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Pre-code superstars!


msladysoul
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I've read a lot -- I mean a LOT -- about pre-code films, and how "edgy" and "racy" they supposedly are. But most of the ones I've been able to see, have disappointed me.

 

See, a "movie" is a Motion Picture. Accent on PICTURE.

 

So, when I view a pre-code, I expect to be blown away by amazing VISUALS. Instead, most precodes are just like most of the earliest silent films,only with dialogue. They are endless set pieces, with people talking to each other, and nobody doing much that can't be done ON RADIO!!

 

Ouch.

 

Here are some of the precodes that I've seen, that have NOT delivered anything different.

 

Midnight Mary (1933)

Zoo in Budapest (1933)

Young Bride (1932)

Panama Flo (1932)

Kept Husbands (1931)

The Lady Refuses (1931)

Millie (1931)

 

Every single one of these so-called "pre-codes" is, in my humble op, dull in the extreme. They are dull because they are ALL TALK! Where are the exciting visuals?)

 

Now then. Here are some of the pre-codes that DO -- again, in my humble op -- "deliver the goods" in the visuals department:

 

Kiki (1931)

42nd Street (1933)

Footlight Parade (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

King Kong (1933)

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

The Office Wife (1930)

Night Nurse (1931)

 

See the difference? Instead of being pictures of people just talking to each other, these films actually SHOW US something!

 

For gossakes, folks, don't hype precodes that are static and dull. Let us know which ones deliver moving pictures -- again, accent on PICTURES!

 

Cheers,

Dan N.

 

Message was edited by:

daneldorado

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I don't know if this film properly belongs in the category "pre-code." But it is a film that -- I suspect -- every true fan of classic films is aching to have in his/her collection. I'm talking about Jeanne Eagels' performance, in THE LETTER (1929).

 

In a rhapsodic review on the Internet, one Dan Callahan writes:

 

"When you first see Eagels in THE LETTER, she pops her eyes and bites on her words much like Bette [Davis]. She looks like a cross between Brigitte Helm and Anny Ondra. But as the film progresses it becomes increasingly clear that the legendary Eagels is in a class by herself."

 

The reference to Bette Davis is not offhand. Davis starred in the 1940 version of THE LETTER, and also in a remake of another Eagels' sound film, JEALOUSY, which is now lost.

 

He goes on to say:

 

"I've never seen a performance like this. Not from Davis, Stanwyck, Kinuyo Tanaka or any of the other top film actresses. There's a palpable sense of danger in Eagels' acting; she races on pure emotion, as if she is a wild animal in a steel trap howling at her captors.

 

"Eagels holds nothing back. She is in touch with madness and she rages against the dying of the light. When she shoots her lover (Herbert Marshall, who played the husband in the Davis version), she jabs the gun at the screen as if it were a knife. Like a jazz empress, a Billie Holiday or an Anita O'Day, Eagels surfs boldly on out-of-control heroin rhythms. And when she tells off her stuffy husband, all bets are off: Eagels is shooting for Olympus."

 

Near the end of his review, Callahan writes:

 

"There's no visible technique in Eagels' performance, no distance. She's really flaming out (Lee Strasberg would have made her his star pupil)... it's highly primitive, both in its stiff, early-talkie execution and in its dated attitudes. But in a way this primitiveness suits what Eagels is doing.

 

"Unquestionably an artist, Eagels was also a fatalist. 'I'm the greatest actress in the world and the greatest failure,' she once said. 'And nobody gives a damn.'"

 

An IMDb reviewer wrote of Eagels' performance:

 

"Her screen presence is amazing -- there is scarcely a performance from this early talkie period to compare it with. If Eagels was alive at the time (she died in October 1929), if Paramount had more clout with the MGM-dominated AMPAS at the time, she surely would have won the Academy Award for Best Actress (it went to Mary Pickford in one of the WORST performances of the period, in the nearly-unwatchable 'Coquette'). Her final confrontation with her husband, one of the most dynamic pieces of film acting from ANY period, is alone worth the price of admission."

 

This reviewer speaks of having seen Eagels' THE LETTER in a work print, without final dubbed-in music and sound effects. But he adds: "Thank God Eagels' performance survives intact."

 

And: "The story line is similar to the 1940 remake but without several plot variations imposed by the Hays Office, and in many ways this earlier film seems more modern, complete with a few profanities and obvious depictions of a brothel (that scene, with Eagels' character humiliated in front of a bevy of Asian prostitutes, is amazing)."

 

Does anyone who is reading this, know of any plans to restore and reissue the 1929 THE LETTER for the home market? A year or so ago, there was an announcement (proved false, alas) that when the 1940 version would be released on DVD, the disc would include the Eagels' version. But it didn't happen.

 

What are the chances that the rights owner (presumably Universal) will eventually bring this landmark film to the DVD market?

 

Dan N.

 

http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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  • 1 month later...

Daneldorado, I see you listed Night Nurse, The Office Wife as enjoyable pre-code movies...their my favorites too.

 

I recommend you see Five Star Final, Lonely Wives, Bachelor Apartment, Symphony of Six Million, The Torch Singer, Girl Missing, Big City Blues, Three on a Match, Scarlet Pages, The Reckless Hour, Ladies They Talk About, The Purchase Price, Blessed Event, Beauty and the Boss, Other Men's Women, Beauty for Sale, Jewel Robbery and there's more but these are good ones to check out.

