Monday, 2 November 2015

Bellmer: Pre-Code Hollywood & Screen Goddesses [1930s]

Suggestive erotic fantasy and sexual excitement, in 1930s Hollywood:
Publicity photo: Safe in Hell [1931] – William Wellman [USA]
“Films made in the Pre-Code era frequently presented people in sexually suggestive or provocative situations, and did not hesitate to display women in [revealing] attire.

Promotional photo: Joan Blondell [USA] – 1932
“This […] promotional photo […] was later banned under the then-unenforceable Motion Picture Production Code”

Publicity photo: The Greeks Had a Word for Them [1932] – Lowell Sherman [USA]
“Publicity photos like this […], with a women posing suggestively in her nightgown on a bed, provoked outrage among civic leaders”
"Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines in 1934, usually labelled, albeit inaccurately, as the "Hays Code". Although the Code was adopted in 1930, oversight was poor and it did not become rigorously enforced until 1934, with the establishment of the PCA.
As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality. Strong female characters were [omnipresent], in such films as Female [1933, Michael Curtiz], Baby Face [1933, Alfred Green], and Red-Headed Woman [1932, Jack Conway]. Gangsters in films like The Public Enemy [1931, William Wellman], Little Caesar [1931, Mervyn LeRoy], and Scarface [1932, Howard Hawks] were seen by many as heroic rather than evil. Along with featuring stronger female characters, films examined female subject matters that would not be revisited until decades later in American films. [Evil] characters were seen to profit from their deeds, in some cases without significant [consequences], and drug use was a topic of several films. "

The Public Enemy [1931] – William Wellman [USA] – Pre-Code
Freaks [1932] – Tod Browning [USA] – Pre-Code
Grand Hotel [1932] – Edmund Goulding [UK] – Pre-Code
Shanghai Express [1932] – Josef von Sternberg [Austria] – Pre-Code
Trouble in Paradise [1932] – Ernst Lubitsch [Germany] – Pre-Code
L’Atalante [1934] – Jean Vigo [France] – French Poetic Realism
Cinema: The Whole Story

1930-39 - Screen Goddesses [P112-13]:
When Belgian director Harry Kumel was preparing his cult vampire movie Daughters of Darkness [1971], he told his leading actress Delphine Seyrig that he wanted her to look like a Hollywood star of the 1930s‘because they are immortal’. It was [a wise] observation. Stars such as Greta Garbo [Sweden], Merlene Dietrich [Germany], Joan Crawford [USA], Bette Davis [USA], Vivien Leigh [British India] and Katherine Hepburn [USA] have a timeless quality that few actors of later generations could match.
Behind the scenes, publicity departments played a crucial part in the creation of magnetic screen goddesses. MGM, under legendary boss of the 1930s Irving Thalberg, liked to boast that the studio had ‘more stars than there are in heaven’. These stars were pampered and highly paid but had little control over their careers. ‘We told stars what to say, and they did what we said because they knew we knew best,’ Howard Strickling, the studio’s hard-driving publicity head, later claimed. The screen goddesses were locked into draconian contacts. Strickling and his team policed every aspect of their lives, burying scandals, forging the stars’ signatures on publicity pictures and even brokering their marriages.
KEMP, P. [general editor] [2011] Cinema: The Whole Story. London: Thames & Hudson 

1 comment:

  1. You seem to have spent a long time copying big chunks of text again Robin... don't forget that it is a more efficient use of time to read the text and just pick out the key words. I'm not actually sure how this is relevant anyway?