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i can understand how such hollywood films as the ones in this set were largely banned by the hays office, as some of the content is rather daring for the times. nevertheless, there are some excellent films to be seen here. "night nurse," "three on a match" and "a free soul are the best ones in my opinion. each film has various references to violence and to drug and alcohol abuse and is slightly graphic at times but used to good effect in highlighting the plight of the various characters. "night nurse" and "a free soul" feature clark gable in early film roles and he's effective as the heavy in both. i thought that the documentary in this dvd set was fascinating but i agree with the previous customer's review.
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Product: 3 DVD-s / Technical execution of the DVD-s: pressed
Disc 1: Film 1 and 2 Disc 2: Film 3 and 4 Disc 3: Film 5 All movies: Language: english. Subtitles: english and french. Picture: good / black and white / 4:3 (originalformat)
Film 1: The Divorcee. USA 1930. Cast: Norma Shearer, Chester Morris, Conrad Nagel, Robert Montgomery a. o. Directed by: Robert Z. Leonard Length of movie: 82 minutes and 11 seconds 4 nominations for Oscar: leading actress, best picture, best direction and best writing. 1 Oscar-Award for Norma Shearer Specials: Commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta One Star for this boring flirtations inclusive complications in all variations. Norma Shearer has not much soul in the performance for a award and shows not enough human heart. She is to masculine, static, uniform, lackluster and the men are to female with there permanent smiling visages (Chester Morris, Robert Montgomery,...). A chaotic structure. Sorry, but Barbara Stanwyck is much better.
Film 2: A Free Soul. USA 1931. Cast: Norma Shearer, Lionel Barrymore, Leslie Howard, Clark Gable a. o. Directed by: Clarence Brown Length of movie: 93 minutes and 30 seconds (originallength) Awards: Oscar for Lionel Barrymore Nominations for Oscar: Norma Shearer, best direction Specials: no
A bombastic, unreal, pathetic story with a good Lionel Barrymore in a implausible melodrama. Norma Shearer posing with oiled hairstyle in a closely, sexy dress - not more. Her oscarnomination for this fashionshow? Not enough for it. This girl had a protection by her husband Irving Thalberg (productionboss of MGM) since 1927 until his dead 1936.
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168 of 175 people found the following review helpful
Forbidden Hollywood 2: More Films, More Quality20 Nov. 2007
Reine des Coeurs
- Published on Amazon.com
March will mark the release of some PreCode gems on this Forbidden Hollywood set, in particular for Norma Shearer fans.
"The Divorcee" (1930). Ms. Shearer's Academy award winning performance as Jerry in the role her husband, Irving Thalberg, initially thought she wasn't sexy enough to play (a few wonderfully seductive portraits, courtesy of Mr. Hurrell were enough to prove his doubts had no basis) is excellent. Great minor role by her future leading man, Robert Montgomery, as well.
"A Free Soul" (1931). Ms. Shearer is Jan Ashe; Mr. Lionel Barrymore (in his Academy Award winning role) is her alcoholic, lawyer father, Stephen Ashe. Young Clark Gable made his cinematic bones with his role as mob heavy Ace Wilfong. For those who've only known Norma for "Marie Antoinette" and "The Women", be prepared for an entirely different actress. Ms. Shearer, resplendent in her erotic white gown, is pure bombshell.
"Night Nurse" (1931). Barbara Stanwyck was at her best in PreCodes (though I think "Illicit" is a better film) and Joan Blondell packs a punch as her nurse friend. This film has a plot to kill children, a nymphomanical mother, drug references and Clark Gable mobbing up again as Nick, the chauffeur.
"Three on a Match"(1932). Anne Dvorak, Joan Blondell and Bette Davis play the three ladies who share the karmic match. One's a bad girl who turns her life around (Blondell); another one is a good girl who remains true to her goodness (Bette Davis); the third has all the luck, money and the love of a faithful husband (Dvorak), but throws it all away for booze, drugs and shady men. Humphrey Bogart, also making his start as a mob heavy, plays her connection/kidnapper, Harve while the charming Warren Williams plays her abandoned husband, Robert.
