The Pre-Code Hollywood Mini-List Discussion + Suggestions

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

#126 Post by senseabove » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:08 pm

Well, and maybe So Big! just because it got some last-minute love here, I'd've thought it would appear on another list or two, if pretty low.

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

#127 Post by movielocke » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:FYI, in addition to the rare confluence of everyone voting for Trouble in Paradise, the movie also won this in the single biggest blowout I've ever seen in all my years tabulating lists. Its numbers were nearly twice as high as the second place film-- not only did everyone like it, but everyone save one submitter liked it enough to place it in their top tier
That’s probably me, I hesitated to include it because I barely remember it, but I remembered really liking it. Baby face was similar for me, but it didn’t get on my list. This might be one of the first lists I’ve seen the entire final list! Thanks for compiling!

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

#128 Post by movielocke » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:18 pm

My list:


1 the Thin Man
2 Gold Diggers of 1933
3 King Kong
4 Red Dust
5 Scarface
6 Gabriel Over the White House
7 Hallelujah I'm a bum
8 Shanghai express
9 I am a fugitive from a chain gang
10 bombshell
11 dinner at eight
12 five star final
13 duck soup
14 island of lost souls
15 jewel robbery
16 tarzan and his mate
17 Trouble in Paradise
18 Design for Living
19 Blonde Venus
20 I'm no Angel

runner up, International House, baby face.

I should have included it happened one night, i wasn’t thinking of it as a pre code.

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

#129 Post by Shrew » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:35 pm

Thanks again to domino for overcoming the wrath of a puritanical god (or maybe the spirit of Joseph Breen) to bring us this list.

1) Heroes for Sale (orphans in red)
2) Trouble in Paradise
3) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
4) Employee's Entrance
5) Baby Face
6) Scarlet Empress
7) Safe in Hell
8) Shanghai Express
9) Midnight Mary
10) Miracle Woman
11) Bad Girl
12) Applause (also ran)
13) Gold Diggers of 1933
14) Waterloo Bridge
15) Wild Boys of the Road
16) Red Dust (also ran)
17) Footlight Parade (also ran)
18) Design for Living
19) Street Scene
20) Heat Lightning (also ran)

This is easily the most orphan's I've had on a list, and I'm frankly shocked at number 1. Guess I should've put more effort into writing up all the Wellman films.

I also saw the full list but for Gabriel Over the White House, and all the also rans except Friends of Mr. Sweeney and Doctor X. Still, I'm missing like 30 of the orphans despite contributing a good lot of them, so there's work to be done.
senseabove wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:08 pm
Well, and maybe So Big! just because it got some last-minute love here, I'd've thought it would appear on another list or two, if pretty low.
Sorry, it was 21 on my list. And I mainly pushed it off for having too much (apparently doomed to be orphaned) Wellman already.

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

#130 Post by Feego » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:49 pm

Great work Domino, and I'm glad there were enough submitted lists!

Mine (orphans in red, also-rans in green):

1. Love Me Tonight (1932, Rouben Mamoulian)
2. Trouble in Paradise (1932, Ernst Lubitsch)
3. Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)
4. Morocco (1930, Josef von Sternberg)
5. Waterloo Bridge (1931, James Whale)
6. Baby Face (1933, Alfred E. Green)
7. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, Mervyn LeRoy)
8. Applause (1929, Rouben Mamoulian)
9. The Black Cat (1934, Edgar G. Ulmer)
10. Night After Night (1932, Archie Mayo)
11. The Old Dark House (1932, James Whale)
12. King Kong (1933, Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack)
13. The Most Dangerous Game (1932, Ernest B. Schoedsack & Irving Pichel)
14. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932, W. S. Van Dyke)
15. Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)
Last edited by Feego on Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

#131 Post by Black Hat » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:58 pm

Surprised Design for Living was so low, seems to be well within the 'spirit' of pre code films, anybody care to share reasons they didn't include it on their list?


My list with 3 or 4 films left out that I either forgot about or didn't realize were eligible.

