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film reviews

Be Careful–Pre-Code is a Dangerous World

After July’s #CleanMovieMonth, I binged-watched three Pre-Code films. Oh, the Poverty! Death! Adultery! Even More Death! A Code movie might be safer and better, but oh, what you’d miss.

In the first movie binge, Night Life in Reno, even the tiniest bit of adultery gets you shot. First, the avenging wife goes after the adulterer and then the adulterie! After watching this, I wouldn’t go to Reno for your divorce if I were you.

Then, I watched Blonde Crazy with Joan Blondell and Jimmy Cagney as a mild Bonnie and Clyde duo, and poor Jimmy gets it with a Tommy sub-machine gun! On a crowded New York street, no less. Yes, in Pre-Code, cops don’t even care about grandmas walking down the street. As I watched, I shouted, “Oh, come on. Really? A Tommy gun for a safecracker?” Yes, that’s what you get in Pre-Code.

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Finally, I watched Safe in Hell, where it’s anything but. The star’s not only led into prostitution but she kills a man–twice. Yes, the same man, both times to save her honor. As sentimental as this movie was, it was my favorite. I cried as they led the star to the gallows with her white throat gleaming–she’d been in the tropics for months and her skin was still milky white and she never needed a haircut. Perhaps it is better in Hell.

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I have to admit, I love the grittiness of Pre-Code films–the desperation of the people. No one lives a safe life of binge-watching movies, reading Facebook, and waking to a day at a secure job. No, in Pre-Code films, all depends on the characters’ wits and morality. I too dream of surviving in a Pre-Code world, walking to the gallows with my milky throat, my honor secure.

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film reviews

What’s a screwball comedy without Billie Burke–not a screwball comedy

As you know, I was upset by One Night in Lisbon because Billie Burke disappeared halfway through the picture–I know, outrageous–, but we get lots of BIllie in We’re Rich Again, and she’s worth every second. Here’s her introduction to a gorgeous swimmer:

The whole movie turns everything upside-down. Billie and her husband are no longer rich, they have no money even for dinner, but they fill their swimming pool. Their oldest daughter is getting married and she mopes around reading a book–my kind of girl. The Grandmother plays polo with her own gang of young men. And no one does anything about the fact that they have no money until the two-faced country cousin arrives. It’s all wackadoodle like a screwball comedy with Billie Burke should be.

Again you can catch it free on youtube.

 

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film reviews

She’s sweet and oh so plucky

Imagine an opening scene where a man walks jollily through an Indiana swamp only to fall in and cry for his wife, Katherine! Katherine! She rushes out but can’t save him because she goes into labor. High drama!

The film continues on its dramatic and often comedic way, as it follows the little girl born that night, Elnora, and how she grows up lovely and happy despite her mother who turned bitter because she couldn’t save her husband, most bitterly toward Elnora, whom she believes caused her husband’s death.

Image result for girl of the limberlost movie 1934

Nothing stops our heroine–she dreams of going to college and no one seems to think that’s unusual–everyone, except her mother, of course, get busy helping her. She needed $200 and she really accomplishes her dream. Ah, plucky heroine!

The film, A Girl of the Limberlost, is based on a 1909 novel and was made into a movie four times, once in the silent era and once in 1934, the version I watched, and again in 1945 and 1990. Since I’m a fan of the films of the 1930’s, I’ll only watch this version. The acting was top-notch as is in most 1930’s films–a background in silent films and theater makes good actors. A user review on IMDB says the film was a major hit for the studio, Monogram Pictures, making a million dollars. You can watch it free on youtube.

Image result for girl of the limberlost movie 1934

Even though I won’t watch other film versions, I will read the novel and see Elnora’s heroism on the page. Another plucky heroine to add to the long list of Anne Shirley, Nancy Drew, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and others that’ll we’ll continue to stumble across.