"Female" (1933). The exceptionally talented Ruth Chatterton plays Alison Drake, president of a successful automobile factory, with a penchant for having trysts with her male secretaries and promptly transferring them to the company's Canadian office. Enter George Brent (Ms. Chatterton's husband off-screen at the time) as designer Jim Thorn and the sparks begin.
Commentary, trailers and a new documentary make this a must-own for fans of Pre-Code cinema. Let's get working on set 3, why don't we? Classic film fans (myself included) are only glad to spend those preorder dollars for Pre-Code releases.
67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
More extra features in this second installment of Forbidden Hollywood18 Nov. 2007
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A little over a year after the release of volume one, Warner Home Video is finally giving us volume 2 of its Forbidden Hollywood series. There are supposedly to be two releases of this series a year from this point forward. Included in this set are: a. Five films instead of the three in volume one. b. Commentaries for two of the films. c. A new documentary on the precode genre.
The films included are:
"The Divorcee" (1930) and "A Free Soul" (1931). These two films feature great performances from Norma Shearer. In "The Divorcee" she plays a wife who discovers her husband has cheated on her. When confronted he admits what he did but insists it meant nothing. However, he has a different attitude when Norma does the same with hubby's best friend (Robert Montgomery). The two divorce and Norma enters into a long string of ill-fated affairs. Shearer won Best Actress for her performance. In "A Free Soul" alcoholic attorney Stephen Ashe (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter Jan (Norma Shearer) have always lived a lifestyle of which the rest of their socialite family disapproved. Stephen has always taught his daughter to go her own way and not pay attention to what other people think. Now this may be good advice when it has to do with priggish conventions rooted in tradition rather than right and wrong. However, what Stephen has failed to point out to Jan is that people also generally think it is a bad idea to walk into a busy intersection blind-folded, and just because this is a majority opinion does not make it a convention ripe for the testing. Thus, completely blindfolded, Jan walks into the busy intersection that is the world of gangster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable), a murderer that her father has recently managed to get acquitted in one of his more sober moments. Stephen Ashe is faced with a parent's worst nightmare - he has given his daughter what turns out to be very bad advice, and she has not only listened but followed it. Barrymore won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. DVD Special Features: The Divorcee commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta
"Three on a Match" (1932) and "Female" (1933) are on the second disk. "Three on a Match" stars Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell, and Bette Davis as three girls who grow up together but go very different ways. However, as adults they reunite for lunch one day and from that moment their lives intertwine once again, this time resulting in tragedy. Dvorak plays a woman whose narcissism she has confused as a bent for the romantic, Blondell plays the woman with a jaded past but a good heart, and Davis is in the background as a reliable Girl Friday type. "Female" stars Ruth Chatterton as the sexually liberated manager of an automobile factory. However, she meets her match in inventor Jim Thorne (George Brent). A kind of "Taming of the Shrew" meets Ernst Lubitsch, although Lubitsch himself had nothing to do with this film. If you can ignor the improbability that a woman would ever be able to reach this position in management in the 1930's while so flaunting convention, this is a very enjoyable little movie. DVD Special Features: Theatrical trailers for both films
"Night Nurse" (1931) and the precode documentary are on disk three. "Night Nurse" stars Barbara Stanwyck, one of the queens of the precodes, in a film that is more of a depression era crime/mystery film than anything with some precode bits thrown in. Unlike "Baby Face", here Stanwyck is using her toughness more than her sexuality. She plays a nurse on the night shift who ends up caring for two wealthy children who are being systematically starved by an evil chauffeur (Clark Gable) so that he can marry the childrens' mother and grab their trust funds. Stanwyck faces indifference on all fronts, and is helped out by a bootlegger friend (Ben Lyon) in her effort to save the children. DVD Special Features: Night Nurse commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta Night Nurse theatrical trailer
59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Another good set of pre-code gems7 Dec. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
The announcement of the second set of the Forbidden Hollywood series is welcome. The set falls neatly into 2 groups - the MGM pair and the Warners trio.
