Highlights from the pre-code picture era

by holly-s | created - 04 Apr 2018 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

My favorites from American cinema 1929-1934

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1. Iron Man (1931)

73 min | Drama

Prizefighter Mason loses his opening fight so wife Rose leaves him for Hollywood. Without her around Mason trains and starts winning. Rose comes back and wants Mason to dump his manager Regan and replace him with her secret lover Lewis.

Director: Tod Browning | Stars: Lew Ayres, Robert Armstrong, Jean Harlow, John Miljan

Votes: 180

2. Baby Face (1933)

Approved | 71 min | Drama, Romance

A young woman, sexually exploited all her life, decides to turn the tables and exploit the hapless men at a big city bank - by gleefully sleeping her way to the top.

Director: Alfred E. Green | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier

Votes: 5,618

3. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Not Rated | 97 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

A wealthy composer rescues unemployed Broadway performers with a new play.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler

Votes: 6,676 | Gross: $4.80M

4. Night Nurse (1931)

Not Rated | 72 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

A nurse enlists the help of a petty criminal to foil a sinister plot to murder two children.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable

Votes: 2,980

5. Three on a Match (1932)

Passed | 63 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

Although Vivian Revere is seemingly the most successful of a trio of reunited schoolmates, she throws it away by descending into a life of debauchery and drugs.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ann Dvorak, Bette Davis

Votes: 2,915

6. Broadway Bad (1933)

Passed | 61 min | Drama, Music

Showgirl Joan Blondell, supported by her friend Ginger Rogers, fights for the custody of her son during a divorce hearing.

Director: Sidney Lanfield | Stars: Joan Blondell, Ricardo Cortez, Ginger Rogers, Adrienne Ames

Votes: 130

7. The Blue Angel (1930)

Not Rated | 104 min | Drama, Music

88 Metascore

An elderly professor's ordered life spins dangerously out of control when he falls for a nightclub singer.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti

Votes: 12,580 | Gross: $0.08M

8. Call Her Savage (1932)

Passed | 88 min | Drama

Sexy Texas gal storms her way through life, brawling and boozing until her luck runs out, forcing her to learn the errors of her ways.

Director: John Francis Dillon | Stars: Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Thelma Todd, Monroe Owsley

Votes: 642

9. The Wild Party (1929)

Passed | 77 min | Comedy, Drama

Wild girls at a college pay more attention to parties than their classes. But when one party girl, Stella Ames, goes too far at a local bar and gets in trouble, her professor has to rescue ... See full summary »

Director: Dorothy Arzner | Stars: Clara Bow, Fredric March, Marceline Day, Shirley O'Hara

Votes: 382

10. Shanghai Express (1932)

Approved | 82 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

A loose woman rediscovers a former lover during a dangerous train ride to Shanghai.

Director: Josef von Sternberg | Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland

Votes: 6,675 | Gross: $3.70M

11. Footlight Parade (1933)

Passed | 104 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Chester Kent struggles against time, romance, and a rival's spy to produce spectacular live "prologues" for movie houses.

Director: Lloyd Bacon | Stars: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell

Votes: 4,287

12. Three Wise Girls (1932)

Passed | 68 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cassie moves to New York and jumps from one job to another until she lands a modeling gig.

Director: William Beaudine | Stars: Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Walter Byron, Marie Prevost

Votes: 492

13. Manhattan Tower (1932)

Not Rated | 67 min | Drama

The lives of a number of the workers and executives in a Manhattan skyscraper are affected by the actions of a philandering and crooked company boss.

Director: Frank R. Strayer | Stars: Mary Brian, Irene Rich, James Hall, Hale Hamilton

Votes: 134

14. Children of Montmartre (1933)

83 min | Drama

When her father files bankruptcy and then dies, Rose's fiancé jilts her; she takes a job as a maid in a Montmartre kindergarten with 150 poor children. Rose gives each child loving ... See full summary »

Directors: Jean Benoît-Lévy, Marie Epstein | Stars: Madeleine Renaud, Alice Tissot, Paulette Élambert, Sylvette Fillacier

Votes: 94

15. 42nd Street (1933)

Passed | 89 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

A director puts on what may be his last Broadway show and, at the last moment, a naive newcomer has to replace the star.

Director: Lloyd Bacon | Stars: Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler

Votes: 9,833 | Gross: $2.30M

16. The Thin Man (1934)

Not Rated | 91 min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora investigate a murder case, mostly for the fun of it.

Director: W.S. Van Dyke | Stars: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton

Votes: 24,455

17. Bombshell (1933)

Passed | 96 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Sexpot film star Lola Burns seeks a new image and tries marrying a marquis and adopting a baby - all sorts of schemes which go awry.

Director: Victor Fleming | Stars: Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone

Votes: 2,094

18. Dinner at Eight (1933)

Passed | 111 min | Comedy, Drama

Affluent Millicent and Oliver Jordan throw a dinner for a handful of wealthy and/or well-born acquaintances, each of whom has much to reveal.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow

Votes: 7,044

19. It Happened One Night (1934)

Not Rated | 105 min | Comedy, Romance

87 Metascore

A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns

Votes: 85,983 | Gross: $4.36M

20. Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved | 111 min | Drama, Romance

A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter; the two women start a successful business, but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.

Director: John M. Stahl | Stars: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Rochelle Hudson, Ned Sparks

Votes: 3,642

21. Fashions of 1934 (1934)

78 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

Sherwood Nash is a swindler who bootlegs Paris fashions for sale at cut-rate prices. His assistant Lynn poses as An American interested in a dress and Snap conceals a camera in his cane. ... See full summary »

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: William Powell, Bette Davis, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert

Votes: 1,165

22. Fog Over Frisco (1934)

Approved | 68 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

The lifestyles of Arlene and Valkyr Bradford, half-sisters from a respected San Francisco family, diverge markedly as Arlene takes up with criminals.

