Flutterby™! : Precode Hollywood

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Precode Hollywood

2005-06-23 14:43:00.760472+00 by ziffle 1 comments

I remember as a child seeing all the black and white movies on the (three channels only) television. I was entranced by some (Fountainhead) and wowed by others (Tarzan and His Mate) and always wondered how there could be so few really good ones.

In my heart I yearn for real active dialogue and reality or an opinion from those movies. Once in a while I saw one and I liked it.

During the 60's and early 70's they lightened up , showing lots of nudity, drugs, 'share your partner', stuff. I thought how cool we finally reached a point of truth; that of course left out the problem of 'mass mind think' which permeated the scripts and still does. They have gone so far, lately to remove all the scenes of nudity and drugs from many of the movies, so we are 'protected' no doubt.

But I never understood what had happened. Was there ever a really free moment in movie making, free of political correctness, and censorship, and reflected real American optimism and energy?

Turns out there was. The period just after sound came to the movies circa 1929 and before the 'movie 'code was implemented in 1934 was a glorious time.

In 1934 they implemented a code that said that traditional standards (marriage) and mores (one sex partner) and respect for authority (the government and churchs must be respected) and outcomes (a movie must not show immorality positively).

But before this time, now referred to a 'Pre-Code' there was for a brief moment a flowering of ideas and expression. I am reading a great book -- "Complicated Women : Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood" which chronicles all this. Recommended.

I saw one of the movies they talk about - 'Design for Living' where Gary cooper and his friend both love the same girl who loves both of them, and they both sleep with her, and they finally work it out. This, my friend, is known as 'polyamory' today, certainly not seen on our screens lately, eh?

Another movie is where a naked leading lady comes out from behind a giant marijuana leaf - nice touch! I have not seen it yet.

Of course 'Tarzan and His Mate' is Pre-Code and the 'Mate' swims completely naked -- enshrined forever in the hearts of millions of Americans - it was shown all over the country (a few places clipped the nude scenes even then).

All of this without 'political correctness' of course.

In my heart if feels good to know there was moment when life was good and alive and freedom to make the movie you want was possible; looking at alternatives with a free mind is how I see it.

And when I see those movies or read that book I am a child again, and my heart is open and free. Where did our counrty go? Whats with all these do-gooders anyway? Where is the promise of America today?

[ related topics: Drugs Erotic Movies Graphic Design Interactive Drama Marriage Civil Liberties Technology and Culture Television moron Free Speech Work, productivity and environment Nudity Books Sexual Culture Sociology Coyote Grits Race Privacy Health Politics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2005-06-23 15:55:37.193136+00 by: Dan Lyke

Forest[Wiki] has been visiting recently, and last night he was trying to get me to go see Batman Begins[Wiki] with him. Now I'm not averse to a good superhero story, and there are elements of the Batman mythos that resonate in me, but as I thought about it, I realized that...

I read, or go to movies, or what have you, for two reasons:

  1. To safely experience an emotion or reaction.
  2. To learn something about the human experience.

Unable to concentrate at home yesterday, I'd tossed a laptop in my backpack and headed over to San Anselmo Coffee Roasters[Wiki] for a change of scenery. On the way down White's Hill I hit a rock and had a blowout, at which point the bike went into huge oscillations and it took me a looong distance to stop. Not only did I have my personal well-being to look after, I had a backpack filled with very expensive equipment which isn't mine. So I get quite enough adrenaline in my daily life, and don't need to go out and see an action film that by all accounts is shot in such a way that the action does naught to move the story. So much for #1.

And on the second, I'm finding that very few movies have the fortitude to explore any themes that I want to learn about the human experience. I think you may have hit on something here: While it's easy to say that the sex (or whatever the censor's target of choice is) is superfluous to the story, it's not just about the story, it's also about the nature and subtelty of the story that can get told. 'Mate' swimming naked is a dramatically different tale from 'Mate' swimming partially clothed, and if artists try to force themselves into a set of tools for telling stories they'll soon discover that there are only a few stories that they can tell with those tools.

So when they got back from the movie, I wasn't surprised to hear that I'd not missed any deep revelations about the human psyche.