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Dawtrina
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Post by Dawtrina »

micklas wrote:Dawtrina -- The best 100 sounds like a good idea. I might do that on my blog soon.
That would be awesome! I'll keep an eye open for it and look forward to discovering some more gaping holes in my cinematic knowledge... : )

To my mind, the best part of exploring classic cinema is the process of discovery: finding new favourites that I'd never heard of before. As I mentioned in my last question, your books introduced me to a few whose filmographies I'm eagerly working through, but I'm still discovering.

On occasion I rediscover someone I already know, like David Manners who I knew well from the Universal horrors but suddenly saw in a completely new light after The Miracle Woman. Sometimes it's someone completely new discovered through someone else, like George Arliss who I 'discovered' in The Millionaire while working through the Cagneys.

To a greater or lesser extent, I hope that process of discovery never ends.

Who are your latest discoveries? Who have you 'discovered' recently, even if it's someone you're just seeing in a new light?
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Post by micklas »

Recent discoveries? Contemporary French cinema. That's where all the great women's films are being made today.
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Post by Dawtrina »

micklas wrote:Recent discoveries? Contemporary French cinema. That's where all the great women's films are being made today.
Interesting! Any key examples? I'm English, so I'm supposed to an enemy to the French, but I keep finding my all time favourite lists filling up with French films: The Passion of Joan of Arc, Beauty and the Beast, The Wages of Fear, Mr Hulot's Holiday, Les Diaboliques, Subway, Amelie, Leon, Elevator to the Gallows, The City of Lost Children, and on and on.

I was asking more within the precode focus though. Are you still making discoveries within the precodes? While you obviously have an unparalleled background in them, I'm sure there are always more to see. Actors you hadn't seen in a particular light before? Directors, writers or cinematographers whose body of work suddenly clicks into focus with a key addition? Supporting cast members who gradually emerge from the background over a career?
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Post by Le Tigre »

micklas wrote:the Democrats, who didn't see anything wrong with regulating movies in the same way they were taking steps to regulate business. In all the reading and research I've done, in no fan magazine, no internal memo, no sealed file did anyone ever link the two, so there really is nothing there.
At first, I was surprised to learn that the progressive FDR administration would be so pro-code...but then I remembered all of the Democratic senator's wives who started the PMRC in the 80's, resulting in all those "Parental Advisory" stickers on rap (and other) albums...the big difference, of course, is that even with a sticker on them, those albums were still available; under the code, movies that offended in some way simply weren't made at all, or were heavily edited. Obviously, the Left has no problem with some forms of censorship.

In all the research you did, was there any indication of anyone in that era trying to promote a ratings system (like the present-day one) as opposed to the more sweeping Code? Or is that a 'modern' idea?

Thanks again for being here and answering everyone's questions, large and small...

8)
Last edited by Le Tigre on December 20th, 2007, 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Jezebel38 »

Hello Mick -

As you’ve stated before, not all films of the 1929-1934 period could now be considered what we are labeling Precode. Do you have an opinion as to a particular studio whose output seemed to be more indicative of this style of film that pushed the boundaries of the production code? I think a lot of folks think Warner Brothers, because their films are more accessible now, and you stated earlier that MGM was more a woman’s studio, and WB a man’s. I’m much more interested in Paramount’s precodes, but as they are harder to get a hold of for viewing, are more unfamiliar to today’s film fans.

Your web site mentions you teach at Stanford – journalism or film studies?
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Post by Sue Sue Applegate »

Dear Mick,
I would love to hear you dish about Claudette Colbert in Torch Singerand The Smiling Lieutenant, two of my favorite films from the precode era.
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Post by moira finnie »

Good Morning Mick!
We're in the home stretch today, so I hope that everyone who has a question will post it here to give you time to respond. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us, Mick.

Could you please discuss the Pre- and Post- Code career of Warren William, who is one of the most interesting actors whose career you describe in "Dangerous Men"? I wasn't consciously aware of William prior to reading your book, but have since enjoyed him in Employee's Entrance, Skyscraper Souls, The Dark Horse and other movies.

What happened to his career? Did he receive too much exposure working in the Warner Brothers' factory, grinding out too many movies? In one book of reminiscences I came across, Bette Davis seems to have taken a strong dislike to Warren William when she worked with him in a few films, claiming that he thought himself, well, uh, let's just say, "God's gift to women".

