4 items from 2016
Barbara Stanwyck’s spiky strumpet literally sleeps her way to the top in Baby Face, the Sui Generis of gleefully prurient pre-code films that made Warner Bros. ground zero for gloriously salacious entertainment before Will Hays and his fun-killing code spoiled the party. Though Stanwyck’s character engages in some situations that would raise eyebrows even in 2016, she naturally has a heart of gold and and poker-faced George Brent is the lucky fella who benefits (for the time being, at least). Director Alfred Green (Invasion U.S.A.) specialized in fast-paced, low-budget exploitation fare but thanks to Stanwyck’s all-out performance, Baby Face remains his most memorable achievement.
- TFH Team
I’ve always been fascinated by the duality of Pre-Code cinema, which is talked up in classic film circles as a sin-fueled dungeon of excess, but in most cases simply uses outlandish scenarios to moralistic ends. Baby Face might be about a woman sleeping her way to the top of society, but Barbara Stanwyck still has to realize love is more important than all the riches she’s accrued. Scarface might glorify violence, but Paul Muni will still get his in the end. Indulgence and retreat; enjoy the highs, but shape up or be doomed. Similarly, in the 1970s, after the Motion Picture Production Code was shattered and a wave of sex-fueled odysseys came rushing to the screens, they tended to strike out familiar territory, using their exploitative qualities to reinforce the status quo. So it is with The Swinging Cheerleaders. Jack Hill’s 1974 cheapo gets high on its topless women and under-the-table groping, »
- Scott Nye
It’s easy to see an anti-feminist “Just look what happens to women who break the rules” underneath what is most obviously simply straight-up salaciousness.
Baby Face is a 1933 Hollywood film from the moment just before the so-called Hays Code, which had been created in 1929 but hadn’t had much in the way of teeth, began to be seriously enforced… and it’s pretty clear that outrage over this movie helped contribute to the push for the Code to claim its power to censor. This movie may represent the pinnacle of cinematic “offenses” that pre-Code films committed that had conservatives and self-appointed morality police up in arms: Baby Face is blatantly, openly about sex in a way that few movies ever are, even today. Even “worse,” it’s about a woman using the power of sex to get ahead in the world.
Whether or not Baby Face was seen in »
- MaryAnn Johanson
Woo hoo! The pre-Code marvels return for one last go-round -- tales of sin and moral turpitude but also serious pictures about social issues that the Production Code effectively swept from Hollywood screens -- financial crimes and ethnic bigotry. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 10 Guilty Hands, The Mouthpiece, Secrets of the French Police, The Match King, Ever in My Heart DVD-r The Warner Archive Collection 1932-1934 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 63, 62, 78, 85, 70 min. / Street Date October 27, 2015 / available through the WBshop / 40.99 Starring Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, Madge Evans; Warren William, Sidney Fox, Aline McMahon; Frank Morgan, Gwili Andre, Gregory Ratoff Rochelle Hudson; Warren William, Lili Damita, Glenda Farrell, Claire Dodd; Barbara Stanwyck, Otto Kruger, Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Donnelly. Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad, Barney McGill; Alfred Gilks; Robert Kurrie; Written by Bayard Veiller; Joseph Jackson, Earl Baldwin, Frank J. Collins; Samuel Ornitz, Robert Tasker; Houston Branch, Sidney Sutherland, Einar Thorvaldson; Bertram Millhauser, Beulah Marie Dix. »
- Glenn Erickson
4 items from 2016
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