The former are well mounted up-market A pictures with the prestigious Norma Shearer. Shearer was the wife of MGM wonderboy producer Irving Thalberg and his management of her limited talent was masterful. Both films carefully showcase her in "modern" stories of liberated women with attitudes to sex which were scandalous in 1930.
- In "The Divorcee", Shearer won the best actress Oscar playing a woman who divorces her husband because he is unfaithful then proceeds to "liberate" herself with other men. The film is a very early talkie with all the associated limitations - stagy, endless talk and some corny acting, including a very mannered Shearer. The disk contains a commentary which notes these limitations, particularly Shearer's. - "A Free Soul" enhanced Shearer's reputation as THE prototype of the sexually liberated woman in this tale of a woman whose fiance, Leslie Howard, murders her lover, a very raunchy Clark Gable. Lionel Barrymore won an Oscar for his performance as Shearer's lawyer father and deservedly so. This is a much better film than "The Divorcee", demonstrating how quickly Hollywood progressed with talkies - better direction, photography, recording and acting. The story is really interesting with some great twists and Shearer is generally less mannered and accordingly much more effective than the earlier film. She also wears some of the best clothes ever seen on the screen, transforming her dumpy figure into a svelte and sexy one.
The remaining trio reflect Warner's assembly line approach to film making at the time and have shorter running times and faster pace.
- "Night Nurse" is a sordid tale starring the relentless Barbara Stanwyck as a nurse, with great support from Joan Blondell and a particularly nasty Clark Gable whose star quality is impossible to ignore. Stanwyck and Blondell seem to be constantly stripping for the camera and there are some great lines. Blondell says "I used to worry that the hospital would burn down. Now I have to watch myself with matches". - "Three on a Match" is a very short film which moves with lightening speed. It stars the luminous Ann Dvorak as a bored wife, the reliable Blondell as the heart-of-gold showgirl and an attractive but subdued Bette Davis as a secretary/nanny of all things. The women, who were childhood friends, renew acquaintance at lunch and light their cigarettes with one match, a superstition with ominous consequences. The film's plot involves kidnapping, a subject taken straight from the headlines in 1932, and covers sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, well jazz anyway. Note also the array of great players in supporting or cameo roles, some unbilled - Glenda Farrell in the reform school, Humphrey Bogart as a particularly vicious gangster, Allen Jenkins as one of the gang, Edward Arnold as the head of the kidnappers, Frankie Darro as as a schoolboy and Anne Shirley, billed as Dawn O'Day, playing Dvorak as a child. - "Female" is the oddest film in the bunch because it stars the sophisticated and dry Ruth Chatterton, a polished diva probably more suited to MGM gloss than gritty Warner's realism. Chatterton plays a business woman competing in a man's world until she meets her nemesis George Brent. The pre-code aspects of the film relate to Chatterton placing her sex life in a compartment with a string of lovers on call, but no time for true love. It is surprising. The film is very funny at times and Brent, who was married to Chatterton at the time, is excellent.
The prints of all the films are good enough, with "Three on a Match" particularly mint. The Warners group contain the original trailers. The set includes a first rate documentary on the pre-code era which neatly captures the intrigue of this short period as talkies evolved. The documentary, produced by TCM, largely confines itself to the products of MGM and Warners which of course are the TCM libraries. "Night Nurse" contains an entertaining commentary shared between 2 relaxed historians.
It is worth noting that the stars of all of these films are women, like the previous Forbidden Hollywood Series. The Hays Code curtailed the actions and attitudes of women, taking them out of the bedroom and boardroom and placing them back in the kitchen and lounge. For men, nothing really changed much. By the way, that's Bette Davis, who was very attractive in those days, on the cover.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Five Vintage, Unpolished Gems and an Excellent New Documentary Bring Pre-Code Hollywood to Life5 Mar. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Those who enjoyed Volume One of Turner Classic Movies' Forbidden Hollywood Collection will undoubtedly be thrilled by Volume Two. Before the Hays Code neutralized the sexually oriented behavior that could be shown in Hollywood movies for over three decades, there was a crop of movies that reflected a more laissez-faire attitude toward risqué subjects like promiscuity, homosexuality and drug use. Three films were presented over two discs in Volume One, and five are presented here over three discs along with a new seventy-minute documentary produced specifically for this set and aired on the TCM network.
