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Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man [Kindle Edition]

Mick LaSalle

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Book Description

Using the same mix of accessibility and insider knowledge he used so successfully in Complicated Women, author and film critic Mick LaSalle now turns his attention to the men of the pre-Code Hollywood era.

The five years between 1929 and mid-1934 was a period of loosened censorship that finally ended with the imposition of a harsh Production Code that would, for the next thirty-four years, censor much of the life and honesty out of American movies. Dangerous Men takes a close look at the images of manhood during this pre-Code era, which coincided with an interesting time for men--the culmination of a generation-long transformation in the masculine ideal. By the late twenties, the tumult of a new century had made the nineteenth century's notion of the ideal man seem like a repressed stuffed shirt, a deluded optimist. The smiling, confident hero of just a few years before fell out of favor, and the new heroes who emerged were gangsters, opportunists, sleazy businessmen, shifty lawyers, shell-shocked soldiers--men whose existence threatened the status quo.

In this book, LaSalle highlights such household names as James Cagney, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, Maurice Chevalier, Spencer Tracy, and Gary Cooper, along with lesser-known ones such as Richard Barthelmess, Lee Tracy, Robert Montgomery, and the magnificent Warren William. Together they represent a vision of manhood more exuberant and contentious--and more humane--than anything that has followed on the American screen.


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Review

"LaSalle is an engaging writer who takes his films seriously but not pedantically."- "Charleston Post & Courier" "Lively . . . [LaSalle's] enthusiasm is contagious. . . . "Dangerous Men" serves as both an entertaining history and a cautionary tale."- "San Francisco Chronicle"

About the Author

Mick LaSalle is the author of "Complicated Women" and was an associate producer of the Timeline Films/Turner Classic Movies documentary of the same name. He is the San Francisco Chronicle's movie critic.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 678 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (15 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00KP86AP6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • : Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #527,005 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER GREAT BOOK 31 Aug. 2003
By Marcia Holden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's a toss-up as to which of Mick LaSalle's great pre-Code books (his previous is COMPLICATED WOMEN) is superior. COMPLICATED WOMEN is a work of advocacy, in a sense -- he wants to rescue the women of pre-Code from obscurity and critical neglect, and he does so ably. This book is more cool-headed amd critical. It's also funnier. It feels more grounded in the real politics and culture of the early 1930s. The research goes deeper. The book is longer. I think they're both essential reading, demonstrating a passion for film and an understanding of history that's impressive, rare and indispensable.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ESSENTIAL BOOK 30 Dec. 2002
By Jennifer Wong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I find myself in some awe at the achievement that is this book and the richness of its subject. Its subject is, specifically, men who made films during a period of relaxed censorship in America. On one level, the book is enormously useful just as a critical guide -- the end of the book has an extensive appendix that tells where most of the movies can be seen, and the book itself goes far to point out just which films must be seen.
But to see "Dangerous Men'' as having utility only as a work of criticism at its most basic -- giving good advice for future viewing pleasure -- is to miss what I believe to be the larger picture. This is an enormously important and very serious (though never, ever somber) book about men in America, about their journey in the 20th century. It's actually a rather profound book about sex roles and self-image, the mores of business, emerging ethics, the American idea of crime and punishment, war and its consequences and what really constitutes heroism. It's even, in a way, about how people's behaviors adapt to economic exigencies.
It's a brilliant work, every bit the equal of the author's "Complicated Women,'' and yet it's also a work of charm and wit that never flags or fails. It's never work to get through. It's always a pleasure.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatness before the Censors Came 1 April 2003
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Golden Age of movies is sometimes taken as the glorious silent era. However, it can be argued that the films made right after the advent of sound provided more realism and more to think about than movies before or since. In a vital and entertaining study, _Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man_ (Thomas Dunne), Mick LaSalle lovingly analyzes the films and movie heroes from around 1929 until 1934 when censorship took over. Those interested in the history of film, and in learning more about giants like Cagney and Gable, as well as about important but forgotten former stars like Richard Barthelmess and Warren William, will find this book irresistible. After 1934, it was a long while before American films were made without a censor able to clip scenes, and LaSalle demonstrates that the pre-censorship (or "pre-Code") era was a time for realism as well as idealism in the movies.
LaSalle demonstrates that silent films were really productions of the Victorian era; men were expected to have sobriety and character. World War I, Prohibition, and the Great Depression changed all that. There was a deluge of pre-Code gangster movies, and every major actor played a gangster, even Spencer Tracy and Boris Karloff. The gangster movies, and the war movies, provided a new look at how a person might live in the world and live with himself; there was a good deal of introspection within the characters displayed on screen that would vanish when the Code came into force. Along with serious evaluation of such moral matters, pre-Code movies were full of pacifism. Repeatedly the young idealistic heroes go into battle only to be shocked at the destruction they themselves have wrought. These movies exalted individuality and distrust of governments that led citizens into pointless wars. Pre-Code films emphasized the heroism of getting wise and taking care of oneself, not the heroism of battles and bugles. There is a good brief history of Code censorship here, showing the role of the Catholic Legion of Decency and its regrettable effects. Not only did the Code enforcers impose wholesomeness on future movies, they insisted that when the pre-Code films were re-released they be re-cut into more acceptable form. Sadly, sometimes the censored version of a pre-Code film is all that remains. It was not until the ratings system came in 1968 that the Code was dismantled.
Partly LaSalle's book is a warning, and one especially pointed now that certain forces within the government find censorship in various forms appealing. LaSalle has enormous admiration for the films described here, but says, "Even vitality such as this can be squelched if a close-minded faction is obsessed, pernicious, and willing to organize." He has seen a lot more of these pre-Code pictures than his readers have, but anyone who enjoys the movies will be eager to take a look at these films after reading this book. Pre-Code films showed war brutality, governmental corruption, and harnessing courage to subvert the system. LaSalle writes, "These may be healthy things for individuals to know, but they aren't what governments like to see pumped into the public consciousness."
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favorite Book of the Year? 3 Jan. 2003
By "leeza76" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I guess it's too early to have a favorite book of the year, but I can say with certainty that, had I completed it in 2002, Dangerous Men would qualify as one of my top two or three -- and probably the best non-fiction book I've read: So smart, so authoritative and, as some other readers have pointed out, so funny -- funny, even as you're learning something fascinating on every page.
It is hardly the usual sort of film book. Rather it's a brilliant investigation into the nature of manhood in the twentieth century, using these films as markers along the way. At the same time, it is a movie book in the sense that you come away dying to see the movies. I'm going to be using the list that the book provides to help make my video choices in the coming months.
What a wonderful Christmas gift. I already ordered Complicated Women, because now I can't get enough of the subject. You'll probably feel the same way, too. By all means, this is a book to get.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IS THAT A COVER, LADIES, OR WHAT??? 25 Dec. 2002
By Corin Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The cover -- well, that just stopped me. Clark Gable and too dangerous even for his mustache! I had to have the book -- had to -- and then I read it, and I love it. I'm re-reading it now. How did men happen? How did we get here? Where are we going? And what wonderful movies! And what wonderful pictures! I loved Complicated Women, by the same author. I don't know which book I like more. The first book was sex. This one is politics and sex and business and corruption and the whole big mess, all of it fascinating. Christmas is over. Get it for somebody's birthday. Get it for everybody's birthday. Most of all, get it for yourself.
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