Thursday, May 5, 2011


Jacques Costaud(Victor McLaglen) makes his presence known to Paul (William Bakewell) and Manon(Helen Mack).

Now as a fan of pre-code films, there’s a lot of films made during the era that are quite obscure, and hard to come by, so one has do some digging to find these gems. One of these obscure gems is While Paris Sleeps (1932), and I feel it's a crime that it's so unknown.

This film begins with an prison escape by Jacques Costaud(Victor McLaglen), from the infamous Devil’s Island, after getting word that his wife is on her deathbed, and his daughter, Manon(Helen Mack), is about to be tossed out to the streets. Unfortunately, when he arrives in Paris, he finds out that he is too late, his wife has already died, the landlord has just tossed his daughter out, and now he must find her.

Meanwhile, Manon walks in and out trouble without even realizing it, she has taken a job at a dive bar, recommend by a “friend”, Julot (Jack La Rue). But Julot is no friend, he’s a local thug with ulterior motives, which include tricking Manon into a life of prostitution under the guise of “modeling in South America” and possibly some more(yeah, you know what I mean).While working at the dive, she meets an accordion player, Paul Renoir(William Bakewell), they end up falling in love and want to escape to the countryside together, but lack the money to do so. All the while, Jacques Costaud has found Manon, keeping an eye on her from a distance, taking a role of a guardian angel, and when trouble arises, he is there to protect her from being taken under the influence of the gang of thugs who want her, so her and Paul can escape to the countryside.

Julot(Jack La Rue) oggling Manon while she sleeps. Nothing says "friend" like this.

Manon and Paul discuss their future plans

Now this film, with its grittiness, and the threat of sex and violence(we get to see a police snitch get thrown in an oven by the group of thugs) around every corner, that help in making pre-codes so fun, it's truly a forgotten little gem. Sadly, not commercially available, like a good deal of other pre-code films(this seems to be a trend among films from Fox, Paramount, and Universal), one has to really look for this film from other sources. I recommend it, if you’re able to find it, but after all I am a sucker for gritty,sleazy pre-code melodramas.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

1933: Best Year of Pre-Code Film??

You know the year of 1939, has a reputation for being the best year for films made during the golden era, and yes, its very possibly true, but what about the best year of film during the pre-code era? Personally, I feel that the answer to this question would be the year of 1933. This was a year where a lot of the films made, were seen as “breaking the camel’s back” when it comes to content and are credited with helping in putting teeth into the enforcement of the Hays’ Code.

Now let’s see, there were many, many great notable films released that year including King Kong, Baby Face, The Story of Temple Drake, She Done Him Wrong, Dinner at Eight, Female, 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Duck Soup, Design for Living and Queen Christina, just to name some.

While at the same time there were a good number of other films that also packed a good dose of pre-code goodness in, but aren’t as well known these include Employees’ Entrance, Man’s Castle, Flying Down To Rio, Torch Singer, Wild Boys of the Road, Gabriel Over the White House, Christopher Strong and Heroes For Sale.

The films named are all but a small sample of what the year of 1933 have to offer, there are still a large number of gems haven‘t named, but full of great pre-code goodness, but its impossible to name them all in one sitting .So is the year of 1933 the best year for pre-code film? That is all but a matter of opinion, to me it is, but you may have another opinion, and if 1933 isn’t the best year of the pre-code era, it certainly comes very close.

BTW: Sorry for the unexpected absence, there's been an family emergency going on, so...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Miriam Hopkins

If any actress needs to have a revival, Miriam Hopkins would definitely get a vote in my book. There have been many actresses that have been forgotten over time, are very under appreciated, and Miriam Hopkins is one of these actresses. Now there are a good deal of folks out there that know little if anything about our friend, Miriam, and of those who know of her, and her work it mostly consist of her code era work, the feud that she had going on with Bette Davis, and the reputation of being somewhat of a difficult person behind the scenes.