1 - Trouble in Paradise
2 - I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
3 - Twentieth Century
4 - Design for Living
5 - Shanghai Express
6 - Waterloo Bridge
7 - Scarface
8 - Baby Face
9 - Public Enemy
10 - Morocco
11 - Gabriel Over the White House
12 - Red Headed Woman
13 - Night Nurse

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

#132 Post by senseabove » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:02 pm

I admit So Big! probably only made my list because I still have some big gaps (e.g. Scarface). Most of my pre-code exposure is due to a two-month WB "from Rin Tin Tin to Bonnie & Clyde" retro, which means I've got a Wellman handicap. The bottom 8 are pretty rough, ranking-wise. Design for Living was on my list, but got shuffled off eventually. I like it; I'm not crazy about it, even if it does handily meet the scandal metric, and Lubitsch was already high up in my top 10 with Trouble.

My list, with red orphans and green also-rans:
1. Shanghai Express
2. Gold Diggers of 1933
3. Trouble in Paradise
4. Grand Hotel
5. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

6. It Happened One Night
7. Baby Face
8. Wild Boys of the Road
9. Merrily We Go To Hell
10. Public Enemy

11. The Smiling Lieutenant
12. Footlight Parade
13. A Farewell to Arms
14. So Big!
15. Blonde Venus

16. Other Men's Women
17. Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
18. Five Star Final
19. Picture Snatcher
20. Red Dust




Definitely looking forward to watching Bad Girl, now. Haven't gotten around to the Kino BD I picked up a while back, but I'll bump it up the list. And my HPB had a copy of Gabriel over the White House on DVD recently, so I'll try to pick that up if it's still there next time they have a decent discount coupon.

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

#133 Post by knives » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:16 pm

Thank you very much Domino for this fun little list and thank you to whoever helped keep my number one from being an orphan.

1. Blonde Venus
2. The Broken Lullaby
3. Trouble in Paradise
4. Jewel Robbery
5. The Black Cat
6. The Thin Man
7. The Bitter Tea of General Yen
8. The Old Dark House
9. Frankenstein
10. Hold Your Man
11. Murders in the Rue Morgue
12. Twentieth Century
13. Journey's End
14. You're Telling Me! (dir. Kenton)
15. All Quiet on the Western Front
16. Design for Living
17. Hell's Angels
18. Red Dust
19. The Lost Patrol
20. Rasputin and the Empress

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

#134 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:19 pm

Thanks once again Domino.

But once again, just this note... The Scarlet Empress is not a pre-code!

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

#135 Post by knives » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:22 pm

Neither is Of Human Bondage, but they exist in that weird area when the code was figuring out what to enforce of itself that I say they should be counted.

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

#136 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:24 pm

You're all very welcome! And knives, I believe (I'm not on my comp) at least three people voted for Blonde Venus, they just ranked it near the bottom

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

#137 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:27 pm

knives wrote:Neither is Of Human Bondage, but they exist in that weird area when the code was figuring out what to enforce of itself that I say they should be counted.
Check again knives because OHB was released in June and is a pre-code. I double checked because I included it in my list!

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

#138 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:28 pm

Well, since there was a tie for 25th place, feel free to ignore Scarlet Empress if you wish, you'll still get an unchanged Top 25!

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

#139 Post by Shrew » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:51 pm

I ended up voting for Scarlet Empress, as even though it bears a code seal, it's approval number 16 and still contains a lot of racy stuff (including brief nudity). It's clearly still pushing lots of boundaries in the same ways as the earlier Sternbergs, and it's not neutered in the way The Devil is a Woman is.

Also, here's a list of films with Production Code Seal of Approval numbers. Of Human Bondage is number 53, Friends of Mr. Sweeney is 58. I haven't done enough of a deep dive into production history to figure out if these were released in early versions, if they were cut before approval, recut after release in order to gain approval, or what. Technically all were made under the Hays office and a version of the production code; it's just a a question of when Breen took over and the restrictions began in earnest. These films are obviously liminal, so you can probably justify anyway you like.