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: Bette Davis, Donald Woods, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot

Votes: 1,250

23. Havana Widows (1933)

62 min | Comedy

Two golddiggers go fishing for millionaires in Havana.

Director: Ray Enright | Stars: Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins

Votes: 358

24. Going Hollywood (1933)

Passed | 78 min | Musical, Romance

A love-struck teacher pursues a radio singer to Hollywood.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: Marion Davies, Bing Crosby, Fifi D'Orsay, Stuart Erwin

Votes: 1,659 | Gross: $0.96M

25. Zouzou (1934)

Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Musical, Romance

Zou Zou tries to help her childhood friend prove his innocence after he's accused of murder.

Director: Marc Allégret | Stars: Josephine Baker, Jean Gabin, Pierre Larquey, Yvette Lebon

Votes: 453

26. Night After Night (1932)

Passed | 73 min | Comedy, Drama

A successful ex-boxer opens a high-class speakeasy in what once was the childhood home of a formerly rich society girl.

Director: Archie Mayo | Stars: George Raft, Constance Cummings, Wynne Gibson, Mae West

Votes: 562

27. The Beast of the City (1932)

Passed | 86 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Police Chief Jim Fitzpatrick ruthlessly goes after organized crime and is prepared to use brutal and violent methods to fight it.

Director: Charles Brabin | Stars: Walter Huston, Jean Harlow, Wallace Ford, Jean Hersholt

Votes: 982 | Gross: $0.89M

28. Big Business Girl (1931)

Not Rated | 75 min | Romance

Thanks to her ability and her legs, Claire McIntyre rises in the business world.

Director: William A. Seiter | Stars: Loretta Young, Frank Albertson, Ricardo Cortez, Joan Blondell

Votes: 199

29. The Big Shakedown (1934)

Not Rated | 64 min | Crime, Drama

Racketeers flood the market with counterfeit cosmetics and drugs, causing some tragedies.

Director: John Francis Dillon | Stars: Charles Farrell, Bette Davis, Ricardo Cortez, Glenda Farrell

Votes: 681

30. Dancing Lady (1933)

Passed | 92 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

An attractive dancer is rescued from jail by a rich man, who helps her to have her first big opportunity at a musical play on Broadway.

Director: Robert Z. Leonard | Stars: Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, May Robson

Votes: 1,852

31. Dance, Fools, Dance (1931)

Approved | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

After the death of her father and loss of the family fortune, Bonnie gets a job as a cub reporter while her brother becomes involved in bootlegging.

Director: Harry Beaumont | Stars: Joan Crawford, Cliff Edwards, Lester Vail, William Bakewell

Votes: 711

32. The Public Enemy (1931)

Not Rated | 83 min | Crime, Drama

A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell

Votes: 16,299

33. Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Passed | 89 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

An aviator and band leader who is always getting his group fired for his flirtatious behavior with the female guests soon finds himself falling for an engaged woman.

Director: Thornton Freeland | Stars: Dolores del Rio, Gene Raymond, Raul Roulien, Ginger Rogers

Votes: 3,096

34. Scarface (1932)

PG | 93 min | Action, Crime, Drama

An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.

Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson | Stars: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins

Votes: 23,182

35. Working Girls (1931)

77 min | Drama

Two sisters, May, older, naive, and June, younger and worldly, arrive in New York straight from the country and settle down in a boarding house. Their search for jobs leads them to find beaus and romantic trouble.

Director: Dorothy Arzner | Stars: Judith Wood, Dorothy Hall, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Paul Lukas

Votes: 77

36. Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

78 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A drunken newspaperman is rescued from his alcoholic haze by an heiress whose love sobers him up and encourages him to write a play, but he lapses back into dipsomania.

Director: Dorothy Arzner | Stars: Sylvia Sidney, Fredric March, Adrianne Allen, Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher

Votes: 700

37. I'm No Angel (1933)

Passed | 87 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Circus performer Tira seeks a better life pursuing the company of wealthy New York men with improbable comic complications along the way.

Director: Wesley Ruggles | Stars: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold

Votes: 2,707 | Gross: $2.85M

38. Hoopla (1933)

85 min | Drama

A hula dancer at a carnival sets out to seduce the son of the show's manager.

Director: Frank Lloyd | Stars: Clara Bow, Preston Foster, Richard Cromwell, Herbert Mundin

Votes: 215

39. Paid (1930)

Approved | 86 min | Drama, Film-Noir

Mary Turner goes up for three years on a crime she didn't commit. Once out she and former prison mates plan a scam in which old men can be sued for breach of promise - the "heart balm" ... See full summary »

Director: Sam Wood | Stars: Joan Crawford, Robert Armstrong, Marie Prevost, Douglass Montgomery

Votes: 539

40. Belle of the Nineties (1934)

Passed | 73 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

Ruby Carter, the American Beauty queen of the night club-sporting world, shifts her operations from St. Louis to New Orleans (which kind of belies the Western genre designation), mostly to ... See full summary »

Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Mae West, Roger Pryor, Johnny Mack Brown, John Miljan

Votes: 535

41. Born to Be Bad (1934)

Approved | 62 min | Drama, Romance

Letty, a young woman who ended up pregnant, unmarried and on the streets at fifteen is bitter and determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of. Letty teaches her ... See full summary »

Directors: Lowell Sherman, Jack Conway | Stars: Loretta Young, Cary Grant, Jackie Kelk, Marion Burns

Votes: 932

42. Ladies of Leisure (1930)

Passed | 99 min | Drama, Romance

An upper-crust artist hires a 'party girl' as a model; romance follows.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Ralph Graves, Lowell Sherman, Marie Prevost

Votes: 936



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