The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

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Feego
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#76 Post by Feego » Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:16 pm

Wasn't Trouble in Paradise barred from reissue for several decades after the code was enforced? Also, the ending alone would not be permissible considering that
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the two thieves gleefully get away with their crimes and are united in love through them.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#77 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:20 pm

Completely unrelated to much of this discussion, but I have to mention that Trouble in Paradise contains one of the funniest tossed off jokes I've ever seen-- I think it was this moment, in fact, that first convinced me that older movies were more than curios and relics back when I was just beginning to discover film (were we ever so young?)
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When halfway through the film, long after that narrative strand has been resolved, someone telephones about the missing purse and Herbert Marshall says something like, "You're quite late"-- who would even think of a gag like that? Just brilliant

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#78 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:37 pm

I didn't realize Warners finally released the Barrymores' Arsene Lupin on MOD DVD, I absolutely would have advocated for it. Everyone should seek it out even if they can't see it in time for the list-- it is near the top of my list because few Pre Code Films exude the ethos of classy naughtiness like this one. There's a line in this movie that is probably the cleverest dick joke in history

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#79 Post by swo17 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:40 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:37 pm
There's a line in this movie that is probably the cleverest dick joke in history
Remind me what that is

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domino harvey
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#80 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:42 pm

I helpfully wrote it down in my thumbnail from the original Pre Code thread!
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"We were going to be alone to talk."
"If you ever get tired of talking with him, come see me, I have a big dictionary."

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#81 Post by swo17 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:47 pm

Woah

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domino harvey
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#82 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:51 pm

I should probably contextualize it for those who haven't seen it but unspoilered anyways
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The character saying she wanted to "talk" with a third party obviously meant she wanted to fuck them, hence the response

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Feego
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#83 Post by Feego » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:09 pm

For U.S. viewers, Arsene Lupin will be airing twice on TCM next month: January 2 at 7:45 am & January 17 at 6:30 pm (Eastern times).

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knives
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#84 Post by knives » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:37 pm
I didn't realize Warners finally released the Barrymores' Arsene Lupin on MOD DVD, I absolutely would have advocated for it. Everyone should seek it out even if they can't see it in time for the list-- it is near the top of my list because few Pre Code Films exude the ethos of classy naughtiness like this one. There's a line in this movie that is probably the cleverest dick joke in history
Could have sworn I wrote something about it. I like it too, though not as much as this. It seems there were a million gentleman thief films during the era though so for one to stand as this reasonably well does means that it's got something good going for it.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#85 Post by dustybooks » Tue Dec 11, 2018 6:16 pm

Just want to mention, though it just barely misses making my list, I recently fell really hard in love with State Fair ('33), quite unexpectedly because I've never been so taken with any of Henry King's other films. I wouldn't put it on a level with Bad Girl but my emotional response to it reminded me of that film, just feeling taken aback in a strange way at its basic goodness and compassion. I think it's a great example of what is, in retrospect, often so lovely about films of this era: it foregrounds working class characters but doesn't condescend to them, introduces us to a family whose interactions seem actually unforced and believable, and features young people engaging in romance and premarital sex but casts no more shame on it than does, say, Call Me by Your Name. Maybe I'm just soft but I also found it totally persuasive and sweeping in the sense of romance it attaches to roller-coasters and late-night car drives. Of course this is all in the context of a pretty silly comedy reliant on barnyard humor about a pig who's reluctant to perform on cue, so your mileage may vary. (I was surprised how much more competent Will Rogers seemed as an actor in this than in Borzage's painful They Had to See Paris.)

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#86 Post by Shrew » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:00 pm

Ugh, They Had to See Paris is awful, but it's a bad representation of Rogers's talent. The Ford films are far better. Speaking of Ford, Pilgrimage is another good film (ignoring domino's distaste) that probably doesn't push the edges enough for a pre-code list. I'm kinda tempted to vote for Up the River in my 20 slot, because it is nutty, nutty film that could never be made in any other era.

