Since May, I have been watching more Pre-code movies. This covers movies from 1929-1934 before The Motion Picture Code was strictly enforced. They are full of dames, gansters, divorce, illicit affairs and everything else thrown in. Kind of sound like today, right? The movies during this time period are very modern to me. The best ones are surprisingly fresh, witty and outrageous.
The ones I have seen recently are:
Christopher Strong (1933)- Kate Hepburn
She Done Him Wrong (1933)- Mae West and Cary Grant.
I'm No Angel (1933)- Mae and Cary (again).
Baby Face (1933)- Barbara Stanwyck.
Night Nurse (1931)- Barbara Stanwyck.
Dinner at Eight (1933)- Jean Harlow, John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore.
Imitation of Life (1934)- Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers.
What is curious to me as an African American actress is the way we are portrayed. In Baby Face, Barbara Stanwyck's best buddy is an African American woman named Chico (Theresa Harris). Chico is clearly her friend not her maid. She gets quite a bit of screen time. Of course, Imitation of Life with not only Louise Beavers in a leading role; also, Fredi Washington as her daughter Peola. Fredi was African American unlike the 1959 version that had a white actress play Peola. It is a frank tale of race and motherhood for the 30's.
They show pre-code movies on Turner Classic Movies all the time. So take a look. I'm sure you can also netflix them or take some out from your local library. You'll be entertained and surprised at the range of themes found in these movies.