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

#140 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:55 pm

Friends of Mr Sweeney would not meet Code standards as we know them, as the criminals are not punished in any way

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

#141 Post by dustybooks » Tue Dec 18, 2018 5:00 pm

I admit that I didn't check the actual release date of Empress because I saw it was 1934 and assumed, given its salacious content, that it would apply here -- and I do think it feels "right" on the list because I'm sure a lot of the material in it would be unthinkable a year or so later, but I disqualified other titles for being too late in '34 so this was definitely a case of human error / inconsistency.

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

#142 Post by Shrew » Tue Dec 18, 2018 6:17 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:55 pm
Friends of Mr Sweeney would not meet Code standards as we know them, as the criminals are not punished in any way
Indeed. So the first 100 or so approvals from the Code should be taken with a grain of salt. Even under Breen, the agency was creation of the studios, not the government, so they weren't going to force major losses on studios by not approving completed or near-complete films in late 1934. Plus one of the main shifts of Breen's tenure was the preference for approving story treatment and scripts over just filmed material, but that obviously wouldn't have been enacted at this point.

So a lot of these films were probably "grandfathered" in. Some may have been approved in a cut form, coexisting with uncut prints that were distributed in less conservative regions of the country. Some may have intially been released, but were then recut for code approval (and we know pretty much only know them in their original form). Some, like Belle of the Nineties, would have been targeted for special attention and many changes forced.

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

#143 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:31 pm

My list:
orphans red, also-rans green

1. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
2. It Happened One Night
3. The Public Enemy
4. Dishonored
5. Gold Diggers of 1933
6. The Smiling Lieutenant
7. Scarface
8. Of Human Bondage
9. Dracula
10. Trouble in Paradise
11. The Black Cat
12. Manhattan Melodrama
13. Island of Lost Souls
14. Jewel Robbery
15. Shanghai Express
16. Downstairs
17. The Love Parade
18. Five Star Final
19. Frankenstein

20. Heroes for Sale

Aside from King Kong and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, All Quiet on the Western Front is another obvious title that I've not seen yet, but will for the 30s list.

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

#144 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:42 pm

Shrew wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:35 pm
1) Heroes for Sale (orphans in red)

This is easily the most orphan's I've had on a list, and I'm frankly shocked at number 1. Guess I should've put more effort into writing up all the Wellman films.
It's an also-ran as it's on my list, but just barely at no 20...

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

#145 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:26 am

I tried to set restrictions, like only choosing ten films, because I was starting to think of all the films I haven't seen for a while, which I was having trouble ranking. I added The Sins of Nora Moran as a sort of honorable mention, just so that it would get a bit of a name drop on here. It's remarkable for what it is.

I didn't choose Design for Living, despite Lubitsch being one of my very favorite directors, for two reasons: one, I tried to only choose one film per director (I let Mamoulian have two because I find his films so remarkably striking from this period, and Song of Songs so outrageously overlooked; and let Wellman have two because, well, he did make several dozen Pre-Codes, many of them remarkable) and two, because I actually just don't like it very much. One of my least favorite Lubitsches (which is still quite high in general, of course).

I also didn't realize that It Happened One Night was pre-code, although, probably for the better. I'm glad I added General Yen, which was by far the biggest delight discovery from this project for me.

Reds are also-ran, greens orphans (remarkably consistent, looking at it.)

1. Love Me Tonight
2. The Bitter Tea of General Yen
3. Dishonoured
4. Trouble in Paradise
5. Jewel Robbery
6. Scarface
7. Wild Boys of the Road
8. Heat Lightning
9. Night Nurse
10. Song of Songs
11. The Sins of Nora Moran

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

#146 Post by Feego » Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:10 pm

Image

Wonder Bar (1934, Lloyd Bacon)
I've been revisiting a bunch of Busby Berkeley films recently, and I finally got around to watching Wonder Bar for the first time. The film is chiefly remembered today for two sequences. The first, above, was featured in the documentary The Celluloid Closet and features a man approaching a dancing couple and asking to cut in. When the woman agrees, he instead dances off with her male partner. The second is star Al Jolson's musical finale, the blackface extravaganza "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule." It may be the most outrageously racist sequence I've seen in a mainstream American movie this side of The Birth of a Nation. Because blackface survived well into the Hays Code, I won't say much about it here except that in this vision of black heaven, there are giant watermelon and a tree that sprouts pork chops. There's also this memorable image:

