Thursday, September 29, 2011

PreCode Movies

Watched Baby Face (Warner Bros. 1933). TCM played the restored movie, re-released in 2004. The 4 minutes of cut footage, found in a film vault in Dayton, OH (removed by NY State Board of Censors before its release) were back in the film. Censors appeared more concerned about the morality part of Nietzsche's take on using feminine wiles to get to the top, than the actual sex content. Changing the speech from "Exploit yourself! Use men! Be strong! Be defiant!" to "Be clean, be strong, be defiant!" got it passed by the morality stiffs. The bit about Nietzsche is an example of what I like about precode films. Stanwyck is street tough, poor, but we see her with Nietzsche's book more than once. She can read. Complex philosophical concept is not unreadable to her. It's the babes hissing behind Stanwyck's back who contrast. Before Norma Shearer was America's wholesome wronged wife, she was a precode broad, too. Prior to self-appointed morality nitpickers getting their mitts into moviedom, there were marvelous wicked parts for women. The Motion Picture Production Code was a collaboration between the studio bosses and the prissy pants who make it their business to tell everybody in the country what's inappropriate. We have them today, even though the Production Code Administration went away in 1968. Wouldn't you love to know what Hays did in the Hays Office when he was screening all those questionable movies? I wouldn't, actually. But it's fascinating that the Hays Office was primly overseen by Joseph Breen, author of the Nietzsche rewrite in Baby Face.

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