View Full Version : Thirteen Women(1932, interesting pre-Code)
01-16-2005, 05:34 PM
Watched this RKO film last night(taped off TCM)--Interesting plot with supernatural elements. Mryna Loy plays a "half Caste" Indian(Asian) who is a secretary for a Swami Astrologer. Serveral of her old classmates write to him to read their future & she(through supernatural powers) gets him to predict ghastly fates for them, like imprisonment, murder, suicide, etc. Ricardo Cortez plays a detective looking to solve the case. Irene Dunne plays one of the classmates. Loy plays her character with purely evil intensions. Worth tracking down if it comes on TCM again.
Richard W. Haines
01-16-2005, 08:18 PM
No such a thing as 'pre-code'.
In 1930, Will Hays created a Production Code to be utilized as general guidelines
to ward off federal censorship. It was loosely enforced and directors tried to circumvent the code and get away with as much as they could or 'anything the
traffic will allow' as the song goes.
A more restrictive code was enacted in 1934 but gradually liberalized over the decades depending whom was in charge.
01-17-2005, 01:16 PM
Acoording to Gregory Brown, in his book Hollywood Censored, he argues that the Catholic Church and their Legion of Decency had a lot to do with the implementation of the stricter 1934 Production Code(start date of its enforcement was July 1934). Also, Mae West was a heavy target as her films up to that point were quite racy. After 1934, her career tanked because of censorship.
Mick LaSalle, in his excellent book, Complicated Women, argues that "strong female roles" also took a toll as a result of the implementation of the 1934 Code. He argues quite strongly that it affected Norma Shearer's career. (After 1934, the only notable movie she was in was The Women(1939), which was nowhere near her great roles in The Divorcee and Strangers May Kiss, amongst others.)
01-17-2005, 01:17 PM
You're going to have to struggle to prove that Roosevelt's New Deal didn't help end the Depression (it was actually World War II that literally ended it), and the Red Scare actually didn't begin in earnest until after World War II was over and the U.S.S.R. became a bitter enemy. HUAC had little or nothing to do with Democrats, most of whom were targets of HUAC and the "Red Scare." Also, there was never a time when 90% of people's incomes became taxed. While I've enjoyed your emails, seeing the factual errors in this one makes me question all the others that came before it.
Richard W. Haines
01-17-2005, 03:43 PM
The Catholic Legion of Decency was among the pressure groups who wanted to 'clean up cinema'. However, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who jumped on that band wagon which is why the industry got nervous about federal censorship and created a more restrictive code.
I'm not sure I would classify the Production Code as censorship however.
It was done internally by the industry itself and since the major studios owned the movie palaces they block booked their pictures in, they had to
accomodate community standards. Pragmatically, you couldn't fill up a 2000 seat theater with material that the average person found objectionable.
The Production Code Seal also avoided the state by state re-cutting of movies that was common in the early thirties. It was somewhat of a coup for Hays to get most local censor boards to agree to play Seal approved movies intact by and large. Ultimately, producers got away with more because the Hays Office would protect and defend them in many disputes with local city officials.
I don't buy into the notion that the modified Production Code hurt Norma Sherer's career. I never thought she was much of an actress anyway.
Too histrionic for my taste and rather homely. I also believe Thalberg was one of the reasons it was sustained as long as it was and of course she fizzled out after his untimely death. Bettie Davis, Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn always made movies with strong women, especially in the forties when the Code was less rigid.
Mae West had a big mouth which is why she was targeted by the Legion of Decency and other groups. Had she shown more restraint in public, she probably would've gotten away with more in her later movies. The key was to be subtle like Hitchcock, Selznick and Preston Sturges. That's the way to get more controversial material on screen. To confront the Hays Office or complain about them in interviews was not a smart move. A lot of directors use to put in stuff they knew would be removed so that they were able to incorporate other material covertly. It was a negotiation.