What falls by the wayside, is Miss Hopkins’ pre-code past and what a past it is, that of being one of the sauciest actresses and shining stars of the era. Now she didn’t turn movies out at the rate most stars of the era did, but her pre-codes are such a delight, one can’t ignore them. There is an impish, mischievous quality about her, that is the reason why she is such a great pre-code actress, being the perfect fit for both comedies, and melodramas of the era, and if you’ve seen her pre-code films you can’t help not to enjoy her. Whether she is playing Princess Anna, the frumpy princess turned jazz baby in The Smiling Lieutenant(1931), Ivy Pearson , the prostitute/dance hall girl in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1931), Lily, the jewel thief in Trouble in Paradise(1932) or Temple Drake, the tease of a southern belle in The Story of Temple Drake(1933) just to name a few, it is hard to ignore the talent that Miss Hopkins displays. So in conclusion, be sure to check out the greatness of Miriam Hopkins' pre-codes, and help in spreading the word. 

Hopkins as Princess Anna (before her makeover) in The Smiling Lieutenant

Hopkins as Princess Anna (after her makeover) in The Smiling Lieutenant

Hopkins as Ivy Pearson in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Hopkins as Temple Drake in The Story of Temple Drake

Hopkins as Lily, with co-star Herbert Marshall in Trouble in Paradise

Hopkins as Gilda, with co-stars Fredric March & Gary Cooper in Design for Living

Miriam Hopkins’ Pre-Code films:
  • Fast and Loose(1930) her debut film
  • The Smiling Lieutenant(1931)
  • 24 Hours(1931)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1931)
  • Two Kinds of Women(1932)
  • Dancers in the Dark(1932)
  • World and the Flesh(1932)
  • Trouble in Paradise(1932)
  • The Story of Temple Drake(1933)
  • The Stranger’s Return(1933)
  • Design For Living(1933)
  • All of Me (1934)

Monday, March 28, 2011

BABY FACE (1933)

Lily(Stanwyck) and her gal pal Chico(Theresa Harris)
This is movie that started my pre-code addiction, and if you’ve seen it, you won’t blame me. How can one not love a movie in which Barbara Stanwyck plays an amoral, man eating, woman who exploits men, using them as mere stepping stones to the top of a bank?

The movie starts off with Lily Powers (Stanwyck) working for her father(Robert Barrat) in his speakeasy waiting tables and then some ,we find out that daddy‘s been pimping her out since she was 14, in a factory town. It’s this type of life has made her bitter and jaded towards not only men, but to life itself. So when her father dies in an liquor still explosion, with some encouragement from her Nietzsche quoting mentor, Mr. Cragg(Alphonse Ethier), Lily decides it’s the best time to leave town, taking her black friend, and co-worker Chico(Theresa Harris) with her.

Lily confronting her slimy father

Lily fighting off the advancements of customer

Lily listening to mentor Mr. Cragg giving her advice,

From there on, they travel to New York City, and Lily uses her body and sexuality to advance herself, leaving many men in the dust and causing scandal on her way to the top of a bank(there‘s a delightful little love triangle that results in a murder-suicide). Only in the end does she fall hard for the playboy and new president of the bank, Courtland Trenholm(George Brent), after he attempts suicide, over the mismanagement of the bank.

Can't say no to this Baby Face...

Lily and one of her many victims(yes, this a young John Wayne)

Lily seducing one of her victims, while his fiance walks in on them

Moving on up...
 Now as I stated before, this was the movie that started my pre-code addiction, and for the longest time I considered it to be my favorite pre-code(only recently, has it been dethroned by The Story of Temple Drake(1933), yeah I’m a sucker for outrageousness). It is by far, one of the most outrageous films of the pre-code era, so much so that there are two versions of it(a pre-released one, and the more censored theatrical version) and even the censored version is just thick with sex.

