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Complicated Women Sex and Power in Pre Code Hollywood

Femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale; and Norma Shearer who succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been the bedroom In their wake came a deluge of other complicated women Marlene Dietrich Jean Harlow and Mae West to name a few Then in July 1934 the draconian Production Code became the law in Hollywood an. Entertaining and informative history of women s roles in the pre code late 20 s early 30 s era Warning this book will make you want to see all of the films mentioned in it But that s a GOOD thing

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D these modern women of the screen were banished not to be seen again until the code was repealed three decades laterA thorough survey and a tribute to these films Complicated Women reveals how this was the true Golden Age of women's filmsAUTHORBIO Mick LaSalle is the film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and teaches a class at University of California at Berkeley on pre Code film. The preponderance of this book covers the female stars of Pre Code Hollywood The movies and actresses of this era reflected the new freedoms women had obtained as a result of changes in society In the movies women were empowered and on an eual footing as men Sex and romance combined to provide movie goers an idea of the new society Stars like Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo exuded a sensuality that enticed men and women into the movies Alas reality was not to last Anti Semetic misogynists such as Joseph Breen Christian fundamentalist Roman Catholic and Protestant and the Legion of Decency saw to it that strict moralistic 19th century propaganda was placed on the screen Woman was subservient to man A man could commit adultery and would always be taken back by a smiling wife If his wife also cheated then she bore the conseuences by dying It was forbidden to portray independent women succeeding and having a good life As a result the Pre Code films makers and the actresses lost their appeal as they were confined by strictures of the code It wasn t until the last decades of the last century that the code was done away with but the damage was done No longer was romance and sex intertwined Joseph Breen and his Legion of Decency has given us a cold blooded and often depraved cinema that gives us sex with no humanity feeling or tenderness Unfortunately it seems there are those in this country that want us to return to the censorship which exposes their propaganda for their idea of morality

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In the pre Code Hollywood era between 1929 and 1934 women in American cinema took lovers had babies out of wedlock got rid of cheating husbands enjoyed their sexuality led unapologetic careers and in general acted the way many think women only acted after 1968 Before then women on screen had come in two varieties sweet ingenue or vamp Then two stars came along Greta Garbo who turned the. The fascinating history of the pre code HollywoodThis is a fascinating book that discusses the movies produced during pre code period of 1929 1934 and evaluates the impact it had on the careers of Hollywood s leading ladies The movies of Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo are extensively discussed along with many other leading ladies and how it impacted the studios and the Hollywood culture Shearer was a smiling subversive and her most characteristic film is the Divorcee and Riptide in which she portrays as woman of uestionable morals in spite of being married In Divorcee 1930 she has an affair with her husband s best friend after she finds out that he cheated on her Her roles explored women s feelings about love and sex with honesty Greta Garbo s Mata Hari Camille and Two Faced woman were also similar in character and spirit Garbo s ueen Christina explored bisexuality that was the most daring examination of gender and sex the studio system ever produced The author observes despite some daring stuff and no matter how far off from the societal values Garbo s movies had touching Christian allegories to assert divine faith that enriches the power of love and passionDorothy Mackaill a hard drinking Ziegfeld Follies girl turned actress was a strong contender of the roles of Jean Harlow in early 1930s analyzed the effect of war on Hollywood and its portrayal women s sexual freedom as a logical change in values and none of the old taboos can affect them Shearer began working with director Monta Bell he shaped her career like Josef Von Sternberg did for Marlene Dietrich and GW Pabst for Louise Brooks Joan Crawford Jean Harlow Marlene Dietrich were also in top of the pack They were like Lindberg for speed From New York stage came ladies like Claudette Colbert Barbara Stanwyck Ann Harding Bette Davis and Kathryn Hepburn Marlene Dietrich was imported from Germany by Paramount Studios as an answer to MGM s Greta GarboRuth Chatterton in the movie Female hires young men for her firm uses them for sexual pleasure and then let them go Constance Bennett played a poor girl who slept her way through to become rich in the movie Easiest Way she gives birth to a baby out of wedlock in Born to Love and in Bed of Roses she slides into the oldest profession The most outrageous movie is the Common Law where she leaves her live in lover and becomes a nude model Carole Lombard becomes a kept woman in Summer in the Sun to lead a luxurious life style In Faithless Tallulah Bankhead turns to the oldest profession when her husband becomes ill and incapable of supporting the family All movies produced at the height of Great Depression Ironically some of these examples were the real life stories of the 1920 s stars like Barbara La Marr and Louise Brooks who lurked into poverty Cecil DeMill s Sign of Cross breached the boundaries of faith which annoyed the Catholic Church and Christian conservatives where in Claudette Colbert plays Nero s wife Poppeae and losses her lover to a Christian woman Elisa Landi and she is humiliated by pagans and aroused in a dance that contains lesbian like overturesIn many pre code movies women got away with murder Most notorious example is the Ricardo Cortez Loretta Young shoots Cortez in Midnight Glory Kay Frances does the same in 56th Street and poisons Cortez in Mandalay and Dolores Del Rio stabbed Cortez in Wonder Bar He also gets shot by Helen Twelvetrees in Bad Company and by Anita Louise in The Firebrand Marjorie Rambeau kills blackmailer Arthur Hohl in A Man s Castle and Sally Eilers kills gigolo Ivan Lebedoff in cold blood Ruth Chatterton kills a woman Clair Dodd a Broadway star for stealing her husbandThe code had significant effect on the work of many stars who built their career around uninhibited and honest portrayal of love marriage and womanhood But this was not tolerated in the code era conseuently Ruth Chatterton Constance Bennett Miriam Hopkins Ann Dvorak Madge Evans Glenda Farrell and Kay Frances faded The code damaged stateside popularity and made Joan Blondell less important Mae West also faded into the horizon Ann Harding left Hollywood and triumphed on stage in London Bernard Shaw a caustic critiue of marriage said that Harding was the best for the role of Candida By the end of 1942 Garbo was 36 and Shearer 40 had passed their final phase of movie businessThis book is brilliantly written and contains well researched materials There are some rare pictures of 1930s stars and I especially liked the pictures of Greta Garbo Mae Clarke and Dorothy Mackaill they are simply gorgeous


