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Sin and Vice in Black & White: 15 Classic Pre-Code Movies Kindle Edition
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Mr. Alistair explores the history of the Motion Picture Production Code, and introduces us to the Hays Office and the Motion Picture Association of America. His educational method really helped explain exactly what a pre-Code Hollywood movie was, listing the guidelines to which each motion picture produced in the US must adhere. "Within these guidelines were very specific restrictions dealing with nudity, suggestive dances, illegal drug use, sex perversion and illicit sex, among others." As Mr. Alistair states further, "These films weren't pornographic" While certain forbidden subjects were not dealt with directly, "They did, however, allude to these incidents and others." As our reliable author says in the closing remarks of his introduction to this book, "The films discussed here are by no means the only ones worth their salt as movie offerings during this period, nor are they the best or the worst. They are a good sampling."
The lead and supporting actors and actresses, as well as the directors of these movies, are some of the best-known and well-loved during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In my previous reviews of Mr. Alistair's books, I feel that I may have done him a great disservice by going into too much detail of the individual subjects discussed, whether they be movies or performers. This time around, I will merely list the movie titles and the major players in each, along with the directors. As stated above, some of these names will be familiar to you while others will be greeted with a, "Who?"
1. "Ladies Of Leisure' (1930) stars Barbara Stanwyck, Ralph Graves, Lowell Sherman, Marie Prevost and Nance O'Neil (who was a friend of the notorious Lizzie Borden!), directed by Frank Capra.
2. "Paid" (1930) stars Joan Crawford, Robert Armstrong, Marie Prevost, Kent Douglass (later Douglass Montgomery) and John Miljan, directed by Sam Wood (who later took over directing "Gone With the Wind" when Victor Fleming walked off the picture).
3. "Girls About Town" (1931) stars Kay Francis, Joel McCrea, Lilyan Tashman, Eugene Pallette and Alan Dinehart, directed by George Cukor.
4. "Waterloo Bridge" (1931) stars Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass (later Douglass Montgomery), Doris Lloyd, Frederick Kerr, Bette Davis and Ethel Griffies, directed by James Whale.
5. "Safe in Hell" (1931) stars Dorothy Mackaill, Donald Cook, Ralf Harolde, John Wray and Nina Mae McKinney, directed by William A. Wellman.
6. "Red-Headed Woman" stars Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams and Una Merkel, directed by Jack Conway.
7. "Kongo" (1932) stars Walter Huston, Lupe Velez, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Bruce and C. Henry Gordon, directed by William (J.) Cowen.
8. "Shopworn" (1932) stars Barbara Stanwyck, Regis Toomey, Zasu Pitts, Lucien Littlefield and Clara Blandick, directed by Nicholas (later Nick) Grinde.
9. ""Blonde Venus" (1932) stars Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant, Dickie Moore and Gene Morgan, directed by Josef von Sternberg.
10. "Red Dust" (1932) stars Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Gene Raymond, Mary Astor and Donald Crisp, directed by Victor Fleming.
11. ""I'm No Angel" (1933) stars Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold and Ralf Harolde, directed by Wesley Ruggles.
12. ""The Mind Reader," (1933) stars Warren William, Constance Cummings, Allen Jenkins, Natalie Moorhead and Mayo Methot, directed by Roy Del Ruth.
13. "Footlight Parade" (1933) stars James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Frank McHugh, directed by Lloyd Bacon.
14. "Dancing Lady' (1933) stars Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, May Robson and Fred Astaire, directed by Robert Z. Leonard.
15. "Mandalay" (1934) stars Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Warner Oland, Lyle Talbott and Ruth Donnelly, directed by Michael Curtiz.
And there you have it, the 15 movies Mr. Alistair has chosen to single out to represent pre-Code Hollywood. His descriptions for each movie are very well-detailed. I encourage you to purchase this book to find out more about a subject you may not know too much about. As Mr. Alistair states in his closing remarks in this well-written book, "Pre-Code movies offered a sometimes fun, sometimes raw, sometimes realistic, always entertaining look at life during turbulent times." With the advent of DVD compilations, pre-Code movies are available for home viewing,and good ol' Turner Classic Movies serves them up every now and then as well. THANK YOU, Mr. Alistair, for another film book worthy to be included in any movie fan's library! KUDOS GALORE on a job well done!!
This time, Mr Alistair tempts and teases us with 15 well written reviews of Pre Code gems, revealing just enough information to bring you to the edge of your seat, without giving away the entire plot, for those who have yet to see these films. His attention to detail goes so far as to explain phrases used in the scripts, as slang of that era, that had I not read his book, would have gone right over my head. Always fun to learn from this most competent author. He has become my "go to" guy for all things Classic Cinema. Reading his books, and following his blog, heightens my classic film viewing experience, and brings a greater sense of understanding about the studio system, it's directors and actors, and films of the Golden Age of Hollywood. One can only applaud his efforts, and anticipate his next literary endeavor.
What makes this book shine is not only the great lines Rupert cites from the movies themselves--"He's a man, isn't he?" and "I could cuss when I was six and I could say no when I was fourteen"--but Rupert’s own writing--”Occupation hip swinging” and, from "Loose Living Ladies Find Lots of Loot and Love to Boot": "Those former flappers make a lucrative living but don't relish the daddies who dish out the sugar."
You’ll find great lines from the stars themselves: “I was playing hookers before Harlow knew what they were!” (Joan Crawford.)
I love this book and Rupert’s writing. Highly recommended.
The films in this book feature many actors whose careers waned at the end of this pre-code era, such as Warren William, Mae West and of course Jean Harlow, whose meteoric career was cut tragically short.but many of the other stars such as Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford evolved into the new stricter era and enjoyed long and successful careers.
I particularly enjoy the combination of films because of the variety of topics, and also the different stars who are showcased. for anyone who is not familiar with these early days of film, I certainly recommend this book as an introduction!