I've never read anything like that about him elsewhere. Did you have a chance to interview anyone or find primary sources about the actor who was such a delightful and very bad boy on screen?
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Post by micklas »

Dawtrina -- No, no more pre-Code discoveries, with the exception, I guess, of Ann Harding in DOUBLE HARNESS, which just became available last year. I say "I guess" because I'd seen a 1000 generation video of it before, but it was so bad it didn't quite register. If there are any discoveries to be made, I imagine they'll be in the paramount vaults, but I really did so much research even into Paramount, that I don't anticipate any big discoveries -- that is, I don't expect to tap a whole unknown body of work, just another movie or two. The other thing is, once you write a book, it sort of consummates the relationship in a funny way. It's so much fun researching a book that when it's over there's less fun in watching movies that are related to the book. The urgency is gone.

Le Tigre -- The rating system idea was floated internally but dismissed almost immediately, because no one could conceive of movies except as things meant for everybody. The concept of niche markets hadn't penetrated. People just pictured entire familes going to the movies together and couldn't anticipate any other business model.

Jezebel -- When we're talking about "pre-Code" as an adjective, it's hard to say which studio was the most pre-Code. In terms of politics, it was definitely Warners. In terms of showing what was really going on in the country, definitely Warners. In terms of female emancipation, probably MGM. In terms of sexual freedom, possible Paramount. In terms of lewdness, definitely Fox. Fox's movies were downright distasteful in many cases. I don't think, for example, you could make a movie at Fox in the early thirties without having some flouncing gay stereotype happening. Fox's output was really coarse and without much social purpose.
I teach various film classes at Stanford. This winter I'm doing a course based on my two books. Last quarter I did women in contemporary French cinema. It's a different course most quarters, though this is the third time I'll be doing the pre-Code course.

Sue Sue Applegate -- Nothing much to dish about Colbert on those movies. Hopkins was the one having the affair with Chevalier in real life.

Moira -- The whole point of Warren William was obviated by the Code. He was as much a victim as the women were. There was no place in the world for the Warren William movie. From then on, he could be an authority figure or a bad guy, but no longer his own bizarre brand of good guy. Check out BEDSIDE and MIND READER for the ultimate examples of Warren William on screen.

As a person, he was supposed to be a nice guy, an amateur inventor and someone fairly modest about his talents. I don't trust anything Bette Davis says about anybody. She was clearly half nuts. Just look in her eyes.
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Post by moira finnie »

Thanks for the chuckle about Ms. Davis' personality, Mick. I thought that Bette might've been having one of her many "bad" days when she made that remark (or was it a bad decade?).

About your writing:
Without spilling too many of the beans, could you tell us if you'll be having any non-fiction or fiction books published in the near future?

Btw, I saw The Hatchet Man (1932) with Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young as Chinese-Americans the other morning for the first time. Eddie was such a good actor that the absurd casting seemed believable and touching. The violence, raffish atmosphere of Warner's Chinatown and even Ms. Young as a Chinese girl all worked in a way, though I'm sure that people of Asian descent would understandably see it differently.

When you interviewed Loretta Young, did she mention this film or her work with Wellman in Midnight Mary? Did she express any disdain or fondness for her roles in that period?

One of the reasons that I ask is that with have a member, VecchioLarry, who grew up in LA and knew Loretta Young quite well. He has reported that she had, along with her considerable ladylike manner, a nice, earthy sense of humor.

Thanks in advance for any info you might share. :wink:
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Shonna
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Post by Shonna »

Hi Mr. LaSalle!
I have read all of your wonderful books! I used to watch you on all of the local TV stations when you gave reviews, etc. when I lived in Oakland, CA.
I am sorry if this question has been asked already (I intend to read this thread tonight in its entirety.)
In YOUR opinion for both Men and Women;
who was the best actor and actress and who was the most handsome and beautiful?
Thank you for being here!
You ROCK Mick!! 8) 8)

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Post by Jezebel38 »

I teach various film classes at Stanford. This winter I'm doing a course based on my two books. Last quarter I did women in contemporary French cinema. It's a different course most quarters, though this is the third time I'll be doing the pre-Code course.
Do you have any "pull" with David Packard? I attend The Stanford Theatre regularly, and at a curtain speech, he talked about scheduling some films to coincide with a course being taught at Stanford. It would be great if they could run some more Pre-Codes instead of the same old chestnuts. I see that UCLA archive is running a Paramount/Universal Pre-Code series in February - maybe we could see some of these titles up here. :lol:
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Post by micklas »

Moira -- No books scheduled, unfortunately. I'm always working on something, but whether they find their way into print is anybody's guess.
Yep -- did mention MIDNIGHT MARY. She was very happy with the movie. She and Wellman were being punished by their studios for some reason, and forced to make that movie (at MGM -- though it's as Warners-like a movie as anything), and Wellman said, "Let's have fun and make this a great movie." Something like they did. And they did. Very stylish, lots of fun, lots of attitude.