01-17-2005, 04:12 PM
There is much that simply is not credible in your analysis. And while I'd love to get into a greater discussion with you (I'm sure, however, that it would probably lead to an argument), I just want to point out to you that politics are off limits on this message board. It was a part of DVDManiacs policy, to which we all must adhere before signing on to post, that these political discussions remain off limits.
Richard W. Haines
01-17-2005, 04:18 PM
Unless the politics in question applies to movies I presume.
In any event, I mostly wanted to illustrate the term 'pre-code' is inaccurate since there was a code in place in 1930.
Richard W. Haines
01-17-2005, 04:19 PM
I'll delete some of it since it upset you.
There ya go...
01-17-2005, 06:06 PM
I don't want you to delete anything. I just wanted you to know where political posts can lead. Politics are a very emotional issue for a lot of people here. I find myself letting emotions get the best of me when discussing this. We all believe very strongly in our own political agendas (and we all have them, no matter who we are or where we sit on any given issue). More often than not these lead to locked down threads and people getting their feelings hurt. I am a supervising editor at a publishing developer who works solely on education texts. I supervise social studies text books. This is a subject I dearly love and have no problem engaging in a conversation with you should you want to pm me. But it does appear we've gotten off the subject of THIRTEEN WOMEN a bit. (Not about the Production Code, mind you, which is perfectly appropriate to the subject matter at hand.)
I would love to see Warner issue a box set, perhaps through their TCM DVD label, of early Warner/First National, MGM, RKO borderline horror films. These could include such titles as THIRTEEN WOMEN, SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE, and many other neglected little gems.
Richard W. Haines
01-17-2005, 07:19 PM
What's interesting about the term 'pre-code' is that movies made after 1955 were far more controversial than movies made between 1930-1933 even though they still fell under a modified version of the 1934 entity.
01-18-2005, 10:38 AM
Yes, that is interesting. In my opinion, the most controversial period in film history probably falls between '58 and '62, when you had films like SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, CHILDREN'S HOUR, HORROR OF DRACULA, BLOOD AND ROSES, etc. Lots of good stuff made then, just when certain subjects long considered taboo were beginning to be discussed and dealt with in film.
01-18-2005, 11:51 AM
With regards to 1930-1933 films, MGM had two excellent sets on LD called "The Forbidden Hollywood" collection that had a number of goodies, like Three on A Match and Female. None of these films from that set are on DVD.
The 1958-1962 period also had nudity (a huge taboo) coming onto the screen as well, with such films as Garden of Eden(a 1954 film that played in New York around 1958, their state censor board held it up until the US Supreme Court ruled that "Nudity is not obscene"), Les Amants(1959, Louis Malle--This was the film that led to the US Supreme Court decision in which a Ohio theater manager was arrested for showing the film and the Court later overturned the obscenity conviction), and The Immoral Mr Teas(Russ Meyer's first film and the real start of the "soft" nudie features--1959).
01-18-2005, 02:44 PM
Those films basically reside in the Warner/Turner library, unfortunately. Warner has gotten better about releasing their classics but still have a long way to go regarding those old MGM and RKO flicks, many of which were on LD. I'm still looking forward to BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS, MASK OF FU MANCHU, THIRTEEN WOMEN, SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE, PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, THE UNHOLY THREE (both 1925 and 1930 versions), THE MONSTER, THE MAGICIAN, most Jean Harlow films, the rest of the Tarzan films, KING KONG, SON OF KONG, etc.
Yes, the late 50s, early 60s were a wonderful period for film, when real experimentation and pushing against the boundaries began on a scale never seen before.
01-18-2005, 02:46 PM
By the way, when I referred to "those films," I meant of course the 30s and 40s flicks you were referring to, not the films mentioned in the part of the post that dealt with nudity in the late 1950s.
Speaking of that Supreme Court decision, too bad people today didn't know about it. Hell, not only is nudity considered offensive, we've gotten to the point that IMPLIED NUDITY (in which you don't even actually see ANY nudity) is offensive. Hence, Nicolette Sheridan dropping her towel on an intro to Monday Night Football.