Image

Outside of those sequences, Wonder Bar takes a different path from the previous collaborations between Berkeley and director Lloyd Bacon. Instead of being a backstage musical, it's more of a Grand Hotel style melodrama with several A-list stars and various story threads intersecting at the titular Parisian nightclub over the course of one evening. Club owner Al Jolson and bandleader Dick Powell are both in love with dancer Dolores Del Rio, but she won't give them the time of day because she carries a torch for fellow dancer Ricardo Cortez. He cares nothing for her and often abuses her, instead turning his affections to married socialite Kay Francis. Meanwhile, a count who just lost his entire fortune gambling comes to the bar for one last night of debauchery before committing suicide, and two middle-aged American couples squabble as the men carouse with young women.

To be honest, none of the drama works, largely because the main stars are almost uniformly dreary. Cortez and Del Rio are non-entities, and while I've liked Francis elsewhere, her entire performance is in one-note angry mode throughout. Powell is his usual goofy-looking self, but he's given little to do. That leaves Jolson, who actually surprised me with his versatility. Having only seen him in The Jazz Singer, I didn't expect to find him dramatically moving. He displays the over-the-top theatrics usually associated with him, making big eyes and affecting cartoonish accents. And his blackface routine is as lurid as you'd expect. But when he stops mugging and gets serious, there's real pain and nuance in his expressions, suggesting that his showmanship is just a social mask.

The sad melodrama is easily upstaged by the American supporting characters. Berkeley stalwarts Guy Kibbee and Hugh Herbert play the two husbands who become increasingly drunk and go gaga for two French beauties throughout the evening. Ruth Donnelly and especially Louise Fazenda hilariously play their frustrated wives, who scoff at the men's behavior until they receive a proposition of their own from a young gigolo at the next table. He proposes a late-night tryst with both of them, which certainly catches their fancy.

The Berkeley numbers don't meet the standards set by the Gold Diggers films. Jolson is clearly the main attraction of "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule," despite a few glorious matte shots. The most traditional Berkeley offering, "Don't Say Goodnight," is shot on a large stage with moving pillars and features some interesting compositions with mirror reflections. It's fine on its own, but it doesn't impress like the similar looking "Shadow Waltz" from Gold Diggers of 1933. It does, however, feature one of the most gorgeous overhead kaleidoscope formation shots from any of his numbers.

But the standout feature of this movie is its very pre-codeness. This may be the most "pre-code" film I've ever seen. In addition to gay sight gags, double entendres, and general promiscuity, the entire second act hinges on resolutions that would simply not be permissible by the end of 1934. Literally every story thread concludes in a way that totally violates the code. The film takes a surprisingly cavalier attitude toward suicide, and a murder by one major character is covered up in a way that brings no consequences for the murderer and is pretty queasy on a moral level.
SpoilerShow
Jealous Del Rio stabs Cortez in the chest during a performance. After learning that the count plans to kill himself by driving off a cliff, Jolson sneaks Cortez's body into the count's car. When the wreckage is discovered, the police believe Cortez was killed in the accident. Francis returns to her husband. Del Rio gets off scot free and accepts Powell's proposal. Jolson is left brokenhearted but satisfied that he proved his love by ... taking complete advantage of another person's suicide?
Even the side story of the two American couples ends with no implication that they will go back home to honor their marriages. The women seem to have every intention of going through with their three-way while their husbands secretly plan to meet the French beauties later.

This was an incredibly strange movie, and while it's no buried masterpiece, I do think it deserves to be seen at least once just to see how far things could be pushed during the pre-code era. The blackface number will ensure this stays "cancelled" (it's apparently the only number Warner Bros. didn't carry over from their Busby Berkeley laserdisc to the bonus disc in the DVD set), but it's not the only noteworthy thing about the film. The melodrama is a slog, but Jolson (of all people) manages to brighten things up quite a bit, and the comical moments are still pretty funny. More importantly, it doesn't take the route of teasing us with lewd or immoral behavior only to sermonize in the end. It commits entirely to the characters' course of action without passing judgment or telling us what to think.

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