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.