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A side note:

 

As an early-film obsessive over the last couple of years I've been a regular visitor to the TCM website, but only yesterday did I think to register a membership. (Go figure.) Then I found this thread and WHOA! I want to thank all of you for your participation in this discussion as it's a priceless resource regarding pre-code film. Exactly what I was hoping to find.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks, Mose. I'll certainly keep an eye out for "Blonde Crazy." That hair ribbon really makes the shot - like the cherry on a sundae.

 

Any info on this shot? The only copy I can find is from somebody's wallpaper -including their dashboard. I'd like to have a clean print.

 

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

 

 

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> Thanks, Mose. I'll certainly keep an eye out for

> "Blonde Crazy." That hair ribbon really makes the

> shot - like the cherry on a sundae.

 

"Blonde Crazy" shows up on TCM every now and again. I have the LaserDisc and it was also released on VHS. I am sure that it will show up on DVD one of these days.

 

> Any info on this shot? The only copy I can find is

> from somebody's wallpaper -including their dashboard.

> I'd like to have a clean print.

 

This one is not familiar. She was pretty busy during the pre-code era.

 

Dan

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  • 2 weeks later...

> Now then. Here are some of the pre-codes that DO --

> again, in my humble op -- "deliver the goods" in the

> visuals department:

>

> Kiki (1931)

> 42nd Street (1933)

> Footlight Parade (1933)

> Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

> King Kong (1933)

 

King Kong is a movie that just does nothing at all for me I'm afraid.

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  • 4 weeks later...

> I don't know if this film properly belongs in the

> category "pre-code." But it is a film that -- I

> suspect -- every true fan of classic films is aching

> to have in his/her collection. I'm talking about

> Jeanne Eagels' performance, in THE LETTER (1929).

>

> In a rhapsodic review on the Internet, one Dan

> Callahan writes:

>

> "When you first see Eagels in THE LETTER, she pops

> her eyes and bites on her words much like Bette

> [Davis]. She looks like a cross between Brigitte

> Helm and Anny Ondra. But as the film progresses it

> becomes increasingly clear that the legendary Eagels

> is in a class by herself."

>

> The reference to Bette Davis is not offhand. Davis

> starred in the 1940 version of THE LETTER, and also

> in a remake of another Eagels' sound film, JEALOUSY,

> which is now lost.

>

> He goes on to say:

>

> "I've never seen a performance like this. Not from

> Davis, Stanwyck, Kinuyo Tanaka or any of the other

> top film actresses. There's a palpable sense of

> danger in Eagels' acting; she races on pure emotion,

> as if she is a wild animal in a steel trap howling at

> her captors.

>

> "Eagels holds nothing back. She is in touch with

> madness and she rages against the dying of the light.

> When she shoots her lover (Herbert Marshall, who

> played the husband in the Davis version), she jabs

> the gun at the screen as if it were a knife. Like a

> jazz empress, a Billie Holiday or an Anita O'Day,

> Eagels surfs boldly on out-of-control heroin

> rhythms. And when she tells off her stuffy husband,

> all bets are off: Eagels is shooting for Olympus."

>

> Near the end of his review, Callahan writes:

>

> "There's no visible technique in Eagels' performance,

> no distance. She's really flaming out (Lee Strasberg

> would have made her his star pupil)... it's highly

> primitive, both in its stiff, early-talkie execution

> and in its dated attitudes. But in a way this

> primitiveness suits what Eagels is doing.

>

> "Unquestionably an artist, Eagels was also a

> fatalist. 'I'm the greatest actress in the world and

> the greatest failure,' she once said. 'And nobody

> gives a damn.'"

>

> An IMDb reviewer wrote of Eagels' performance:

>

> "Her screen presence is amazing -- there is scarcely

> a performance from this early talkie period to

> compare it with. If Eagels was alive at the time

> (she died in October 1929), if Paramount had more

> clout with the MGM-dominated AMPAS at the time, she

> surely would have won the Academy Award for Best

> Actress (it went to Mary Pickford in one of the WORST

> performances of the period, in the nearly-unwatchable

> 'Coquette'). Her final confrontation with her

> husband, one of the most dynamic pieces of film

> acting from ANY period, is alone worth the price of

> admission."

>

> This reviewer speaks of having seen Eagels' THE

> LETTER in a work print, without final dubbed-in music

> and sound effects. But he adds: "Thank God Eagels'

> performance survives intact."

>

> And: "The story line is similar to the 1940 remake

> but without several plot variations imposed by the

> Hays Office, and in many ways this earlier film seems

> more modern, complete with a few profanities and

> obvious depictions of a brothel (that scene, with

> Eagels' character humiliated in front of a bevy of

> Asian prostitutes, is amazing)."

>

> Does anyone who is reading this, know of any plans to

> restore and reissue the 1929 THE LETTER for the home

> market? A year or so ago, there was an announcement

> (proved false, alas) that when the 1940 version would

> be released on DVD, the disc would include the

> Eagels' version. But it didn't happen.

>

> What are the chances that the rights owner

> (presumably Universal) will eventually bring this

> landmark film to the DVD market?

>

> Dan N.

>

> http://www.silentfilmguide.com

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