And yeah, Trouble in Paradise was a bad example, as I plum forgot our heroes were crooks. Still, I don't think I'll list any of Lubitsch's Chevalier films, ad much as I love them, because I don't think Jeanette MacDonald in a slip constitutes substantial evidence.

(And MK, I agree So This Is Paris is one of Lubitsch's raciest films, up there with his German films, but I think this list is limited to talkies.)

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#87 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:46 pm

Shrew wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:00 pm
(And MK, I agree So This Is Paris is one of Lubitsch's raciest films, up there with his German films, but I think this list is limited to talkies.)
I didn't notice that. I tend not to make much of a distinction on that score -- at least when the main criterion is naughtiness. I'm really surprised that a nice Blu-Ray set with Paris and Marriage Circle (at least) has not ever made an appearance. I like these more than his German silents.

BTW -- I think there is more than enough naughtiness in Smiling Lieutenant. One of my (other) Lubitsch favorites.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#88 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:54 pm

What does everyone think of including LOVE ME TONIGHT on the list? I don't mean personal feelings (although feel free to share them) but rather regarding its "Pre-Code-ness." I know censor cuts were made in the late 40s, technically approving everything we see, but for me the film still has quite the air of Pre-Code: a general joyfulness regarding the casual, even adulterous sexuality, that most characters partake in, which permeates everything from Charles Ruggles running undressed through the streets of Paris to Myrna Loy's man-hungry cousin, the elliptical (and perhaps suggestive) tailoring scene between Chevalier and MacDonald, and, of course, the randiest Chevalier ever got on screen, his extremely unsubtle rendition of "Mimi," which I'm surprised made it past censors. And, even if we don't have the excised materials, one can assume that they were much more Pre-Code, therefore a sort of in abstenia argument . . . ?

But I welcome other thoughts.

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knives
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#89 Post by knives » Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:26 pm

I hope I am the last one to discover the genius of William Dieterle's Jewel Robbery. It's not just a great pre-code film, but a great exemplar of everything good about Hollywood filmmaking. This isn't a deep film in the sense of theme, but it provides high aesthetic pleasures along with true escapism for an under attended audience. The plot most accurately can be described as a fantasy for bored housewives to masturbate to. The absolute sincerity with which the film treats this mission makes it work in an honorable fashion rather than patronizing. The two leads excel on this level. Powell is introduced with robotic finesse playing a character without character. Instead of a person this wisely unnamed robber is an object for which people can place all of their desires upon. That's a hard task to do and Powell does it beautifully. Kay Francis is not just the star though, but also the absolute center of the film. Not many movies have asked an actress to orgasm for thirty minutes straight let alone to not make that an object of eroticism, but instead a vehicle for catharsis. I'm being hyperbolic perhaps, but a film this willingly ridiculous for such a noble cause has earned grandiose descriptors. For example Reefer Madness is essentially a tossed off subplot here with Clarence Wilson high as a kite doing a Napoleon impression.

The film is also gorgeous, easily the best bit of directing I've seen from Dieterle, just exercising every trick that casually comes to mind. It buzzes mechanically almost like Powell performance. Perhaps it is even preparing us for it and letting us in on the fantasy as much as it functions to say thank you to Walter Ruttman and the city symphonies of old.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#90 Post by Shrew » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:41 pm

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:54 pm
What does everyone think of including LOVE ME TONIGHT on the list? I don't mean personal feelings (although feel free to share them) but rather regarding its "Pre-Code-ness." I know censor cuts were made in the late 40s, technically approving everything we see, but for me the film still has quite the air of Pre-Code: a general joyfulness regarding the casual, even adulterous sexuality, that most characters partake in, which permeates everything from Charles Ruggles running undressed through the streets of Paris to Myrna Loy's man-hungry cousin, the elliptical (and perhaps suggestive) tailoring scene between Chevalier and MacDonald, and, of course, the randiest Chevalier ever got on screen, his extremely unsubtle rendition of "Mimi," which I'm surprised made it past censors. And, even if we don't have the excised materials, one can assume that they were much more Pre-Code, therefore a sort of in abstenia argument . . . ?

