectly charming couple.

 

By the way: THE OFFICE WIFE was Joan Blondell's debut film, and she starts off her pre-code career exactly the way she ended it: By appearing in lingerie, and putting her stockings on, one leg at a time, while we watch. Glorious! That's a little move Joan would pull often, in precodes -- in NIGHT NURSE (1931), in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), and in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), among (I'm sure) several others.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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> By the way: THE OFFICE WIFE was Joan Blondell's

> debut film, and she starts off her pre-code career

> exactly the way she ended it: By appearing in

> lingerie, and putting her stockings on, one leg at a

> time, while we watch. Glorious! That's a little

> move Joan would pull often, in precodes -- in NIGHT

> NURSE (1931), in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), and in

> FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), among (I'm sure) several

> others.

>

> Dan N.

 

THE OFFICE WIFE, yeah. i was just about to recommend you check that one out, after reading about your stockings fetish. also add to that list MISS PINKERTON. there's a scene where Joan strips off her nurse's uniform to reveal sexy lingerie, including a very brief glimpse of her panties (you have to watch it in slo-mo to catch it, and yeah, i'm sick that way).

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Joan Blondell is another queen of pre-code. She did her best work in the pre-code era. In July TCM showed The Reckless Hour with Joan and Dorothy MacKaill as sisters again. That was another entertaining, short movie where Joan dominated each scene she was in. Blondell was great in Sinner's Holiday as the hussy, curvy girlfriend of James Cagney. That film was an early, beginning film for both. But they both shined. Cagney and Blondell were an ideal couple. They had chemistry even in that early film. Big City Blues is excellent and Three on a Match as you all know. Night Nurse is my favorite. Joan and Babs Stanwyck were perfect together. Another short but excellent film. Has Joan ever disappointed? I wonder why Warner Bros. didn't make Joan into a bigger star. She was obviously well-liked, talented, charming, personality-plus, always gave a good performance, held her own with big shots like Cagney, Bette Davis, and Bogart yet Warner's never gave her much of a chance. Other people became stars before her when Joan had more experience and credits. Joan was always on her best behavior. She never was tempermental and B****. Maybe that's why she never became a star. She never complained like Bette Davis and Ann Dvorak. She just took any role and never complained. But I feel she was the most talented and versatile of Classic Hollywood and Warner's. Warner's should have given her more important films and made Joan their top star. Even though no matter what type of film (A or B) she appeared in she always gave a wonderful performance. Again I ask has Joan ever disappointed? She truly deserves to be remembered as much as Bette Davis, Crawford, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, an Norma Shearer.

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Joan Blondell was, indeed, one of the queens of the pre-code era. But cb&w has written that Warners should have made her a "bigger star." Well, she WAS a big star. Joan appeared in more than 100 films and tons of TV productions. She was still working in pictures in the late 1970s... witness her appearance in Grease (1978). In fact, her final film was released AFTER she died, in 1979, of leukemia.

 

With Joan Blondell in them, all of her films were interesting. But I like to think of the 1936 film Stage Struck, because here she was presented with what I think must have been her greatest challenge: She had to play an UNTALENTED actress! That was her role. Must have been tough to do, for in reality Joan Blondell was one of the most talented actresses in film history.

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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Would anyone like to nominate Ruth Chatterton to this pantheon? Entering films after a successful stage career when she was over 35, Miss Chatterton played outr? characters and bold women in her subtle way, unafraid to express the neurotic and harsh aspects of a character in her movies. Her performances in pre-codes such as Frisco Jenny (1932), Female(1933), in which she uses men/employees like kleenex, until...George Brent shows up(!), Lilly Turner(1933), and, just as the production code was becoming cast in stone at the studios, her Journal of a Crime(1934) as a guilt-ridden wife of the unfaithful Adolphe Menjou, identified her as a pre-code mistress of the sophisticated double entendre who finds herself---and seeks out---risque situations that must have shocked some provincial audiences, (not to mention local censors).

 

I'd maintain that her seminal performance as the repellent, yet hapless and helpless Mrs. Dodsworth opposite Walter Huston in Dodsworth(1935) capped her career. According to a bio of the director of this film, called William Wyler: A Talent for Trouble by Jan Herman, the painful experience of playing this character for a demanding director ultimately contributed to her withdrawal from films altogether--to explore new challenges as a pilot and writer and decorator. A truly pioneering figure and one who might be considered a pre-code superstar.

 

Btw, Ruth Chatterton can be seen tomorrow, September 19th at 7PM ET in

The Crash (1932)

The stock market crash costs a faithless wife her fortune. Cast: Ruth Chatterton, George Brent, Paul Cavanagh. Dir: William Dieterle. BW-58 mins, TV-G.

 

I've never seen this one or any of the other pre-codes scheduled for tomorrow but if you have, I hope that you'll share your opinions with me of it. These are the 2 other pre-codes scheduled for earlier on Tuesday, as follows:

 

4:30 PM Transgression (1931)

When her lover is killed, a straying wife tries to intercept the confession she mailed her husband. Cast: Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Paul Cavanagh. Dir: Herbert Brenon. BW-70 mins, TV-PG

 

5:45 PM Prestige (1932)

A woman joins her fiance at a Malaysian prison camp only to discover he's become an alcoholic. Cast: Ann Harding, Melvyn Douglas, Adolphe Menjou. Dir: Tay Garnett. BW-71 mins, TV-G

 

Crank up the dvr, folks.

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Joan Blondell was popular but never was regarded highly as Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Myrna Loy, Kay Francis, Bette Davis, Ann Dvorak. Joan B. stayed in movies for 5 generations but never was considered great like Crawford and Bette Davis. She didn't have many iconic movies according to film historians. Joan B. is a familiar face and we love her but you hardly hear mention of her anywhere or appreciation for her versatility. Even in her time era she didn't get as much publicity and appear on covers of magazines as much, she wasn't taken seriously and even her studio wouldn't give her the best roles. Joan B. is considered a great character actress but she was in fact a true actress. I take her anyday over the other ladies who hardly showed any versatility.

 

I seen Ruth Chatterton in Madam X and Lady of Scandal. She hasn't grown on me yet so I will have to see more of her.

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joan blondell was briefly one of the most popular stars. as a matter of fact she did appear on quite a lot of magazine covers back then, especially around '32 - '35. the main reason her starpower didn't last are the same as with many female movie stars; she made the mistake of getting older, and she didn't age quite as gracefully as some of her peers. but also, only a few of the movies she starred in were serious dramatic rolls. most of the time she was cast in light comedies, or as the comic relief in more serious movies.

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feaito wrote:

 

"You must see Ruth in "Female", a must-see for Pre-Code fans."

 

 

Yeah, I'd love to see it. I've heard about this film for years, and all the reviews and commentaries recommend it. But I just went to the IMDb message board, tried to order the VHS of "Female" (there is, apparently, no DVD)... and guess what? They say "this movie is not available at this time." WHAT?

 

Does anybody out there know WHERE, or maybe WHEN, Ruth Chatterton's hit "Female" is available, in any format?

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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