Friday, 20 February 2015

Wild Bill Wellman and his resume of Precode Oscar ‘should-have-beens’

This is my entry to the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon hosted by Kellee, Aurora and Paula from Paula's Cinema Club. To check out the other posts from the blogathon as well as other great cinema related content click here  
Classic film fans – like flavours of ice-cream – are not all the same. They have different main tastes, like sweet or citrus. Prefer diverse additions, as conflicting as chocolate topping and nuts and some even have movie length preferences akin to the cone versus cup ice cream debate. Still comparing sweet treats and the film industry, if director William Wellman aka Wild Bill’s career was condensed into an ice-cream flavour it would be lemon gelato mixed with dark chocolate covered in sprinkles and dried apricots. Wild Bill, as his son William Wellman Jr later dubbed him, made films in pretty much every conceivable mainstream genre and all – except arguably his brief turn into musicals – proficiently. Looking for a great drama – think ‘Public Enemy’ (1931) or ‘A Star is Born’ (1937). An entertaining and fast-paced war film – ‘Wings’ (1927). A screwball comedy with the great Carole Lombard herself – ‘Nothing Sacred’ (1937). A western for a Sunday afternoon – ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ (1943). And even if you has a craving for a weird musical/ mystery film starring a barely clothed Barbara Stanwyck, Wellman offers ‘Lady of Burlesque’ aka ‘The G-String Murders’ (1943).
 
 Wellman said in a 1978 interview:
 
“I've only had one real desire in this business: to make every kind of picture that was ever made. And I did. I made musicals, I made kid pictures, I made romantic comedies, the whole list. I'm very proud of that. Now, how many directors have done that?”
I first noticed Wellman in the old fashioned credits of some of my all time favourite Precode films, like ‘Midnight Mary’ (1933), ‘Safe in Hell’ (1931) and ‘Night Nurse’ (1931). To me he seems a genius at creating fast-paced, hard-hitting Depression-era ‘social issue’ pictures. His ability at shooting action scenes and clear love and experience with planes came to my attention in ‘Wings’ (1927) which, despite its lack of sound, I simply loved. I wasn’t surprised to read, therefore, that ‘Wings’ (1927) received the Academy Award for Best Picture in the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.
Wellman seemed to make pictures for almost every taste and mood and exceptional pictures at that. But, looking into Wellman’s overall connection with the Oscars I was disgusted to read that Wellman never won an Academy Award for his directing achievements. He received a Best Writing Oscar for the original story for Star is Born and was otherwise nominated for Best Director for ‘The High and the Mighty’ (1954), ‘Battleground’ (1949) and ‘A Star is Born’ (1937) but lost.
Looking at his films, I couldn’t understand it. Wellman must have had a strange apathy for the system and the Academy that was then reciprocated. If you look at some of Wellman’s comments it is clear he hated the ego that went with the Hollywood system.
“I have never gotten along with actors. Oh, Joel McCrea was all right. And, like I said, Bob Taylor I was very fond of. But, you see, actors are different. Women look in a mirror all their lives to make themselves pretty and attractive and that's one of the reasons you fall in love with them. But a man looking in a mirror all the time, saying lines to himself, looking at his face to see which is the best photographic angle . . . Well, one of two things happens. Either he learns to love the son of a bitch that he's always looking at or he learns to hate him. All the actors I've known learn to love him.
“Did I like working with Wayne? Even though he's the greatest star this business has ever had, hell, no!... The problem is, he's a very set guy. Stubborn as hell. And he doesn't get along with directors, except for two. He gets along with Ford and he gets along with me. The only time we had trouble, I called him on it.”

“I am the director, not Mr. Wayne or Mr. Cagney or Mr. Colman. And they knew it. Women always used to hate working with me, because I wouldn't let them use make-up.”
“A lot of people will say, "How frightful to talk that way about the 'Art' of motion pictures." Well, whatever you want to call it, I had my own way of making a motion picture. I worked very fast; and no one ever over-acted in one of my pictures. That I couldn't stand. I had my own idea of making a picture and I made it my own way. And I got damn well paid. Certainly I wanted the money. I wanted to get to the point where I'd never have to work again if I didn't want to. When I got to that point, it wasn't as nice as I thought it would be. Now, I don't go to see many pictures because I don't want to get the fever again.”
Wellman could never be classified as egotistical, was definitely modest about his talents and generally didn’t take any crap from anyone. In Hollywood terms he probably wasn’t great at playing the game. Perhaps that is why his contemporaries at the academy did not give him the amount of critical acclaim that I believe he deserved.
Instead of focusing on his career as a whole, I have decided to highlight Wellman’s best Precode features none of which – other than Wings (1927) – received honours at the Academy Awards. Here’s my Wellman Precode top 5:    

5) Safe in Hell (1931)
This film is one of the best of the Precode era. It shows off a complete disregard for the code in almost every element of production especially its choice of trailblazer Dorothy Mackaill as leading lady. Mackaill plays Gilda Karlson, a New Orleans prostitute who is never ashamed nor conscientious about her employment. She seems utterly relaxed about her life of sex, alcohol and cigarettes until she is again confronted by Piet Van Saal (Ralf Harolde) her ex-lover and man responsible for turning her into a street walker. During the fight she attempts to shoot him but fails. Van Saal escapes and everyone assumes he was murdered with Gilda the clear perpetrator. About to flee herself, her old sailor boyfriend, Carl Erickson (Donald Cook) returns and smuggles her to safety to the Caribbean island of Tortuga in order to avoid extradition. After an unofficial wedding ceremony, Erickson leaves Gilda to return to his ship. She finds herself stuck in a hotel filled with criminals and degenerates. Desperately fighting to stay faithful to Erickson, she fends of countless men trying to seduce her. But poor Gilda seems to attract trouble and she falls into a trap of blackmail, lust and sweet wine.  
 