Baby Face is one of those ultimate pre-codes, with more than it’s fair share of sexual frankness within the story, which drove the censors of the time crazy. It is this frankness that helps in setting the stage for characters like Lily Powers to be seen as not a gold digging villain, but as one of a woman who has had a hard, bitter life, and she has had more than her fair share of crap dealt to her by the men in her life. Due to this bitter life of Lily’s, one(the viewer) can’t help but to cheer her on as she conquers man after man, leaving them in the dust behind her, beating them at their own game. We don’t see her as a bad person, we see her as someone who’s had real tough start to life, and enjoy seeing her giving men the dose of medicine they deserve for giving her such a hard time. Ahhh, such are the joys of pre-code film, and the moral ambiguity that go along with them..

I highly recommend this film, for both classic film fans, and your general movie lover(the best thing to do is watch both versions, and compare them, there is a lot of differences between the two versions, and the pre-released one is only 5 minutes longer). If you’re interested in seeing this film, both versions are part of TCM Archives Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume One and both are aired on TCM from time to time. Enjoy, if you haven’t already!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh, Those Nasty Men!!

“Oh, you nasty man, making your love on the easy plan
Here and there and where you can, oh, you nasty man
You ain’t fooling me, You’re just as bad as bad can be
But you're darned good company, oh, you big bad man
You're sweet and nasty, I know what's on your mind
You'll pull a fasty, make me sizzle and then you chisel
Oh, you nasty man, I never met anyone who can
Be as bad or better than - you, you nasty man"
Ray Noble & his Orchestra 1934

Who is this nasty man, that is being sung about in this song? Who is this sleazeball, scuzzball, and every other adjective that is used to describe guy like him? I have no idea, but I can tell you, pre-code film doesn’t have a shortage of them and they’re a big part of what make pre-code film so great. Now there have always been the sleazeballs in film, and they continue to exist to this day (I have a feeling they will always be around), but in the pre-code era, the sleazeball seemed to break out, and come into their own. They don’t seem as cartoonish as they once were for the most part, and have a new, fresh quality of brazenness about them.

Kurt Anderson (Warren William) sleazeball  Department Store Manager of Employees' Entrance (1933).

Leo, the sleazeball gangster,(Ricardo Cortez) about to fight Tom( Franchot Tone) for the affections of Mary(Loretta Young) in Midnight Mary (1933).

These individuals come from all different backgrounds, rich, poor, and in between. Some of them are seen as refine upstanding members of high society, others are just your ordinary everyday man, while still others are no-good lowlife gangsters and/or pimps. The things they all have in common is that they are prone to violent fits, have trouble keeping their paws to themselves, and keeping it in their pants. These are the guys that our mothers’ and fathers’ have warned us about, but I have to admit, there’s part of me that can’t help but be somewhat turned on by and attracted to them(I guess it‘s the whole good girls love a bad boy thing).  

Karl, the chauffeur(John Gilbert) puts the moves on Anna, the the maid(Virginia Bruce) in Downstairs(1932)

Yes, there is an irresistible quality about them, but how can one not have a thing for these sleazeballs when they look and seem like, as the song says “darned good company”.

Keep an eye out for the profiles in pre-code sleaziness in the future.

Last but not least, One of the biggest sleazeballs of them all, Trigger(Jack La Rue) from The Story of Temple Drake(1933)


Trigger getting ready to have his way with Temple Drake(Miriam Hopkins).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Welcome All

I would like to welcome you all to my little corner of the blogosphere, where I intend to share my passion of classic film, with an particular emphasis on pre-code film with you all. If you are unfamiliar with pre-code film, it is that special era of film making, starting in 1929 with the beginning of the talkies, and ending in July of 1934, when the 1930 Hays Code was given teeth. The reason for my love of this era, is that as a modern viewer these films go against the grain of what we usually think of “the good old days”, and deal with issues in a way they weren’t dealt with again, until 25 to 30 years later. Through film reviews, star profiles, character profiles, photos and much more, I will share my passion for these films with you all, and I hope you enjoy.