Richard W. Haines
01-20-2005, 10:35 AM
I suppose it all depends on the context of what you do...
I think most people want some level of decorum in public events and in civil society which I don't object to. In 'art' and it's various mediums there should be no censorship although there should be a method of shielding young children from things they won't understand or will have a negative influence on them due to their immaturity. The MPAA ratings system was an attempt at this although it became so politicized and corrupted it didn't really serve the function they intended. In terms of things like broadcast radio or television, I do think there should be FCC standards based on what the general public feels is appropriate. Not everyone wants to be bombarded with controversial subject matter or graphic sex, violence and language.
Let people have thier 'space' so to speak in the public sphere where they're comfortable. If they want that material it should be something they purchase (movie ticket, DVD, cable) not something imposed on them.
In terms of your earlier comment, what you're referring to is the Production Code under Geoffrey Sherlock. He was much more lenient in his adminsitration compared to Breen. He wanted to liberalize the code for artists while preventing the 'quick buck exploiters' (as he called them) from degrading the medium. That's why I object to historians and critics classifying the production code as 'censorship' and
implying it was a monolithic, unchanging entity through it's 32 year history.
It's actually a complex subject and worthy of real analysis rather than the broad strokes you get in Turner's film history sound bytes.
I guess you could categorize it as follows:
1930-1933 First Production Code. Very lenient and not administered too strickly. Will Hays in charge.
1934-1938 New Production Code. Very strict. Will Hays in charge with Jospeph Breen the principal administrator.
1939-1950 Same Production Code but more lenient as can be seen in "Gone with the Wind" and risque Hitchcock and Preston Sturges movies. Will Hays in charge through 1941 then Breen runs it.
1950-1955 Same Production Code but modified to allow more controversial subject matters like drug use (changed after "Man with a Golden Arm" was shown sans Seal), infidelity ("From Here to Eternity") and suicide. Breen still in charge and reluctantly accomodating the changes in American culture.
1955-1966. New Production Code with Geoffrey Sherlock in charge. Very lenient administration and encourages the introduction of controversial subject matter providing it's done in good taste and not exploitative.
1966-1968. Sherlock leaves, Jack Valenti in charge. New Production Code.
All subject matters allowed providing they are done in good taste and not exploitative. Adult films contain an unenforceable warning on the poster.
1968-2004 Jack Valenti in charge. He dumps the production code entirely and
implements the ratings system. The industry is glutted with explicit sexploitation, blaxploitation, exploitation and counter-culture movies which have great appeal to young people but alienate everyone else. Attendence gets cut in half from 1968-1975.
Valenti becomes a lobbyist for the studios (at the expense of the exhibitors and indies). He gives speaches stating that the general audience is dead and from now on all movies will be geared for targeted audiences.
This changes in the late seventies when paltry attendence figures are increased with mainstream blockbusters. However, attendence declines again in the eighties due to new home entertainment formats. By the nineties, there are more R rated movies than in any other classification.
In 1975, Valenti claims that anyone who privately shows old prints of movies in their homes is a 'film pirate'. Roddy McDowall is hassled by the FBI even though the studios gave him the prints he was showing. This attitude is changed when it's discovered that collectors have salvaged the missing scenes or 'lost' movies neglected by the studios. A number of movies are released intact on video with the help of this targeted group. Eventually, copyright laws are changed to
allow private screenings in the home. Realistically, The MPAA could not
prosecute millions of people with home theaters for 'unauthorized exhibition'. 'Valenti' becomes a curse word for film collectors
and movie buffs.
2004-2005 Valenti retires from the MPAA and is replaced by Dan Glickman, former agrigulture secretary to Clinton with no experience in show biz
as far as I can tell other than the circus of American politics. I know nothing about him so I guess we'll see what happens. The only interesting change is that the studios are making fewer R rated movies and more PG, PG-13 films now than in the nineties when the bulk of the product was restricted.