But I welcome other thoughts.
I love Love Me Tonight and it's a lock for my top 10 in the 30s list, but it's also one of the films I was thinking of when I said Jeanette MacDonald in a slip isn't enough to make something pre-code for me. I think of The Merry Widow as a barometer, which I think might be pre-code (the credits on the DVD don't show a code certificate, just "Approved by the National Board of Review," unlike Scarlet Empress), but was released late in 1934 and seems a little tamer that the earlier films (or maybe that's just the move from Paramount to MGM?). And I don't think Love Me Tonight is terribly more suggestive than that film. As MK says, Smiling Lieutenant probably pushes the pre-code rules the furthest of that cycle with its sustained infidelity and jazzed up lingerie. Then maybe Love Parade.

But it's all how you feel. Admittedly, I might be too mired in the rawness of Wellman and the other edgier films that are newer to me, and am not giving the more sophisticated innuendo of Lubitsch et al. its due simply because it's now so familiar to me.

Definitely voting for Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Applause though.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#91 Post by knives » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:52 am

As just a small PSA in tabulating mine I was excited to realize that The Thin Man and Twentieth Century are technically eligible.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#92 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:46 pm

We're at seven lists, including mine. My keyboard and mouse are being delivered today, but assume they'll work unless I chime in otherwise, meaning deadline is still tomorrow morning (assuming we get at least three more lists)

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#93 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:04 pm

Act of God it is. The mouse works, the keyboard doesn't. Will try a different product that won't be here til Sunday. You have at least through the weekend, as I have plans Sunday. Let's say Monday morning when I wake up, unless this keyboard doesn't take also. Feel free to resubmit any submitted lists closer to the deadline, I'm not able to do anything with them now anyways

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#94 Post by Shrew » Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:26 pm

Please accept my condolences as I privately celebrate your misfortune. Anyway, a couple more recommendations/recent viewings.

Employee’s Entrance (Del Ruth, 1933)
I just love how this film handles Warren William’s character: he is very clearly a bad man who is also very good at his job managing a department store, and that has both positive and negative consequences. That comes right through from the beginning, when he’s just a name the bosses alternately praise and complain about as he rises through the ranks of the company. While by 1930s standards he isn’t a rapist (just asking for favors in return for jobs!), his scene with new hire Loretta Young is clearly filmed as a rape. He’s justified in firing an old stuffed shirt, but the action has clear human impact. There’s also the way his policy for surviving the depression (spend to drive up sales and push through) vs. the company shareholders’ (lay off workers and impose austerity) is clearly a stand-in to the debate about the Great Depression. Sometimes the film goes a bit over the top (see the speech one character spurned by William gives upon returning to the narrative), but this is easiest the best film I watched specifically for this list.

Heat Lightning (LeRoy, 1934)
Aline MacMahon and Anne Dvorak are sisters running a desert gas station. Some gangsters with connection to MacMahon’s past show up. Also a Mexican family, a pair of would-be Hollywood starlets hitching a ride with a puritan pervert, and a pair of trophy wives with their chauffeur. Leslie Howard does not drop in to prattle on and romanticize suicide. Like the best B-movies of this era, this does a lot in just over 60 minutes, and is probably most remarkable for fronting various complicated female relationships and challenging gender norms. MacMahon is introduced emerging from under a car carriage in mechanic’s overalls and spends the first half aggressively desexing herself. Dvorak is also great as the younger sister desperate for some excitement, and a later scene where she makes a bad choice is handled with great sensitivity. Just a great example of the solid stuff the pre-code era was churning out: frank, stylish, efficient, a little racy, and just odd enough. Also somehow makes room for George Kennedy and Jane Darwell as a bickering couple.