4) Wild Boys of the Road (1933):
‘Wild Boys of the Road’ is probably the grittiest and most confronting of all Wellman’s Precode social dramas. It examines the lives of seven young teens who without reliable families or social security to support them are forced to become hobos and live on the street. The main teens, Tommy Gordon (Edwin Phillips) and Eddie Smith (Frankie Darro) leave home with the aim of finding jobs to support their unemployed fathers and families. They hop aboard a freight train and meet other struggling teenagers along the way. They become attached to Sally (Dorothy Coonan) who is journeying to Chicago hoping that her aunt will give her a place to live. The three teens experience the harrowing facts of depression era America from police antipathy and brutality to rape, hunger, death and, for Tommy, the loss of a limb. Surprising the film manages to end on a high note with society rewarding the teens spirit, tenuousness and integrity.       
 
3) Midnight Mary (1933)
 
This films is Wellman and Loretta Young at their best and, like several Warner Bros dramas, highlights the effects of poverty and lack of opportunity on the futures of young people. On trial for murder, Mary Martin (Young) relives her childhood and life leading up to the crime. Through flashback the audiences experiences her beginning as a child rummaging through garbage at the dump, her short term in juvenile detention after unjustly being convicted of stealing a pocketbook and her involvement with gangsters. With no job or family to turn to, she becomes the girlfriend of gang ring-leader Leo and lives in luxury from the proceeds of their crimes. Fashion enthusiasts will drool over her beautiful, Art Deco Adrian creations she adorns as Leo’s kept woman. Mary soon realises her lifestyle is reliant on her remaining on Leo’s very short leash and becomes dissatisfied with her choices. During a heist she meets rich, playboy Tom (Franchot Tone) who falls in love with her and acts to drag her from her life of crime and Leo’s manipulation. Her relationship with Tom, brings Mary’s innate goodness to the surface and she has to make the choice between redemption and escape.
 
2) Wings (1927)
This movie is definitely worthy of the word, epic, and I would consider it in the same league as North and South or Gone with the Wind. It has romance, long fight scenes, mateship, and a significant historical event to cloud the lives of the character, just not sound. In 1917, Jack Powell (Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers) is a normal young man with dreams of becoming a pilot, his best friend is his neighbour the playful, boyish and reliable Mary (Clara Bow). Poor Mary is secretly in love with Jack but he is smitten by the belle of the region the delicate and beautiful Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston) who is, unfortunately, in a ‘sort-of’ relationship with David Armstrong (Richard Arlene). Soon, the war is upon the happy community and both David and Jack enlist in the aviation corp. They begin as enemies – both rivals for the love of Sylvia – but later bond over the training and develop mutual respect for each other. They are rapidly graduated flyers and begin patrolling the area. Later, Jack and David are back at the front. Strangely, David has a premonition of his own death and warns Jack to organise his belongings. During an air battle, David steals an enemy plane and takes flight. Jack is heading back to the base when he sees the enemy plane David is driving – but he does not see him and shoots it down. Wanting a souvenir of his victory, he lands near the site and recognises the dying soldier as his friend. In that moment Jack realises he has killed David. As well as the wonderful battle scenes, this film also includes an awkward man-on-man kiss and a brief vision of Clara Bow’s breasts to entice you.    
 
1) The Public Enemy (1931)
Probably the most well-known of Wellman’s Precode features, The Public Enemy (1931) has received a cult following in recent decades due to its examination of the quintessential depression era gangster and the iconic ‘grapefruit scene’. The plot progresses through from central character, Tom Powers’ (James Cagney) every life as a petty thief and criminal with is friend Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) onto his rise as the leader of a bootlegging gang to his fall and then death. Powers seems to excel and enjoy his life of crime but keeps the favour of his dotting mother (Beryl Mercer). Powers and Doyle are virtually inseparable as the move from a small gang into operating directly under gang leader Samuel ‘Nails’ Nathan (Leslie Fenton) as bootleggers. With their increasing wealth they attract girlfriends in Kitty (Mae Clarke) and Mamie (Joan Blondell) but Powers soon moves onto the attractive and gold digging Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow). With a prolonged prohibition, the bootlegging game becomes more lucrative. After the death of Nathan, a rival gang triggers an all-out war. This initiates kidnappings, gun battles and murder.          

Monday, 8 December 2014

Name that Star (because I can't)

I was going through a couple of Photoplay Magazines and came across this picture. Perhaps I am overthinking things but is this really a picture of Una Merkel? It does say it’s her in the blurb but the image has no resemblance to the actress I know and love in several classic Precode films. I have added a few more Merkely pictures after. What does everyone else think?

The Questionable Merkel Portrait:
 


The Usual Merkel:




Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Norma Shearer and Manic Pixie Dream Boys

Who’s that girl? It’s not Jess, it’s not even Norma, it’s the men Miss Shearer seemed to gather around her in almost every film role. In her Pre-code performances Shearer is not relegated to a supportive role nor is she doomed to a one-dimensional outlook or perpetually unalterable journey. In most cases she is in a constant struggle between a life of sexual and emotional liberation and an existence of a conventional wife and mother. Some might say in even a ‘soulful’ or ‘brooding’ manner. Her adventures through films from 1929 to 1934 are constantly peppered by the standard array of male leads. Unlike the screen heroes of the 1940’s and 50’s, these male counterparts display flowery, emotional qualities and seem to pander only to the wants of Shearer’s more domineering persona. They appear to mirror the characteristics of the typical subordinate, quirky female roles of the 21st Century, recently more controversially coined ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girls’ (MPDG).



