Hot Saturday (1932)
This month Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Friday Night Spotlight Series will feature Classic Pre-Code. Pre-Code is the term used for films made between the late 1920’s and early 1934, when studios made titillating and so-called scandalous movies, even when a Production Code had been in place since 1930. After many protests from civic groups, women groups, and some religious groups, Hollywood producers and studios were forced to implement the Production Code with several morals clauses; such as, “You cannot have a film that would lower the moral standards of someone that would see it.” “You cannot show a criminal getting away with something, there must be payment or retribution for his crime.” “No sympathy for criminals.” “You cannot present adultery or scenes of passion attractively.” “No lustful kissing.” “No man or woman in bed together.” The list goes on and on.
In my humble opinion as a film historian, I find the pre-code films are for adults and tastefully done for the most part. It is not like porn, the way some reviewers react. They giggle at hearing a bad word or seeing woman undress. I do not see that at all.
If you want to find out more may I recommend Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira. I consider it to be the best resourced book on the subject. Mark Vieira is its foremost authority, and it is packed with tons of photographs.
Three Wise Girls (1932). Starring Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Marie Prevost. Three girls look for rich husbands. A simple storyline; I saw this movie a while ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially like the soda fountain scenes, something that was once so prevalent in America, sadly missing today.
Lady Killer (1933) Starring James Cagney, Mae Clarke, and Margaret Lindsay. A comedy about a gangster who gets mixed up in Hollywood. In the movie, Cagney’s character starts out as a theater usher and we get to see the actual uniform the usher would wear at Warner Brothers own theater. Also, Cagney mistreats poor Mae Clarke again.
Possessed (1931) Starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Joan is a shop girl who falls in love with a politician. This movie is most known for the chemistry between Gable and Crawford, which was 100% real! She was married in real life to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Gable was married to Ria Langham. They were both unhappy in these marriages and had a torrid love affair.
The Mind Reader (1933) Starring Warren William, Constance Cummings, and Allen Jenkins. I have not seen this film, and it is very rare. Warren William is con artist who tries to goes straight after he falls in love.
Beauty and the Boss (1932) Starring Warren William, Marian Marsh, Charles Butterworth and David Manners A banker tired of being attracted to his secretaries hires a frumpy girl.
Waterloo Bridge (1931) Starring Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass, and Bette Davis. A prostitute falls in love with a soldier in France during World War ll. Mae Clarke is superb in this movie struggling through poverty and the shame in what she has to do to keep herself alive. However, poor Kent Douglass who plays the soldier she falls in love with is really out of place here. The director, James Whale, worked with him intensely, but he still cannot act.
Hot Saturday (1932) Starring Nancy Carroll, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Lilian Bond, Jane Darwell, and Rose Coghlan. This is a film which I am very excited to tell you about because I am completely obsessed with it! I cannot remember how many times I have watched it! In it your typical American “Flapper” Ruth Brock (Carroll) works as a bank clerk in a small town that according to the opening titles: “Marysville boasted of one bank, two fire engines, four street cars, and a busy telephone exchange. Everyone knew on Sunday what everyone else did on Saturday... and the rest of the week.” Although Ruth is a “good girl” it seems no matter what she does her mother (Darwell) disapproves. When lies spread about her after she attends a party at Willow Springs (a lake) things change for her. will she end up with an old friend of the family (Scott) or the newly arrived playboy in town (Grant?) This movie was Cary Grant’s first lead role and it is very easy to see why he rapidly ascended to stardom. Lillian Bond is SO beautiful that you wonder why she was not more popular. The real treat of this film is of course its star, Nancy Carroll. It is a shame that she is not more remembered today. She was one of Paramount’s biggest stars of the 1930’s. Though I have seen very little of her performances from what I have seen, I consider her one of the finest actresses to ever grace the screen. A very strange “Pre-Code Element” of this film is a scene where Ruth comes home to change clothes and finds out her sister is wearing her “unmentionables”. Let’s just say it is one of the strangest sister confrontations I have ever seen! The scene in the Willow Springs dance hall with the song I'm Burning for You by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow is one of those things that make me think I was born in the wrong time! With the music, clothes and excellent cinematography it just personifies the late 1920’s early 1930’s era for me!
Blonde Crazy (1932) Starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern, Guy Kibbee, and Ray Milland. Cagney and Blondell work at a hotel and con people out of their money. Of course, with those two aboard, watch for fast talking and wisecracks! Joan Blondell with poor, unassuming Guy Kibbee is also a riot. This movie also became famous for another Cagney line, “That dirty double-crossin’ rat!” For years Cagney impressionists used the line as “Mmmm, you dirty rat!”
Skyscraper Souls (1932) Starring Warren William, Maureen O’Sullivan, Verree Teasdale, and Anita Page. A man obsessed (William) with his new 100 story building in New York will do anything to control every aspect of the building and the lives of everyone in it. I don’t know how anyone could not love this film. What’s not to love. Between the beautiful art deco set and Warren William’s ramblings about “the building,” (which he also has an apartment in)! This film to me has one of the greatest Pre-Code casts ever. And although I love Grand Hotel, I feel this film is a hundred times better. William plays a perfect scoundrel as usual. He’s rotten, but you can’t help but like him. Maureen O’Sullivan is so young and delicate here, just coming off her role as Jane in Tarzan. I always feel that she is overlooked for her other roles because of that. She has so much more to offer. But the real reason I am writing about this is I finally get to put a plug in for my first movie crush, Miss Anita Page! She is not in this film much, so if you don’t know her, it’s probably not the best film to introduce her in. However, she steals any scene she is in.
For the other films listed for TCM, please check your local listings for the times.
Hope you watch and enjoy!!!
Note: Due to technical difficulties Images from the rest of the films listed will appear in the photo galleries below.
Waterloo Bridge (1931)
Blonde Crazy (1932)