The five racy Pre-Coders are: Those are films made before religious zealots, abetted by frightened studio heads it was the Depression, after all , put Hollywood movies in a chastity straitjacket that would last about three decades. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2, featuring the five films and the documentary more details below. I couldn't find any information on Thou Shalt Not, except that it's a minute production directed by Steven Smith.
As for the five Pre-Coders, there are good news and not-so-good news: First, the good news: I'm unfamiliar with co-commentator Tony Maietta's film history work. The best of the five features, all of which crackle with machine-gun dialogue, is probably Female, a racy comedy starring Ruth Chatterton as a liberated businesswoman who meets her match in the person of — ouch! Adding insult to injury, hunky Johnny Mack Brown is the film's second male lead.
Chatterton should have ended up with him. The ending is as painfully conventional as to be expected — the big studios have always pandered to the bourgeois values, no matter how dishonest, of mainstream audiences — but in its first two-thirds Female is as subversive as a Hollywood movie — then or now — is allowed to be. Chatterton is excellent as long as she remains the tough, sexually assertive female of the title; her performance falters, however, once her character turns all housewifey.
Chatterton and Brent were married at the time Female was made. They were divorced the following year. After watching the film, I — ever a sucker for happy endings — visualized the same fate for the on-screen characters.
Shearer did better work elsewhere e. The other men in her life are Conrad Nagel and Robert Montgomery. Shearer can also be seen in A Free Soul, for which she received a best actress nomination. She probably deserved it for the first half of the film, when she behaves like a spoiled, horny brat, having a jolly good time while being pushed around by tough guy Clark Gable. As her lawyer father, Lionel Barrymore delivers what is probably the very worst performance to ever win a best actor Academy Award.
Night Nurse is a middling William A. Wellman - Barbara Stanwyck effort about a nurse who tries to save her charge from greedy chauffeur Clark Gable. Joan Blondell , for her part, provides a few good wisecracks. But no matter how wise those two dames cracked, that sort of match-made-in-heaven was not meant to be. Not in any big-studio release in Three on a Match offers several solid dramatic moments, including a harrowing death near the end.
I won't say who dies. Of the 15 or so Dvorak movies I've seen, Three on a Match is by far her best showcase. Joan Blondell rounds out the female trio, while the usually excellent Warren William must — unfortunately — suffer nobly in this one. All five features have been shown a number of times on TCM. No real rarities are included in the series or on the DVD box set. Mark, by the way, is featured in Thou Shalt Not. Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood This documentary looks at how the social, financial and moral forces all helped shape one of the most intriguing periods in Hollywood history.
Norma Shearer won for Best Actress as a woman who confronts the hypocrisy of the double standard after catching her husband in a compromising position and forcing him to confess his infidelities. Her solution to the problem: In A Free Soul, Lionel Barrymore captured an Oscar for his portrayal of a brilliant alcoholic lawyer Stephen Ashe, who successfully defends dashing gangster Ace Wilfong Clark Gable on a murder charge only to find that his headstrong daughter, Jan Norma Shearer , has fallen in love with his client.
Jan, a fun-loving socialite seeking freedom from her blue -blood upbringing, is only too eager to dump her aristocratic boyfriend Leslie Howard for the no-good gangster. She runs away from her childhood home to become Ace's mistress, embarking on a series of seedy adventures in New York's underbelly.
Desperate to save his daughter's tainted reputation, Stephen finds her and makes her a deal: He'll stop drinking if she'll stop seeing Ace. The thrilling conclusion might just tear them apart forever.
Shearer and director Clarence Brown also received nominations for their work in this powerful and moving film. Director Mervyn LeRoy crams much plot into the 64 minute run time following each of the women 's lives. Mary is now a chorus girl after a stint in reform school; level-headed Ruth has a job as a secretary; and sexy Vivian is on the verge of deserting her wealthy husband Henry Kirkwood and their baby in favor of a glamorous gangster.
Alison oversees the daily operations of her male employees with a predatory gaze and frequently exercises her right to engage with them in any way she deems fit. She meets her match in an equally strong-minded new employee, Jim Thorne George Brent , and the two engage in a smoldering, contentious, sexually charged duel.
The action of the film — one of the first to depict a female character turning a man's world to her advantage — feeds on the novelty of presenting a woman as a corporate shark and bedroom hound. Though it's obvious the filmmakers thought they were creating a scenario that would never actually happen, Alison's world-smashing exploits make the bulk of the film before she begins to question her nontraditional lifestyle a protofeminist romp. Brent and Chatterton were married at the time they made the film, and the natural chemistry between them is abundantly evident.
Curtiz packs the screen with extravagant set design and period detail. Wellman's Public Enemy Night Nurse is a sassy, unsentimental comedy about a private pediatric nurse named Lora Hart Barbara Stanwyck who, after applying as an apprentice in a family home, discovers there is a plot afoot to starve her two rich, fat, young charges to death.
The culprit is the family's chauffeur, Nick Clark Gable , a villain who plans to marry the kids' dissolute mother and make off with their trust fund. Director Wellman keeps the jokes humming along with the peril. This never-before seen documentary, Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood examines the unique collision of events that resulted in one of the most dynamic — and delicious periods in Hollywood history — a fascinating mix of scandal, big business and social history.