Hell’s Highway (Brown, 1932)
Beating I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang to the prison exposé scene by a few months, this is in some ways even more brutal. It starts right off with a prisoner dying in a sweatbox and has more whipping than Sign of the Cross, plus a direct indictment of contractors exploiting prison labor. But it’s saddled with Richard Dix and melodramatic plot about brothers trying to look out for each other in prison, and it just can’t stay focused. As a result, the shocking scenes feel more exploitative than explosive. Still there are some interesting moments (like the black prisoners drawing a scene of and then singing about a guard killing his wife) and some ludicrous ones (a guard pausing before whipping Dix, cutting to Dix’s back covered in a massive WWI regiment tattoo). The ending is real cop-out though, with an outside authority figure suddenly showing up to right all wrongs.

Cabin in the Cotton (Curtiz, 1932)
Richard Barthelmess is raised to help Berton Churchill’s plantation owner manage his affairs after Barthelmess’s sharecropper father is worked to death in the fields. He’s then caught between the cotton pickers, who are trying to secretly stockpile cotton to sell illegally, and the exploitative estate. Barthelmess was far from the most emotive of actors, but this an incredibly blank performance. Barthelmess is practically catatonic—I think he’s means to be stuck in Hamlet-like inaction in the middle of the conflict, but he comes off as a halfwit. The movie is mainly notable for the regional politics and for Bette Davis as the landlord’s siren daughter. It’s never really clear if Davis is seducing Barthelmess because she likes him or because she knows her family needs him, but either way it’s hell of a performance, all the more because it’s playing against Barthelmess’s routine as a plank of wood.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#95 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:44 pm

Well, the good news is that the water appears to have damaged more than just the keyboard and mouse and I'm locked out of my laptop right now and may have lost everything on it. Wait, that's not good news at all

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#96 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:05 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:26 pm
I hope I am the last one to discover the genius of William Dieterle's Jewel Robbery. It's not just a great pre-code film, but a great exemplar of everything good about Hollywood filmmaking. This isn't a deep film in the sense of theme, but it provides high aesthetic pleasures along with true escapism for an under attended audience. The plot most accurately can be described as a fantasy for bored housewives to masturbate to. The absolute sincerity with which the film treats this mission makes it work in an honorable fashion rather than patronizing. The two leads excel on this level. Powell is introduced with robotic finesse playing a character without character. Instead of a person this wisely unnamed robber is an object for which people can place all of their desires upon. That's a hard task to do and Powell does it beautifully. Kay Francis is not just the star though, but also the absolute center of the film. Not many movies have asked an actress to orgasm for thirty minutes straight let alone to not make that an object of eroticism, but instead a vehicle for catharsis. I'm being hyperbolic perhaps, but a film this willingly ridiculous for such a noble cause has earned grandiose descriptors. For example Reefer Madness is essentially a tossed off subplot here with Clarence Wilson high as a kite doing a Napoleon impression.

The film is also gorgeous, easily the best bit of directing I've seen from Dieterle, just exercising every trick that casually comes to mind. It buzzes mechanically almost like Powell performance. Perhaps it is even preparing us for it and letting us in on the fantasy as much as it functions to say thank you to Walter Ruttman and the city symphonies of old.
So glad to hear a voice appreciate this one, perhaps even more than me. It is amazingly gorgeous, and it's on my list.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#97 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:40 pm

Two movies I really wanted to see for this list but didn't get to because they've been late in arriving (blame MovieMars) are Mamoulian's Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and... King Kong. If I think about it, probably the most iconic, well-known film I've yet to see. At least I'll get to see them for the 30s list.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#98 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:12 pm

Be sure to (re)watch the Simpsons parody after watching King Kong-- as someone who didn't love the movie, it has some cathartic laffs that took on new relevance after seeing the source text

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#99 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:28 pm

I don't think I saw that episode, I'll have to watch that too. I'm familiar with the 76 version, which I gather is not that different from the original (?), and of course the Jack Black version. I'm curious to see it.

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Re: The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

#100 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:58 pm

It's not an episode, it's the second segment of "Treehouse of Horror III"

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