Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Forbidden Hollywood”

(Warner Home Video, 2006. B&W. 2 Discs.)

Three good examples from Hollywood’s Pre-Production Code or Hays Office era (pre-1934). It’s fascinating to watch how far the boundaries of sexuality and morality were stretched in these first few years of talking pictures, before Hollywood started to police itself. All the prints are pristine. Waterloo Bridge (1931). 81 min. Directed by James Whale. Mae Clarke, Kent Douglass. This is the first adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood’s play; the 1940 remake with Vivien Leigh is better-known, but this is worth a look. Clarke (she’s the gal who gets a half-grapefruit in the face from Jimmy Cagney in The Public Enemy) plays a desperate woman forced into prostitution in World War I London. Bette Davis has a small role. Director Whale is most famous for the original version of Frankenstein. Red-Headed Woman (1932). 79 min. Directed by Jack Conway. Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Una Merkel. Usually-platinum-blonde Harlow is red (and ready) in this saucy tale of a social-climbing secretary. Story by Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Baby Face (1933). 70 min. and 76 min. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent. Daring Stanwyck starts out bartending at a speakeasy, then sleeps her way to the top of a New York office building – literally floor by floor. Look fast for John Wayne. You get both the theatrical version and the recently-discovered original version, before censors eliminated several scenes. The movie is now in the National Film Registry.

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