It’s New Year’s Eve. We have now come to the end of 2019. That means that, here at PEPS, we are finished with our new Code film series of 2019, 52 Code Films. You can click on the previous link to visit the post in which I announced the series and listed all my articles. Let’s review the films we watched and reviewed during this series to see what we have discovered.
Per the agreement, I watched and reviewed one film every week, making a total of fifty-two new films which I reviewed. Naturally, all of these movies were American films from the Greater Breen Era (July of 1934 to 1954). Some weeks, I watched extra films which I didn’t review. In all, I watched eighteen additional new Code films besides my one per week. That means that I watched 70 new Code films in 2019!
Every time I reviewed a new Code film, I determined and explained its Code classification. You can read more about the factors I use to determine Code classifications here. The five classifications which I have created are good, fair, poor, non-Code, and perfect. Of those classifications, good means completely Code-compliant, fair means mostly Code-compliant, poor means somewhat Code-compliant with some more significant violations, non-Code means in basic violation of the Code, and perfect means free of all objections and containing extra inspiring qualities. Of the fifty-two new Code films I reviewed, twenty-four were good, eight were fair, five were poor, none were non-Code, and fifteen were perfect!
I’d say that these numbers reflect the general statistics of Code classifications in the Breen Era at large. I chose these films entirely randomly, so they are a mixed group, taken from throughout the twenty years of the Code’s enforcement. These figures reflect that most of the movies given PCA Seals of Approval were good Code films. The second largest category is perfect Code films, which are the best that Code films can possibly be. After that comes fair Code films, which usually were classified thus for one or two less decent costumes or a couple of slightly suggestive lines. Poor Code films were the smallest classification, being represented by only five films. Three of these films were automatically classified as poor because they featured divorce and remarriage; even if very wholesome, divorce and remarriage requires a poor classification, since it undermines the sanctity of marriage when presented among the sympathetic leads. Remarkably, I did not review any movies which I found to be non-Code films. Of the seventy movies I watched in all, only one movie was non-Code. That film was The Lady Eve from 1941, which I watched as an extra Code film one week. I suspected that that movie was from the Non-Code Era, the one year when Geoffrey Shurlock replaced Joseph Breen as the head of the PCA. You can read more about this strange year and the Code-violating films it produced here.
Every movie which I watched this year, even if less than a good Code film, would be rated G by the modern rating system. Code classification is a very intellectual form of nitpicking. The fact that we are able to scrutinize and classify Breen Era films so carefully shows what a great job the Production Code Administration did. The problems are so minute, yet the seem glaring compared with the comparative perfection of the most decent Code films.
I loved discovering these new movies! So many of them are absolute masterpieces which I can’t wait to re-watch. Only one of them is a film which I wouldn’t recommend, Three Coins in the Fountain, one of only two films which I classified as poor for a reason other than divorce and remarriage. Every other film should be very enjoyable to a classic film fan. They are all different, but they feature some of the greatest talent to every appear on the screen.
Stay tuned for my announcement about my series of new Code films for 2020!
Happy New Year!
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