Disc One contains two early classics starring Norma Shearer, 1930's "The Divorcee" (***1/2) and 1931's "A Free Soul" (****). Along with Garbo, Shearer was fast becoming MGM's prestige star at the time thanks to some degree to her marriage to the mythic studio head Irving Thalberg. However, she was also uniquely talented as proven by the diversity of her films. Although she is remembered today more for her later roles in the title role of 1938's Marie Antoinette and as the virtuous center of 1939's The Women, Shearer plays Jerry Martin, the blazing center of "The Divorcee" in which she plays a carefree young wife who cheats on her husband after he carelessly cheats on her. Instead of treating her in Scarlet Letter fashion, the film takes a refreshing look at the double standards between men and women when it comes to adultery. Naturally, they eventually regret their behavior but not before a lot of alcohol-fueled hell-raising with their fair-weather friends.
In comparing the two Shearer vehicles, I find "A Free Soul" the more interesting film because it has some sizzling dialogue from screenwriter Adela Rogers St. John and an uncommonly powerful cast that includes Clark Gable, Leslie Howard and Lionel Barrymore. She plays Rogers St. Johns' alter ego, Jan Ashe, the free-spirited daughter of an alcoholic attorney (Barrymore) who successfully defends mob leader Ace Wilfong (Gable) in a murder case that is eerily prescient of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial. Jan gets hot and steamy over Ace, even though she is engaged to the socially acceptable Dwight (Howard). The inevitable complications occur with alcohol abuse, gambling and murder. Although not a natural temptress like Garbo, Shearer manages to imbue her role with an effective carnality mixed with her innate nobility. Gable was in his sinister period, while Barrymore pulls out the stops as her father, especially in the climactic murder trial scene. As an indication of public acceptance of these racy films, Barrymore won an Oscar for his role here, as did Shearer for "The Divorcee".
Disc Two is a Warner Brothers double-header with the studio feeling like the working class cousin to the glossier MGM. Both films barely run an hour, and not a scene is wasted in these fast-moving vehicles. The first is 1932's "Three on a Match" (****), which follows three schoolmates over the course of a dozen years. Joan Blondell plays Mary Keaton, the dropout who goes to reform school for her wild ways; a bottle-blonde Bette Davis plays class valedictorian Ruth Wescott who becomes a stenographer; and the forgotten Ann Dvorak plays popular Vivian Revere who marries a wealthy lawyer and has a son. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the film is most intriguing for the way the plot twists the characters' fates. In a very early role, Davis barely registers as Ruth, but Blondell is terrifically likable showing how Mary turns her life around. Bearing a striking resemblance to Luise Rainer, Dvorak gets the meatiest role as Vivian as she descends from bored socialite to unrepentant cocaine addict. It's a mesmerizing turn capped by a shocking finale. A very young Humphrey Bogart shows up in a minor role as what else, a gangster.
The second half of Disc Two is 1933's "Female" (****), the most intriguing of the five films as it manages to be a sociological statement as well as a romantic comedy. Directed by Michael Curtiz, it centers on Alison Drake, the powerful CEO of an automobile company. There is great fun watching her order her subservient male staff around like a drill sergeant and using them for inappropriate conjugal visits at her palatial estate to satisfy her desires. Naturally, she meets her match in auto designer Jim Thorne first in a meet-cute situation and then in a battle of wills at the company. Ruth Chatterton (the selfish wife in Dodsworth) is wonderfully game as Alison, while the usually bland George Brent (her real-life husband at the time) complements her well as Jim. The ending is trite but inevitable. Pay attention to the fascinating Art Deco set decorations, including the use of Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House as Alison's mansion.