A term created to label certain two-dimensional figures, such as, Kirsten Dunst from Elizabethtown (2005) and Natalie Portman from Garden State (2004), the MPDG was considered an only female apparition. However, the unusual power and masculinity of Shearer’s protagonists almost compels the creation of a weaker, eccentric and subservient stereotypes, the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Boy’ (MPDB). Usually embodied by her usual stock of husbands, boyfriends, lovers or male friends, such as, Robert Montgomery, Chester Morris, Leslie Howard or Clark Gable, the MPDB’s function solely for Shearer’s development and happiness.
The problem with assigning strict labels is of course what is a MPDG and, therefore, her male counterpart? Film critic Nathan Rabin originally invented the phrase as a tool for his comprehensive demolition of the film Elizabethtown in a 2007 review. Rabin encapsulated the figure beautifully as a, “bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries.” Thus, she has four must-have qualities:
1) She is irresistibly attractive (mostly over and above the male lead);
2) She, in turn, finds her male lead irresistibly attractive;
3) She’s static, unchanging and completely devoted to her male lead; and finally,
4) She is, whether through her behaviour or style, completely crazy.
It seems inevitable that this perfect collection of characteristics has an even more rigid and obvious set of traits for the male protagonist. Rabin thankfully gave the MPDG’s classic love interest equal attention. Accordingly, these men are suitably troubled, unable to embrace life and generally gloomy or depressed. A person perfectly in need of some adventure and whimsy.   
This seems a perfect fit for almost every Zooey Deschannel and insert-older-male-actor off beat romantic comedy, but this isn’t the 1930’s. Or is it. The early 30’s films were a great era for a kind of gender swap. Women were running the show – relationships (in and out of marriage), businesses, money and most of all men. Their male counterparts were, in many cases, just along for the ride. Enter Norma Shearer, the queen of the dominating screen performance and MPDBs. Take her breakout talkie The Divorcee (1930), a film where Shearer – on discovering her husband (Chester Morris) has been unfaithful – decides to ‘settle their account’ by sleeping with his best friend (Robert Montgomery). This is the catalyst for Shearer to break away from an unfulfilling marriage into a culture of free sex, country-hoping and minimal clothing. In this movie it is Shearer who is ‘finding herself’ and seeking fun and freedom not Morris. He, as well as her long array of boyfriends and one-night-stands, are just present, assisting Shearer’s emotional development and always irrevocably in love/desire with her.                
Norma Shearer with her suitors in The Divorcee (1930)
Case Number 2 – A Free Soul (1931) with Shearer alongside veteran actor, Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable and Leslie Howard, plays another sex-obsessed young woman with set ideas about love and marriage. Again, Shearer is torn between convention and adventure with a struggle between her perfect, conservative boyfriend and her ex-convict, gangster lover. Also, again Gable and Howard seem to be a backdrop for Shearer’s inner conflict and external exploits by following, almost unquestionably, with every one of her impulses. Her next picture, Private Lives (1931) brought a changeup from Shearer’s typical role. She plays a divorcee, who recently remarried is enjoying a lavish honeymoon on the French Rivera. Unbeknownst to Shearer, her former husband (Montgomery) also on his second honeymoon is staying in an adjourning suite. Private Lives is full of feisty physical fights and passionate makeups between Shearer and Montgomery. Although not completely in alignment with the other two films, it is completed dominated by the fluidly sexual yet controllingly and masculine, Shearer.

Fast-forward three years and Shearer is back to her old games. Riptide (1934) is very much in the same vein as her earlier two films. A few years into a marriage with a stuffy English Lord (Herbert Marshall), Shearer becomes tempted by an old flame (Montgomery). While her husband is away she enjoys nights of drinking, wild escapades and a night of wild sex before returning, at the close, to her contrite husband. The supposed metamorphous of Marshall into a more loving, present husband is overshadowed by Shearer’s extramarital adventures. Her actions are an attempt to revaluate her marriage and experience the liberty of a single woman. It is her journey and he is simply reacting to it.

Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in A Free Soul
In this succession of four films, Shearer has created a profile for the MPDB and his irresistible mistress. She is troubled, wrestling between a desire for freedom and a need to stay within the parameters of society’s conventions. Her lovers provide a source of adventure through sex, free expression and lots of partying and alcohol. Likewise, the male co-stars seem to fit a more male exploration of the stock character made famous by Deschannel. They are extremely boyish or pixie-like, with their adolescent obsessions with Shearer. An example Montgomery and Nagel’s characters as her illicit lover’s in Divorcee, they follow after her like puppy dogs desperate for her attention and body. Check one. In most cases they are idyllically assembled; with perfectly fitted costumes, grooming, chiselled bodies and handsome faces. Clearly a physical ideal in the dreams of women. Check two. Although they do not display the obvious emotional mania, there is a clear moodiness about these almost identical characters. Most – evident in Gable’s character in A Free Soul – flit between uncontrollable desire to cold rejection towards Shearer as she grows and changes. A kind of side effect of their Peter Pan-like need to stay young. Not complete insanity but definite, mania. Check three. Lastly, there maleness is mostly undisputed. Check four.

Although, made before the creation of the controversial term MPDG, the small grouping of Norma Shearer films from 1929 to 1934 seem to be probably the only incarnation of the male counterpart at work. Rabin himself seemed to allude that because of the precise mixture of vulnerability, craziness and sprite-like traits, a male version in film was unlikely if not mythical. But Pre-code is not like any other era in movies and was a perfect breeding grown for the very real MPDB. 
Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer in Riptide
 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Free Pre-code Screenings

Running from 26 September – 2 November 2014, the Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema festival is a celebration of the best films of the era. Making use of a rare selection of prints from museums and collections all over the world, it is not to be missed. Unfortunately, the collection is only screening at Brisbane at Australian Cinémathèque, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The films will be screening during the months of October and November and best of all its free! All the film information and timings are below:


QAGOMA 50+ After Hours | Screening and Talk
Forbidden Hollywood: Jewel Robbery 1932
5.30pm Thursday 30 October | Cinema A, GOMA
Following a screening of the high-spirited Jewel Robbery 1932 (68 mins), join Michael Brooks from Brisbane’s Cine Retro Film Society, in conversation with ‘Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of pre-Code Cinema’ curator Amanda Slack-Smith, Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA for insights into this fascinating period of Hollywood cinema. Free, bookings required. For more information on how to book for this program, please visit QAGOMA 50+.

SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER 2014
26.09.14 l 6.00pm l Alfred E Green Baby Face 1933
26.09.14 l 7.40pm l Ernst Lubitsch Trouble in Paradise 1932
27.09.14 l 1.00pm l Jack Conway Red-Headed Woman 1932
27.09.14 l 3.00pm l Clarence Brown Possessed 1931
28.09.14 l 1.30pm l John Francis Dillon Call Her Savage 1932
28.09.14 l 3.30pm l Victor Fleming Red Dust 1932

OCTOBER 2014
1.10.14 l 6.00pm l Clarence Brown – Possessed 1931
03.10.14 l 6.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Shanghai Express 1932
03.10.14 l 7.45pm l Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus 1932
04.10.14 l 1.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Trouble in Paradise 1932
04.10.14 l 3.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Design for Living 1933
05.10.14 l 1.00pm l Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933
05.10.14 l 3.00pm l Alfred E Green – Baby Face 1933
08.10.14 l 6.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Design for Living 1933
10.10.14 l 6.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Little Caesar 1931
10.10.14 l 7.30pm l Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson –
Scarface 1932
11.10.14 l 1.00pm l Jack Conway – Red-Headed Woman 1932
11.10.14 l 2.30pm l Victor Fleming – Red Dust 1932

12.10.14 l 1.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus 1932
12.10.14 l 3.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Shanghai Express 1932
15.10.14 l 6.00pm l Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933
17.10.14 l 6.00pm l Michael Curtiz – Female 1933
17.10.14 l 7.15pm l William Dieterle – Jewel Robbery 1932
18.10.14 l 1.00pm l Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson – Scarface 1932
18.10.14 l 3.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Little Caesar 1931
19.10.14 l 1.00pm l Lowell Sherman – She Done Him Wrong 1933
19.10.14 l 2.30pm l Wesley Ruggles – I'm No Angel 1933
22.10.14 l 6.00pm l Wesley Ruggles – I'm No Angel 1933
24.10.14 l 6.00pm l William A Wellman – The Public Enemy 1931
24.10.14 l 7.30pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Gold Diggers of 1933 1933
25.10.14 l 1.00pm l Lloyd Bacon – 42nd Street 1933
25.10.14 l 3.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Gold Diggers of 1933 1933
26.10.14 l 1.00pm l William Dieterle – Jewel Robbery 1932
26.10.14 l 2.30pm l Michael Curtiz – Female 1933
29.10.14 l 6.00pm l Lowell Sherman – She Done Him Wrong 1933

NOVEMBER 2014
01.11.14 l 1.00pm l I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932
01.11.14 l 3.00pm l Charles Brabin – The Beast of the City 1932
02.11.14 l 1.00pm l Dorothy Arzner – Christopher Strong 1933

Little Caesar 1931
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 79 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCERS: HAL WALLIS, DARRYL F ZANUCK / SCRIPT: FRANCIS FARAGOH, ROBERT N LEE / BASED ON THE W R BURNETT NOVEL ‘LITTLE CAESAR’ 1929 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: TONY GAUDIO / EDITOR: RAY CURTISS / CAST: EDWARD G ROBINSON, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS JR, GLENDA FARRALL, WILLIAM COLLIER JR / MUSIC: ERNO RAPEE / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FIRST NATIONAL PICTURES (WARNER BROS PICTURES) / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
"Little Caesar was the inspiration of Warner Brothers production chief Darryl F Zanuck, who in 1931 decided to exploit current headlines sensationalizing gangster activities. On seeing the financial success of Little Caesar, the studio continued to capitalize on the style. Little Caesar was a product of the studio factory, but because it was made before the gangster formula had rigidified, its terse and economic style has a raw power which isn't lost on audiences today. Robinson's Caesar Enrico ('Rico') Bandello set the standard by which all later gangsters rose and fell." Kathy Geritz, Pacific Film Archive.
 
 
The Public Enemy 1931 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM A WELLMAN / PRODUCER: DARRYL F ZANUCK / SCRIPT: KUBEC GLASMON, JOHN BRIGHT, HARVEY THEW / CINEMATOGRAPHY: DEV JENNINGS / EDITOR: EDWARD MCDERMOTT / CAST: JAMES CAGNEY, JEAN HARLOW, EDDIE WOODS, MAE CLARK / MUSIC: DAVID MENDOZA / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINEMENT

'In the film that made Cagney a star, William Wellman's genre classic chronicles 'Public Enemy' Tom Powers's rise from slum kid to adolescent hood and finally to big-time bootlegger. The prologue deplored society's glorification of the gangster, but Powers's cocky arrogance and callous violence fascinated audiences. His ruthless pursuit of eminence, unrestrained by law and order, was after all another version (albeit corrupt) of the American success story. Socially irredeemable, Powers earned his title, just as viciously shooting a man as a horse, brutally smashing a grapefruit in a woman's face, strong-arming beer hall owners, and even disappointing his mother. Public Enemy was unusual among gangster films in its detailing of immigrant family life and urban environment, and its depiction of a life of crime as a reaction to Depression society with few opportunities for (lawful) success.' Kathy Geritz, Pacific Film Archive


Possessed 1931 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 76 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN / DIRECTOR: CLARENCE BROWN / PRODUCERS: IRVING THALBERG, CLARENCE BROWN, HARRY RAPF / SCRIPT: EDGAR SELWYN, LENORE J COFFEE / CINEMATOGRAPHY: OLIVER T MARSH / EDITOR: WILLIAM LEVANWAY / CAST: JOAN CRAWFORD, CLARK GABLE, WALLACE FORD, FRANK CONROY / MUSIC: DOUGLAS SHEARER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE: FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE / RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS

‘Crawford portrays a small-town factory girl who hops a train for New York, leaving her boyfriend and illusions behind at the station; both will find and haunt her before the story is played out. Possessed is a great example of how the studio system paid off artistically: it was not the combined names, but the combined talents of the stars, Clark Gable and Crawford, and the director, Clarence Brown, that raised the film from its melodramatic roots to achieve a lasting integrity and elegance.’ Pacific Film Archive


Shanghai Express 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 82 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: JOSEF VON STERNBERG / PRODUCER: ADOLPH ZUKOR / SCRIPT: JULES FURTHMAN, HARRY HERVEY / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES, JAMES WONG HOWE / EDITOR: FRANK SULLIVAN / CAST: MARLENE DIETRICH, CLIVE BROOK, ANNA MAY WONG, WARNER OLAND / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