About the Author: Mick LaSalle

Mick LaSalle is an American film critic and the author of two books on pre code Hollywood As of March 2008update he has written in excess of 1550 reviews for the San Francisco Chronicle1 and he has been podcasting them since September 20052LaSalle is the author of Complicated Women Sex and Power in Pre Code Hollywood a historycritical study of the actresses who worked in the film indu



10 thoughts on “Complicated Women Sex and Power in Pre Code Hollywood

  1. says:

    I've watched pre code movies since I read LaSalle His writing was so convincing and his cut to Breen's jugular so adept I was carried along and

  2. says:

    The fascinating history of the pre code HollywoodThis is a fascinating book that discusses the movies produced during pre code period of 1929 1934 and evaluates the impact it had on the careers of Hollywood's leading ladies The movies of Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo are extensively discussed along with many other leading ladies and how it impacted the studios and the Hollywood culture Shearer was a smiling subversive

  3. says:

    I fell in love with fa

  4. says:

    I loved this book It's a thorough and joyful review of the leading ladies and their films in the late twenties and early thirties before the Code was enforced in Hollywood When you read about the actresses their

  5. says:

    Entertaining and informative history of women's roles in the pre code late 20's early 30's era Warning this book will make you want to see all of the films mentioned in it But that's a GOOD thing

  6. says:

    Mick LaSalle's central thesis is the pre Code offered the most complex portrayals of women in the classic studio era that t

  7. says:

    I have some disagreements with LaSalle's assessment of Pre Codes He makes them out to be much progressive then they are and is a harder on the films that came after 1934 then I think is fair I do agree that the representation of women between 1929 and 34 was complicated as LaSalle says They did often subvert certain gender norms and cultural

  8. says:

    The preponderance of this book covers the female stars of Pre Code Hollywood The movies and actresses of this era reflected the new freedoms women had obtained as a result of changes in society In the movies women were empowered and on an eual footing as men Sex and romance combined to provide movie goers an idea of the new society Stars like Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo exuded a sensuality that enticed men and women into the movies Alas

  9. says:

    Fascinating subject and wonderfully written book These actresses deserve so much recognition that what they get Wow

  10. says:

    I have long been a fan of Mick LaSalle’s movie reviews And thus I was eager to get his book Complicated Women Sex and Power in Pre Code Hollywood when I saw it listed online recently I was not disappointed for this book is every bit as thoughtful and well written as LaSalle’s reviews “Pre code” refers to the half

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