Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pre-Code Movies


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.

6 comments:

Gina said...

Hey, Shell, I was poking around in my pantry today and found a 2 liter of sprite. Sorry I could have hauled it out for you yesterday if I had only known it was there. Thamks for stopping by and making my BATW day so nice.

Sacred Suzie said...

I am sad to say I don't know any of these! I'm also sad to say that we don't get Turner Classics here, one of the things I lost in the move. How I *heart* that channel. I will have to see if I can find these movies some other way!

mermaid musings said...

I love watching movies and in regards to your previous post yes, i am looking forward the colder days because that's when i get to watch movies and the food network too. Great post and thinking ;-)
p.s. I love Cary Grant!

Gramma 2 Many said...

You made me think of Driving Miss Daisy. I think it is post code but the relationship there was one that went far beyond driver and lady of the house. I do not mean it went in a sexual way, but there was definitely a love between the two of them that was taboo. It is one of my favorite movies.
Thank you so much for stopping by to see me on Monday BATW. It is taking me so long to get my notes out because I have to stop and read each blog as I go. Love yours. Please come back and visit with me at any time.

Shell said...

Gina, I'll be back for that sprite. Suzie, you may be able to order some old movies from your library. That's what I did at mine. If you love Cary, then you check out the movies he did with Mae West. He was so young in those. Gramma2many, you are so right. Driving Miss Daisy is a moving love story. Most people forget that.

Clarity said...

I adore this post. Twenties and Thirties movies are among my favourites and I seem to have missed most of these - Our TCM tends to show modern films more now, which is missing the point sadly.

The only one I have seen of those is Dinner at Eight. So want to see the rest. Have you seen " The Blue Angel"? that's a pre Hay's code one that stars Cary and Marlene, a remake of her german film so it has a certain european feel too.