'The highly atmospheric sets, coupled with photographer Lee Garmes’ famed soft-focus shots, give Shanghai Express a dream-like quality that is highly appropriate for a film about China that was filmed largely in the San Fernando Valley. Sternberg himself said, “I thought the canvas of China as evoked by my imagination quite effective. The actual Shanghai Express, when I took it out of Peking, was thoroughly unlike the train I invented.” On this train, Dietrich tells Clive Brook, “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lilly,” throwing his five year torch for her into an ambivalence that doesn’t stop rocking until the train stops rolling. Sternberg’s most colorful and langorous film, Shanghai Express is a kind of Grand Hotel and Stagecoach combined, in which the hierarchy of characters (including Anna May Wong at her sultriest) develops against the bombardment from without by revolutionary troops. But being single-mindlessly Sternberg, it is above all a paean to unconditional love, the importance of which is only underscored by its improbability.' Pacific Film Archive 
 

The Beast of the City 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 87 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: CHARLES BRABIN / PRODUCER: HUNT STROMBERG / SCRIPT: JOHN L MAHIN / BASED ON THE W R BURNETT STORY ‘BEAST OF THE CITY’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: NORBERT BRODINE / EDITOR: ANNE BAUCHENS / CAST: WALTER HUSTON, JEAN HARLOW, WALLACE FORD, JEAN HERSHOLT / MUSIC: ROBERT SHIRLEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'Based on a story by W. R. Burnett, one of the most prolific writers of gangster novels and scenarios, The Beast of the City begins with a spiel by President Hoover and ends with a police mow-down of gangland racketeers. In between, a tough, tense story is given added impetus by an interesting play of character types and an unusually detailed depiction of police methods. Walter Huston portrays an honest cop who angers some important people in his attempts to put a suave, powerful racketeer (Jean Hersholt) in the clink. Further obstructions encountered in the line of duty come from his own crooked brother (Wallace Ford) and his brother’s girlfriend (Jean Harlow), who has intimate connections in high places. In The Great Gangster Films, authors Parish and Pitts note, “The Beast of the City never attained the public popularity of Metro’s earlier The Secret Six or Dance, Fools, Dance (both 1931), for it was too uncompromising in its study of gangland versus law enforcer practices, without the usual overdose of romantic interest.”' Pacific Film Archive
 

Scarface 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTORS: HOWARD HAWKS, RICHARD ROSSON / PRODUCER: HOWARD HUGHES / SCRIPT: BEN HECHT, SETON I MILLER, JOHN L MAHIN, W R BURNETT / BASED ON THE ARMITAGE TRAIL NOVEL ‘SCARFACE’ 1930 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES, L W O’CONNELL / EDITOR: EDWARD CURTISS / CAST: PAUL MUNI, ANN DVORAK, KAREN MORLEY, GEORGE RAFT / MUSIC: ADOLPH TANDLER, GUS ARNHEIM / PRODUCTION COMPANY: THE CADDO COMPANY  / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
“Loosely based on the career of Al Capone, Scarface was released as ‘the gangster film to end all gangster films,’ but in fact triggered off a whole series of imitations. It is Hawks’ best prewar film.... Its violent visual style, its cutting, and its cynicism and sense of character are as arresting today as they were then. Screenwriter Ben Hecht and Hawks create a world for Scarface and his mob that is not unlike the court of the Borgias in Renaissance Italy with similar intrigues, double crosses, and gratuitous murders. Scarface himself is more arrogant and stupid than his counterpart in Von Sternberg’s Underworld and gets to the top only through ambition and the fact that he has what was then a new absolute weapon, the machine-gun. His lieutenant, Little Boy, is characterized by his habit of perpetually flipping a coin, and other mobsters are identified by their own special peculiarities of behavior - a device often imitated in (later) gangster films”. Georges Sadoul, Pacific Film Archive


Red-Headed Woman 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 79 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH, FRENCH / DIRECTOR: JACK CONWAY / PRODUCER: PAUL BERN / SCRIPT: ANITA LOOS / BASED ON THE BOOK BY KATHARINE BRUSH 'RED-HEADED WOMAN' 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: HAROLD ROSSON / EDITOR: BLANCHE SEWELL / CAST: JEAN HARLOW, CHESTER MORRIS / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS
 
‘The first of Jean Harlow's starring roles had her bedding her way from poor girl to rich wife and then even richer liaisons. Red-Headed Woman features Harlow at her most hilariously wanton. Unfettered by scruples or brassiere, this most avid of gold diggers launches a relentless campaign to wrap her charms around her married employer. Red Headed Woman was a target of censorship even in this relatively forgiving era. Anita Loos's script is blithely cynical about the exchange of sex for privilege, and blunt about the sometimes brutal power of lust (when her lover slaps her, Lil says, "do it again, I like it"—so he does). The film's audacity is still jaw-dropping, from the opening dialogue—"Can you see through this?" "I'm afraid, you can, dear." "I'll wear it!"—through to the ending, in which crime is not only unpunished, but positively celebrated.’ Pacific Film Archive

 
Jewel Robbery 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 68 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM DIETERLE / PRODUCER: HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: ERWIN GELSEY / BASED ON BERTRAM BLOCH’S ENGLISH ADAPTATION OF THE LADISLAUS FODOR PLAY ‘THE JEWEL ROBBERY’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: ROBBERT KURRLE / EDITOR: RALPH DAWSON / CAST: WILLIAM POWELL, KAY FRANCIS, HELEN VINSON / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'As the dapper criminal known simply as 'The Robber,' William Powell requires no machine guns to hold up a plush Vienna jewelry shop. Plying his victims with marijuana cigarettes and the police with blonde female witnesses, he gingerly relieves the shop of its diamonds; it’s as easy as slipping a bracelet off a woman’s wrist while kissing her hand. Kay Francis stars with Powell as Baroness Teri, who comes to realize that the love of a jewel thief is even more exciting than the jewels themselves. A sophisticated, Lubitsch-like caper, Jewel Robbery was called in the original New York Times review, “nervous, brittle comedy.... The situation is as capricious, the dialogue as sprightly and the settings as sinfully luxurious as they ought to be.”' Pacific Film Archive