Disc Three contains 1931's "Night Nurse" (***1/2), a tense melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck in the title role as Lora Hart assigned to take care of the two young daughters in a wealthy family. However, she uncovers a plot hatched by their alcoholic mother to kill the girls in order to steal their trust funds with the assistance of a nasty chauffeur and a corrupt doctor. Directed by William Wellman, the movie features several risqué moments with Stanwyck and pal Joan Blondell dressing and undressing in their uniforms, as well as moments of unexpected violence. Again, Clark Gable shows up in a sinister role as the chauffeur and slaps Stanwyck around with convincing malevolence. While I prefer her work in 1933's "Baby Face" on Volume One, no one shined more than Stanwyck in these pre-code films since her non-nonsense manner was a perfect fit for the era's candor and directness.
The 2008 documentary on Disc Three, "Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood" (****1/2), offers a fascinating overview of the pre-code period before 1934 when the Legion of Decency helped bring about strict adherence to the Hays Code. It offers plenty of clips from both famous and obscure films of the period including those on the Forbidden Hollywood Collection. Some are surprising such as scenes cut from 1933's King Kong, one where the giant ape strips the gown off Fay Wray and another where people are literally eaten and crushed. My favorite is the nude sequence with a body double for Maureen O'Sullivan swimming provocatively with Johnny Weissmuller in 1934's Tarzan and His Mate. Several people provide comments including the late Jack Valenti (who developed the film rating system still in use today), social critic Camille Paglia and director John Landis. As for extras, film historians Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta provide informative and often enthusiastic commentary tracks for "The Divorcee" and "Night Nurse". The original theatrical trailers are included for "Three on a Match", "Female" and "Night Nurse".
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Love and sex, pre-Code style25 Aug. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
There were a few years in movie making when sound was first introduced but the Production Codes had not yet been in force. These codes would severely limit the ability of movies to depict the real world: sex, violence and corruption were toned down - often to the point of sheer blandness. Crime could never pay, authority figures were always forces of good and even married couples were confined to twin beds. There were those few years, however, from the late-1920s to 1934 which was known as the pre-Code era, a period that offered films that would be much more daring than the movies of just a few years later.
TCM's set, Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two, showcases five such pre-Code movies. On the first of three discs are a pair of Norma Shearer films. In The Divorcee, she won an Oscar as a wife who discovers that her husband had an affair. Although he assures her it means nothing, it is an obvious hypocrisy that's exposed when she balances the books with an affair of her own. In A Free Soul, she defiantly has a fling with gangster Clark Gable, only to discover that the relationship will have unintended complications. Lionel Barrymore, playing her alcoholic father, won an Oscar for his role and Gable's performance would help transform him from a supporting player into a star.
On Disc Two, there is Three on a Match and Female. The former is a story of three schoolmates who meet in adulthood. Joan Blondell is the bad girl turned good, Ann Dvorak is the good girl turned bad, and Bette Davis is somewhere in the middle. This movie features an early gangster role by Humphrey Bogart. Female has Ruth Chatterton as the driven owner of an auto company. She works hard by day and chooses various male employees to be her playthings at night. It's a fine arrangement until she meets George Brent as the one man who resists her charms.
Finally, on Disc Three, Barbara Stanwyck is the Night Nurse, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks who betters herself by becoming a nurse. Unfortunately, the ethics of the profession compel her to look the other way when she sees malpractice, but she'll put what's right above what's required. Clark Gable is in one of his most villainous roles as a thuggish chauffeur out to kill a couple children. The resolution of this one would involve an act that would never be allowed under the Code.
Also on the third disc is a nice documentary called Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood. This feature describes more fully what this era meant to film, and what it meant when it ended. One thing that stands out is that this was a time where actresses could have juicy roles, a heyday for Blondell, Davis, Stanwyck and Shearer as well as folks like Crawford, Hepburn and Loy. The Code with its "family values" agenda would pigeonhole the women into much more limited roles.
All these movies are well-made and relatively short: the longest (A Free Soul) runs 93 minutes and Female is just an hour. With the documentary and a couple commentaries (on The Divorcee and Night Nurse), this is a wonderful set that will not only entertain, but serve as a reminder as to what the Production Code took away from movie making.