Sunday, July 31, 2005

If I Had a Hammer...

Cinecon has posted the tentative schedule for its upcoming classic film festival in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend. Among the pre-code films being screened is the early Cary Grant/Edward Everett Horton feature "Ladies Should Listen" (pictured) from 1933. Also on the docket is the 1934 Universal comedy release "Gift of Gab," directed by Karl Freund ("The Mummy") with fellow Universal horror standouts Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and "Titanic" star Gloria Stuart. There are some very rare silent features booked, including the long thought lost Oscar-nominated film "Sorrell and Son." Scheduled guests include Nanette Fabray, Patricia Neal, Diane Baker, and famed director Delbert Mann.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Solutions for B.O. Doldrums - The Lubitsch Touch

Seems like everyone and their brother is offering opinions on why domestic box office is down drastically this year. We've heard many potential explanations: the popularity of home theater, the shortened DVD window (the time it takes from when a film hits the first-run theatres to its release on DVD), and the cost of going to the movies. But a simpler explanation may lie in the fact that today's movies just aren't very good. Knight-Ridder columnist Mary Pols recently took in some pre-code gems at the PFA series in Berkeley, and she thinks there are lessons to be learned from these classic films.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cinecon 41

The 41st annual CINECON, one of the biggest and oldest classic film festivals, has just updated details of this year's event. The festival takes place September 1-5 in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theatre. The full movie line-up has not been announced, but they have confirmed they will show the newly restored and uncensored "Baby Face." Also on the schedule is the 1951 melodrama "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" featuing Susan Hayward and Dan Dailey. This one has been running on Fox Movie Channel lately, and though it isn't Pre-Code, it is waiting for me on my TiVo!

Cinecon programmers usually goes to great lengths to find rarely screened silents and pre-codes, as well as forgotten classic films from 30s, 40s, and 50s. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it this year, but I'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

July TV Schedules

Upcoming movies of note at a cable box near you:


6:00AM Daybreak (1931) - of note for its stars Ramon Novarro and Helen Chandler.
7:30 AM The Man In Possession (1931) - An out-of-luck heiress falls for the man appointed to dispose of her property. Robert Montgomery
9:00 AM Never The Twain Shall Meet (1931) A young lawyer's society romance suffers when he's appointed guardian of a South Seas beauty. Leslie Howard, Karen Morley. D: W.S. Van Dyke II. MY PICK FOR THE MONTH
10:30 AM Son Of India (1931) More Ramon Novarro, paired here with Madge Evans.
1:30 PM Journal Of A Crime (1934) The great Ruth Chatterton (of "Female") succumbs to amnesia before she can confess to shooting her husband's mistress
7/28 Seven pre-code comedies featuring Warner's star Joe E. Brown:
6:00 am Broadminded (1931)
7:15 am Local Boy Makes Good (1931)
8:30 am Tenderfoot, The (1932)
9:45 am Elmer The Great (1933)
11:00 am Son Of A Sailor (1933)
12:15 pm Circus Clown, The (1934)
1:30 pm Very Honorable Guy, A (1934)
6:00 AM One Way Passage (1932) An ocean voyage leads to romance for a dying heiress and a condemned criminal. Kay Francis, William Powell
7:15 AM The Key (1934) A British officer stationed in Ireland falls for the wife of an intelligence man. William Powell, Edna Best, Colin Clive. D: Michael Curtiz.
5:00 PM THE ESSENTIALS: Ernst Lubitsch's "The Merry Widow"

Fox Movie Channel

7/25 10:45PM Born to Be Bad (1934) Loretta Young, Cary Grant

Friday, July 08, 2005

Blood Money (1933)

Took a trip across the Bay to see this pre-code at the Pacific Film Archive. Very entertaining, fast-paced comedy featuring an unexpectedly showy turn from Frances Dee. Dee, usually cast as a good girl, clearly relishes her chance to play Elaine Harbert, a masochist, nymphomaniac, and kleptomaniac! Dame Judith Anderson (in her film debut) also plays against type as a glamorous if somewhat world weary "nightclub owner." The movie crackles with some great dialogue and inventive direction by Rowland Brown. Brown only directed four films, and was blackballed after some violent run-ins with producers. However, he continued to write for films. Apparently, "Blood Money" has gained cult film status (Danny Peary mentioned it in his second volume of "Cult Movies"). Though never released commercially on DVD or video, you may be able to find it at a specialty dealer. It's worth checking out - if only for a look at the cross-dressing bar patrons!
"Blood Money" shared the marquis with a second feature at the PFA, Raoul Walsh's "Me and My Gal" a comedy/drama starring a young Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. Tracy and Bennett's abundant chemistry adds a lot to the picture; however the story dragged at times. Perhaps after the breakneck pace of "Blood Money," this film was bound to be a letdown. Bennett is hard as nails as the gum-chewing chowder house waitress, but it is a lot of fun to compare her performance here to her work in "Dark Shadows" 35 years later.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Pre-Code Summer Screenings

There are a few great pre-code series that are underway at art house theaters across the country that have been getting a bit of press. New York's Film Forum has assembled a rare collection of Paramount Pre-Codes, many of which are not available on DVD or video and haven't been seen on the small screen in many years. Paramount stars featured include Kay Francis, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Miriam Hopkins, and Gary Cooper. I only wish I could be there to see them! Paramount arguably pushed the envelope more than any other studio until the Hays Office clamped down on things in 1934. The outrageous Murder at the Vanities and Search for Beauty are worth a look if you have never caught these oddball delights.

Over on the left coast, another pre-code series is screening at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California. Though many of the features in this series are screened frequently on TCM, there are still some rarities. The highlight of the series will be Library of Congress motion picture curator Michael Mashon proudly introducing his spectacular find, an uncut version of Barbara Stanwyck's Baby Face. This will be the Bay Area premiere of the restored version, which contains five minutes of racy material that was excised prior to the film's official release. Mashon will also present a few other Warner Brothers classics: Night Nurse, Employees' Entrance, and Two Seconds. Could these all be part of Warner Home Video's planned pre-code DVD box set slated for sometime in 2006?


I recently did a search on the Web for a blog devoted to a subject near and dear to my heart, pre-code movies. Coming up relatively empty-handed, I decided I would start one myself! If you have landed on this page, you probably already know that pre-code films are defined as US movies released by the major studios from the period 1930-1934. It was in 1934 that the Hays Production Code for motion pictures was strengthened and rigidly enforced, and that essentially ended the pre-code era. But the movies live on, thanks to TCM, DVD releases, and showings at repertory movie houses around the world. I hope to keep both new and veteran pre-code fans informed with news about screenings, DVD releases, book releases, and tidbits about that bygone era. Take a seat, have some popcorn, and enjoy the show!