Blonde Venus 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 93 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/EDITOR: JOSEF VON STERNBERG / SCRIPT: JULES FURTHMAN, S K LAUREN / CINEMATOGRAPHY: BERT GLENNON / CAST: MARLENE DIETRICH, HERBERT MARSHALL, CARY GRANT, RITA LA ROY / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING, JOHN LEIPOLD, PAUL MARQUARDT, OSCAR POTOKER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Marlene Dietrich portrays ex-cabaret singer Helen Faraday, who is forced to hang up her apron and return to the stage when her husband Ned (Herbert Marshall) becomes sick. Billed as ‘The Blonde Venus’ for her exotic dance routine, Helen strips out of a gorilla suit to don a jeweled, blonde afro wig. Millionaire politician Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) is intoxicated by Helen and offers her money for her husband’s medical treatment in exchange for an affair. Helen agrees, partly to save her husband and partly succumbing to the animal magnetism of the handsome millionaire. When Ned finds out, Helen is forced to flee into the wilds of the Deep South with their son Johnny (Dickie Moore) away from her embittered husband who wants to keep them apart.

 
Trouble in Paradise 1932 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/EDITOR/PRODUCER: ERNST LUBITSCH / SCRIPT: SAMSON RAPHAELSON, GROVER JONES / BASED ON THE LASZLO ALADAR PLAY ‘THE HONEST FINDER’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: VICTOR MILNER / CAST: MIRIAM HOPKINS, KAY FRANCIS, HERBERT MARSHALL / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING, LEO ROBIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

‘In this exquisite gem of a comedy, Gaston (Herbert Marshall) and Lilly (Miriam Hopkins) are outlaw lovers—jewel thieves masquerading as European sophisticates, and relishing the charade. The film is a masterpiece of Lubitsch style, in its love triangle (enter Kay Francis) played out in a confounding architecture of space; its verbal wit, taking full advantage of polyglot Europe; and its tossed-off politics (no one fails to mention "times like these"). But Trouble in Paradise also exemplifies a quality in films that would soon be lost with the Code, what James Harvey (in Romantic Comedy) calls "that community of cleverness that exists not only between the leading characters in the film but between the film and its audience....Gaston and Lilly not only rob[bing] other people but each other as well—simultaneously copping feels and property." Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive

 
Red Dust 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: VICTOR FLEMING / PRODUCER: HUNT STROMBERG, IRVING THALBERG / SCRIPT: JOHN MAHIN / BASED ON THE WILSON COLLISON PLAY ‘RED DUST’ 1928 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: HAROLD ROSSON, ARTHUR EDESON / EDITOR: BLANCHE SEWELL / CAST: JEAN HARLOW, CLARK GABLE, GENE RAYMOND, MARY ASTOR / MUSIC: DOUGLAS SHEARER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT

“Don't mind me, boys. I'm just restless...Guess I'm not used to sleeping nights anyway”…hot-blooded, Vantine (Jean Harlow) finds herself stranded on a rubber plantation with overseer Dennis Carson (Clark Gable). Having dodged solicitation charges in Saigon, she settles into a casual affair with Carson as both feign a jaded disinterest in love. When an ill surveyor arrives with his well-bred wife, Carson’s eye begins to wander with unwanted consequences. Harlow sizzles in this racy Pre-Code film as the tough platinum blonde who nails her acerbic one liners with enviable comic timing.
 

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 93 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCER: HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: HOWARD J GREEN, BROWN HOLMES / BASED ON THE ROBERT E BURNS AUTOBIOGRAPHY ‘I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A GEORGIA CHAIN GANG’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITOR: WILLIAM HOLMES / CAST: PAUL MUNI, GLENDA FARRELL, HELEN VINSON, PRESTON FOSTER / MUSIC: BERNHARD KAUN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'The Depression forms the backdrop for a harrowing tale of a man's wrongful imprisonment, escape, and fated return. Few Hollywood feature films of its era succeeded as this one did in portraying the mechanisms of the real world as overpoweringly surreal. Based on a true-life exposé, the film had measurable results in reforms made in Southern prison conditions. And the depiction of a Georgia chain gang, with men in striped uniforms chained together, their backs also striped with whip marks, has lost none of its power with time. In this print, the rich chiaroscuro effects achieved by LeRoy and his cinematographer have been meticulously preserved. Paul Muni's haunted, sculptured face functions as a visual element in itself.' Pacific Film Archive


Call Her Savage 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: JOHN FRANCIS DILLON / PRODUCER: SAM E RORK / SCRIPT: EDWIN BURKE / BASED ON THE TIFFANY THAYER NOVEL ‘CALL HER SAVAGE’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES / EDITOR: HAROLD D SCHUSTER / CAST: CLARA BOW, GILBERT ROLAND, THELMA TODD, MONROE OWSLEY / MUSIC: LOUIS DE FRANCESCO / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FOX FILM CORPORATION / PRINT SOURCE: MUSEUM OF MODERN ART / RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS

Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Turner Classic Movies.
‘Former "It" Girl Clara Bow blazed her way into the 1930’s with this scorching cautionary tale about a Texas debutante gone bad. Adultery and miscegenation, strict taboos of the Hays Code, are mere details in Nasa "Dynamite" Springer's whirlwind life of spirited rebellion and debauchery. One of the most beloved films of pre-Code aficionados, Call Her Savage features a fascinating Hollywood recreation of a Greenwich Village cabaret, complete with a gay bar and a slumming expedition. A subversive and wickedly entertaining film.’ Harvard Film Archive
 

The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 88 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: FRANK R CAPRA / PRODUCER: WALTER WANGER / SCRIPT: EDWARD PARAMORE / BASED ON THE GRACE ZARING STONE NOVEL ‘THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN’ 1930 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: JOSEPH WALKER / EDITOR: EDWARD CURTISS / CAST: BARBARA STANWYCK, NILS ASTHER, TOSHIA MORI, WALTER CONNOLLY / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING / PRODUCTION COMPANY: COLUMBIA PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PARK CIRCUS / SCREENING FORMAT: DCP
 
