On May 28, I posted an announcement about an upcoming event which I would be co-hosting, Pre-Code vs. Pro-Code. This event was a PowerPoint presentation at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. I was invited to co-host this presentation on pre-Code Hollywood by bestselling author, glamour photographer, and Hollywood historian Mark A. Vieira. This event was in connection with the sale and signing of his newest book, Forbidden Hollywood: When Sin Ruled the Movies. You can read the original announcement for this event here.
The event was a great success! There was a large and engaged audience. Mr. Vieira’s PowerPoint worked seamlessly, and the visuals were vivid. During the actual presentation, Mr. Vieira and I took turns discussing the events and specific pre-Code films which led to the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. Afterward, there was a question and answer session. That was my real chance to explain the Code, the Breen Era, and their most misunderstood facets. This was the first time I have ever had a chance to provide live, unscripted answers to candid questions about the Code from an audience. I am so grateful to Mr. Vieira and the staff of the library for giving me this opportunity!
The Los Angeles Library, led by Russell Pyle, filmed this event. I want to thank the very kind Mr. Pyle and his team for their excellent two-camera footage, which has been beautifully edited into one comprehensive video. I have embedded that video below. If you can’t play the video at this page, you can see the original Vimeo posting here.
The above video contains several video clips from pre-Code films. These were chosen and included by Mark Vieira to illustrate his points about pre-Code Hollywood. Some of them are quite explicit in their content. If you want to be fully convinced of just how bad pre-Code films were, by all means watch the entire video. If, however, you do not want to see violence or nudity, please consult the below list, in which I have documented the timing and content of the film clips. In addition, bear in mind that, throughout the rest of the presentation, there are some photographs which contain indecency and nudity.
- Red-Headed Woman (1932) – 3:25-4:10 – Jean Harlow speaking suggestive dialogue, shot of a garter on her leg.
- A Free Soul (1931) – 15:08-16:07 – Norma Shearer delivering suggestive dialogue with Clark Gable, lustful embracing.
- Rasputin and the Empress (1932) – 21:34-22:35 – Disturbingly flirtatious behavior of Lionel Barrymore toward a young girl.
- Sign of the Cross (1932) – 24:26-25:12 – Frightening footage of crocodiles (alligators) about to eat an almost naked young woman as crowds morbidly watch.
- Sign of the Cross (1932) – 26:01-26:53 – Scantily clad woman dances obscenely as on-lookers watch lustfully and kiss passionately.
- She Done Him Wrong (1933) – 27:44-28:30 – Mae West in low neckline exchanges suggestive dialogue with Cary Grant.
- King Kong (1933) – 30:30-30:42 – Sparsely dressed Fay Wray is held, tickled, and sniffed by the titular giant ape.
- So This is Africa (1933) – 31:04-32:01 – Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, dressed as native women, are captured by native men as mates, with much suggestiveness.
- Cavalcade (1933) – 32:04-32:52 – Shots of a party featuring a series of suggestive romantic couples, including a woman with a very low neckline.
- Hold Your Man (1933) – 33:30-34:01 – Footage of viewers lustfully watching scenes of passion in film, including shots of excessive kissing from previous clips.
- I Loved an Artist (1934) – 36:51-37:40 – Two young women refer to a salacious magazine story, mocking its moral-minded ending and scheming about immoral relationships.
- Search for Beauty (1934) – 37:55-38:09 – Gertrude Michael looks at Buster Crabbe in a bathing suit, lustfully focusing her binoculars on the lower half of his body.
- Search for Beauty (1934) – 38:11-38:18 – Naked men are seen totally unblocked from the rear in a locker room scene.
- The Scarlet Empress (1934) – 39:03-42:02 – Torture scenes of graphic and excessive brutality and violence, including some nude victims.
If you don’t want to see this offensive pre-Code content, I highly suggest that you just watch the question and answer sequence, which occupies the last half-hour of the video. There are no slides or videos, just questions from the unseen audience and answers from Mr. Vieira and me. This section begins at 47:24 and lasts until the end of the video.
Do you think Pre-Code or Pro-Code won? Watch the video and leave a comment with your opinion!
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