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Complicated Women (2003)

A look at actresses who starred in films with thought-provoking subjects made between 1929-1934 - before the Hollywood Production Code was enforced.


Hugh Munro Neely


Mick LaSalle (based on the book by), Hugh Munro Neely | 1 more credit »


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Credited cast:
Jane Fonda ... Herself - Narrator (voice)
Frances Dee ... Herself
Kitty Carlisle ... Herself - Interviewee (as Kitty Carlisle Hart)
Molly Haskell ... Herself - Interviewee
Mick LaSalle ... Himself - Interviewee
Mae Madison ... Herself - Interviewee
Karen Morley ... Herself - Interviewee
Mark Vieira ... Himself - Interviewee
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Fred Astaire ... Himself (archive footage)
Robert Barrat ... Himself (archive footage)
John Barrymore ... Himself (archive footage)
Lionel Barrymore ... Himself (archive footage)
Wallace Beery ... Himself (archive footage)
Charles Bickford ... Himself (archive footage)
Virginia Bruce ... Herself (archive footage)


Jane Fonda narrates the story of the years between the ascent of talkies until late in 1934, when the Hays Office cracked down on what it perceived as immorality in Hollywood movies. The emphasis is on how women were portrayed, and focuses on how they were much more liberated and equal (or superior) to men, until 1935 when they once again took subservient roles to their male co-stars. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

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Release Date:

6 May 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mujeres liberadas See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Timeline Films See more »
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Technical Specs

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Did You Know?


Features A Woman of Affairs (1928) See more »


I Found a New Way to Go to Town
Written by Harvey Brooks (as H. Brooks), Gladys DuBois (as G. duBois) and Ben Ellison (as B. Ellison)
Used by permission of Shapiro/Bernstein Music
See more »

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User Reviews

Just Complicated Women
4 December 2017 | by FatPhilSee all my reviews

I almost feel guilty giving this the low score that I did, as, for what it is, it's excellent. Had it been part of a three-parter that expanded onto the (studio and real world) politics and society more at the time in question, and then even delved into the reversion of the code decades later, I'd have been deliriously happy, but alas all I got was the clip show part.

As such, it's great. First hand reports from the people who were there - the Complicated Women themselves - makes this a particularly insightful documentary. Mick LeSalle is a great writer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field (and also the single film reviewer I pay the most attention to, he sees through the fog when others can't), and if you're not familiar with the pre-Code movies you should hopefully find it a very interesting eye-opener...

... an eye-opener which will make you say "how did things go so wrong?", and then wish for the other two parts of the documentary :/

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