'Subtle eroticism and splendid exoticism: an atypical Capra classic, set in China in the midst of civil war. Barbara Stanwyck plays a prim New England missionary who falls in the thrall of a ruthless but noble Chinese bandit (Swedish actor Nils Asther in a painstaking makeup job), who kidnaps her and keeps her in his summer palace. Controversial in its day for its depiction of interracial romance, Bitter Tea remained one of Capra’s 'pet' films—what he called “Art with a capital A.” And it is indeed reminiscent of the films of Josef von Sternberg, with its exalted visuals and glowing lighting by Joseph Walker creating a ninety-minute 'dissolve' between dream and  reality. It is the dream of a woman trying to see herself through General Yen’s idealistic vision of women as “beautiful fruit trees,” the reality being far more sexual than that. Stanwyck embodies the troubling contradiction by distancing herself from it in a cool performance.' Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


She Done Him Wrong 1933 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 66 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: LOWELL SHERMAN / PRODUCER: WILLIAM LEBARON / SCRIPT: MAE WEST, HARVEY THEW, JOHN BRIGHT / BASED ON THE MAE WEST PLAY ‘DIAMOND LIL’ 1928 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: CHARLES LANG / EDITOR: ALEXANDER HALL / CAST: MAE WEST, CARY GRANT, OWEN MOORE, GILBERT ROLAND / MUSIC: HARRY LINDGREN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY HARRY DACRE, CHARLES HARRIS, FRANK PANELLA / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

'Mae West purrs to Cary Grant one of the most often quoted (and misquoted) lines in movie history: "Why don't you go up some time and see me. I'm home every evening." Practically every piece of dialogue in this film from Prohibition America is a sexual bomb. Luckily, the Mae West vehicle slipped through the door before the Production Code became firmly entrenched in Hollywood; after its implementation, the unflappable lady had her wings pinned. She Done Him Wrong is a true Mae West showpiece. The pretty men who vie for her attention are mere ornamentation-no more than a diamond brooch. Even the usually irresistible Cary Grant is accessorized: he had not developed his thick Euro-suave persona, and he leaves the spotlight to his more flamboyant co-star.' Nguyen Khoa, Pacific Film Archive
 

42nd Street 1933 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 89 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: LLOYD BACON / PRODUCERS: DARRYL F ZUNACK, HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: RIAN JAMES, JAMES SEYMOUR / BASED ON THE BRADFORD ROPES NOVEL ‘42ND STREET’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITORS: FRANK WARE, THOMAS PRATT / CAST: WARNER BAXTER, DICK POWELL, RUBY KEELER, BEBE DANIELS, GINGER ROGERS, UNA MERKEL, NED SPARKS, GUY KIBBEE / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY AL DUBIN, HARRY WARREN / CHOREOGRAPHY: BUSBY BERKELEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT

'The first of the Warner Brothers musicals cine-choreographed by Busby Berkeley, 42nd Street is also the archetypical 'backstage' musical, Ruby Keeler making her film debut as the classic unknown chorus girl who gets her first break when the show's star (Bebe Daniels) gets hers, in the ankle. The lucky hoofer generally has a boyfriend or rooming house neighbor who is an undiscovered song writer; here it is Dick Powell. The cast includes Una Merkel as a wisecracking chorine ("My, you have the busiest hands!"), and Ned Sparks as a cigar-chomping 'theatrical expert,' as well as Ginger Rogers. But the best part about 42nd Street is its show-within-a-show, with numbers like 'Shuffle Off to Buffalo,' staged on a train bound for Niagara Falls, 'You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me,' and 'Young and Healthy,' sung by Powell surrounded by a fur-clad chorus.' Pacific Film Archive
 

Christopher Strong 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 78 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: DOROTHY ARZNER / PRODUCER: DAVID O SELZNICK / SCRIPT: ZOE AKINS / BASED ON THE GILBERT FRANKAU NOVEL ‘CHRISTOPHER STRONG: A ROMANCE’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: BERT GLENNON / EDITOR: ARTHUR ROBERTS / CAST: KATHERINE HEPBURN, COLIN CLIVE, BILLIE BURKE, HELEN CHANDLER / MUSIC: MAX STEINER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: RKO RADIO PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
 
‘Katharine Hepburn's first starring role, as world-champion aviatrix Cynthia Darrington (a character modeled in part on Amelia Earhart), was directed by Dorothy Arzner, then the only woman film director in Hollywood. The film's feminist statement goes beyond the question of the fulfilled professional woman to that of female heroics-the desire for thrills. As critic Gerard Peary wrote in 1933, "Hepburn demonstrates with the certitude of an Isadora Duncan that a woman's true happiness comes through intense, front-seat participation in an exciting profession...Conversely, the same happiness can be squandered away, the talented woman's life wasted, if she should misdirect this energy toward some egocentric man, such as Christopher Strong's titular hero, actually non-hero [played by Colin Clive]." Pauline Kael, looking back on the film, wrote, "[Strong] was drawn to her because, unlike his conventionally feminine wife (Billie Burke), she had audacity and independence...But as soon as they went to bed together, he insisted, late on the very first night, that she not fly in the match she was entered in...I don't know of any other scene [in movies of the thirties] that was so immediately recognizable to women of a certain kind as their truth...It is the intelligent woman's primal post-coital scene, and it's on film." Cynthia Darrington's solution to the problem is found in an aerial climax of startling ambiguity, one which may reflect the 'problem' represented by a proto-feminist triad-Arzner, writer Zoe Akins and Katharine Hepburn-coming in for a landing in Hollywood.’ Pacific Film Archive


Gold Diggers of 1933 1933 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 96 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCER: ROBERT LORD / SCRIPT: ERWIN GELSEY, JAMES SEYMOUR / BASED ON THE AVERY HOPWOOD PLAY ‘THE GOLD DIGGERS’ 1919 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITOR: GEORGE AMY / CAST: JOAN BLONDELL, RUBY KEELER, DICK POWELL, ALINE MACMAHON / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY AL DUBIN, HARRY WARREN / CHOREOGRAPHY: BUSBY BERKELEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT
 