01-20-2005, 01:43 PM
Do I believe in censorship on network television? Not really. The thing about a free market society is that people get what they pay for, and they pay for what they want. There was NO NUDITY in that football presentation to which I referred and therefore the controversy around it was contrived rather than real. The Parents Television Council is really good at this, circulating petitions and getting people to complain to the FCC about everything from DESPARATE HOUSEWIVES to WILL AND GRACE, pretty much harmless teleivision that isn't any more controversial than DALLAS or DYNASTY (shows loved by conservatives in their day). Really, I'm not sure that there is any WORD on television that should be censored (it's amazing to me that sex and language is out, but endless violence is in and is almost always acceptable; hence, Jesus can be brutalized and tortured and such sadistic entertainment is considered by many to be family entertainment; someone says shit on television and its the end of the world). There is a double standard as to what is acceptable.
Concerning art versus exploitation, who gets to decide which is which? And who gets to decide that one is worthwhile while the other is not? Both have their place, and both are done, in the end, to entertain the viewer. I have no doubt that Ingmar Bergman intended for people to enjoy THE VIRGIN SPRING, yet it has a brutal rape scene and nudity (male, believe it or not). THE LAST HOUSE OF THE LEFT tells the same story in a much more exploitative fashion, but why should it be censored and THE VIRGIN SPRING not censored? Does one person's whims get to decide these fine lines for everyone?
Richard W. Haines
01-21-2005, 08:36 AM
You're assuming the people in the entertainment business have the taste or tact not to turn every medium into sexploitation and exploitation if there aren't some guidelines. I'm afraid they don't.
In terms of FCC standards, it should be based on a consensus of what most people
feel is acceptable public behavior. Cultural norms change and I agree they should not allow one group along to set the standards. I think most people would prefer performers didn't expose themselves publicly or use "fuck" as every other word in newscasts and so on. It's an assualt on the senses that many people don't like. Since it is the public airwaves, the public has some say as to what is on it. It's not a censorship issue the way it would be with private airwaves (cable) where you don't have to subscribe to the system if you don't like the content. I'm pretty liberal when it comes to entertainment in that I like sex, violence and nudity if it's integrated into the plot and not just exploitative (which I find boring) but when I turn on the radio or watch network TV, I'd rather not be bombarded with the same material on an involuntary basis. Let people have their zone of comfort. Otherwise, you'll get a backlash and there will be a drive to censor everything including private entities like cable.
I also think you're confusing public from private which have different criteria. It applies to other areas to. I don't like smoking in public places where I can't get away from the fumes. I don't object to private restaurants either allowing smoking or having smoking areas since I won't go there if I find it objectionable.
01-21-2005, 10:29 AM
I'm not assuming any such thing. The truth is, there is a market for family-oriented television (hence, shows like 7TH HEAVEN), and there is a market for sexually-oriented and violence-oriented programming. There will always be stations, networks and programs to appeal to all markets, because there is money in all markets. That is what capitalism and free-market societies are all about. The problem with censorship is that it usually derives from one or two sources deciding what everyone else should get to watch or read. In addition, there are people who are all for a free market, unless the free market produces something THEY don't like. These are the people we give control to when we allow censorship. Right now, for instance, there is a new cartoon that has been produced featuring SpongeBob that has the cute little sponge calling for tolerance of people who are different. Nowhere does the video or the sponge mention homosexuality, yet James Dobson's Focus on the Family is sending out warnings to parents and the media that this video is designed to corrupt children. Make no mistake about it, if Dobson could, he'd ban this video along with anything else he doesn't like. I prefer not to cater to such individuals. I am an adult; I can decide what I like, what I watch, etc. Likewise, I can decide for my children what they watch. My local library, my school, my church, none of these things are my children's parent(s), nor do I expect them to be. In fact, the moment they tried to usurp my role as parent, you can expect that there'd be one hell of a fight. Yet, that's what these people want. They think, "I don't like the way that person is raising his kids, therefore I'm going to pass laws to control what HIS kids see and hear."
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