Shonna -- Best actor and actress, and most beautiful and handsome. Hmm. Most beautiful woman . . . I guess Garbo. Best actress . . . Ann Harding.
The men . . . Most handsome. I suppose Gable. Best actor . . . Possibly Robinson or Cagney. Or maybe LEE TRACY.

Jezebel -- I have no pull at all with David Packard. I interviewed him once -- for a piece glorifying everything he's done for film preservation -- and he was one of the most unpleasant, condescending, awful-to-be-around people I've ever met. He has done extraordinary work. He's the greatest philanthropist on behalf of film that there's ever been. He will leave the world better for having been in it. But his accomplishments are best appreciated at a distance. You don't want to be in the same room with him.
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Post by pilgrimsoul »

I've read a couple of director Edward Dmytryk's comments that implied that directors and screenwriters in the studio era may have been forced to film their stories in an economical and more imaginative way because of budgetary as well as censorship issues under the Code.

Do you think that was true?
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Why have so few Paramount movies been unearthed and issued for the public to rediscover? Is that likely to change under the Sony management, if they are still the controlling corporation of Paramount's library?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Speaking of Lee Tracy: did his fall from grace signal to other creative people in Hollywood that the party was definitely over? Though Tracy certainly seemed to have remained viable as a stage actor, he seems to have limped along as a screen actor in Columbia and low budget movies. Did he have much of a career on radio after the "Mexican incident" during Viva Villa? Was he personally bitter about his experiences?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you could, is there an actor or actress whom you wish people would rediscover as they have Norma Shearer, in no small part due to your work and Gavin Lambert's biography.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.
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What about the WRITERS???

Post by CoffeeDan »

Mick, this is probably as much a suggestion as a question, but have you considered doing a book about the WRITERS of the pre-code era? (You might call it Scandalous Scribes or something like that.) This is a much-neglected field that someone needs to cover.

For example, I recently read Grace Perkins' long short story "Mike," the basis for the 1933 Claudette Colbert film TORCH SINGER. Although the film follows the same arc, the story is much different from the finished film. There's a whole, slightly sordid backstory that never made it to the screen, plus the David Manners character was much more important (after all, he was the title character!). Also, Lyda Roberti's character was not part of the original story -- just to name a few differences.

Anybody who thinks that censorship was lax during the pre-code era has not read the popular literature of the time. The original stories, serials, and novels were much more "scandalous" than their film counterparts. The writers were also predominantly female, like Grace Perkins (who wrote Night Nurse under the pseudonym Dora Macy), Vina Delmar, Ursula Parrott, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Tiffany Thayer, and many others. And then there's the screenwriters, who put their own spin on the material: Lenore Coffee, Wanda Tuchock, Kathryn Scola, and possibly the greatest of them all, Frances Marion.

In short, there's a whole literary world that inspired the pre-code films, and it's largely unexplored. If you don't do it, I just might . . . :wink:
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traceyk
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Post by traceyk »

Did I make it in time? I hope so!

Mr LaSalle, as most people have said, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed your 2 books on the precodes, as well as the TCM documentary. My favorite portions of that were the interviews with the actresses--Karen Morley was especially entertaining. The Production Code helped explain why so many classic movies left me going, "Huh? What just happened here? How come she did that?"

Thanks for your answer to the question about a ratings system--that was one of the first things that popped into my head when I first read about the Production Code. It just seems so obvious today.

My question concerns Garbo and Dietrich. Even after the Production Code went into full effect, they still seemed to get away with more than most actresses in films, especially Dietrich. Were they more immune because they were European and therefore exotic, while American actresses were supposed to "know better?" Also, do you have any idea if there DVDs of the Dietrich/Von Sternberg films out there that are relatively intact? I have several of the Universal European relaeases and they seem to be the same versions that were realeased on VHS in the 90's.
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