‘Busby Berkeley was a dance designer, turning people into visual elements and the camera into an omniscient eye reveling in angles impossible for the mere mortal to obtain. Despite his rather benign reputation as an entertainer, Berkeley's imagination was truly bizarre, even a tad sinister; provocative in a mischievous way if you were paying attention, and there's no reason to think people in 1933 were not. Ginger Rogers sings 'We're In the Money' in pig Latin, backed by chorines wearing coins over their private parts; in 'Pettin in the Park,' Berkeley cuts to such strange details as a caged chimpanzee on a cookie box, a voyeuristic midget, and women's metallic bathing suits which men must pry open with can openers. Well, it's the Depression, dearie, and it's a jungle out there, as the working-girls plot of Gold Diggers of 1933 cynically demonstrates. The haunting 'Forgotten Man' number is at once a non sequitur and perfectly apt.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


Baby Face 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 76 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: ALFRED E GREEN / PRODUCERS: WILLIAM LEBARON, RAYMOND GRIFFITH / SCRIPT: GENE MARKEY, KATHRYN SCOLA / BASED ON A STORY BY DARRYL F ZANUCK (AS MARK CANEFIELD) / CINEMATOGRAPHY: JAMES VAN TREES / EDITOR: HOWARD BRETHERTON / CAST: BARBARA STANWYCK, GEORGE BRENT, DONALD COOK, MARGARET LINDSAY / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
 
'Notorious for being one of the films which hastened the stricter enforcement of the Production Code in 1934, Baby Face was also one of the first to be pulled from theatres when those restrictions finally went into full effect. The fast-paced, raw story of a woman who uses sex to increase her wealth and power still has the ability to shock. Barbara Stanwyck is Lily Powers, a bootlegger’s daughter. Her father pushes her to offer sexual favours with the beer she serves to the factory workers who frequent his speakeasy. When he dies in a still explosion, she watches with numb fascination, neither happy nor sad to finally be rid of him. Taking the advice of the local cobbler, the only man in town who values her mind over her body, she hops a train to New York with her maid, in search of a better life. There she picks a high-rise she likes and seduces her way from the office boy in the personnel department all the way up to the president in his penthouse suite.' Kendahl Cruver, Senses of Cinema


I’m No Angel 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 87 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WESLEY RUGGLES / PRODUCER: WILLIAM LEBARON / SCRIPT: MAE WEST / BASED ON A STORY BY MAE WEST / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEO TOVER / EDITOR: OTHO LOVERING / CAST: MAE WEST, CARY GRANT, GREGORY RATOFF, EDWARD ARNOLD, RALF HAROLDE / MUSIC: HERMAN HAND, HOWARD JACKSON, RUDOLPH G KOPP, JOHN LEIPOLD, HEINZ ROEMHELD / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
‘For Tira the Lion Tamer in the film famous for "Beulah, peel me a grape," Mae West wrote many an indelicate line, the entendres doubled by her inimitable delivery. Made just before the crackdown, it's a kind of farewell to screen sex, a demonstration reel not only for censors but for producers, as well: in Tira's various audiences—from slavering sideshow suckers to society dames who find her fascinating, to judge and jury in one of the great courtroom routs—they could see just what they stood to lose. One of West's funniest films, it's also her boldest, as Tira, cheered on by her biggest fans (her maids), grows from tawdry temptress into her mantle of "Feminine beauty, triumphant and unafraid." The prize is real passion; it's guaranteed you'll be thinking about the same thing Tira and her society hottie Cary Grant are at the film's close.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


Female 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 60 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTORS: MICHAEL CURTIZ, WILLIAM A WELLMAN / PRODUCER: ROBERT PRESNELL SR / SCRIPT: GENE MARKEY, KATHRYN SCOLA / ADAPTED FROM THE DONALD HENDERSON CLARK NOVEL ‘FEMALE’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SID HICKOX / EDITOR: JACK KILLIFER / CAST: RUTH CHATTERTON, GEORGE BRENT, LOIS WILSON, JOHNNY MACK BROWN / MUSIC: LEO F FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FIRST NATIONAL PICTURES (WARNER BROS PICTURES) / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

‘Ruth Chatterton is Alison Drake, the owner of an automobile factory who, like a latter-day Catherine the Great, keeps a stable of studs chosen from among her comeliest male employees. But as soon as any of them show signs of wanting some romance along with their sex, Alison cuts them loose. She finally meets her match in the form of George Brent – Chatterton's real husband at the time – who drives her nuts by resisting her entirely. Sadly overlooked today, Chatterton was one of the greatest female stars of the pre-Code era.’ Harvard Film Archive 


Design for Living 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: ERNST LUBITSCH / SCRIPT: BEN HECHT / BASED ON THE NOEL COWARD PLAY ‘DESIGN FOR LIVING’ 1933 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: VICTOR MILNER / EDITOR: FRANCES MARSH / CAST: FREDRIC MARCH, GARY COOPER, MIRIAM HOPKINS, EDWARD EVERETT HORTON / MUSIC: JOHN LEIPOLD / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
 
‘Three expatriate Americans in Paris—a struggling painter (Gary Cooper), an unpublished playwright (Fredric March), and their self-appointed critic and muse (Miriam Hopkins)—resolve to establish a platonic garret dedicated to art. But a dusty couch calls, and soon the lady is switching with casual promiscuity from one friend to the other. The ménage à trois has its complications, to be sure (the men "love" each other, too), but they have nothing to do with virtue. "Don't let's be delicate, let's be crude and objectionable," says Hopkins (who could never be any of those things) to Edward Everett Horton (who, as a representative of propriety, is all three). This is one of Lubitsch's most underrated films, perhaps for the sin of adapting Noel Coward's play to film's requirements (big stars) and Lubitsch's obsession—sets that speak louder than dialogue. The crowded garret is a Borzagean heaven, the outsized world of success a muse's idea of hell.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive.
 
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