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Forbidden Hollywood
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Baby Face

Forbidden Hollywood - 4/28


Pre-Code films are generally considered to be those films made in Hollywood between the advent of sound in the late 1920s and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code beginning in the mid-1930s. These movies were freewheeling and uninhibited, offering a frank look at subjects that would later become forbidden from being discussed on film until the 1960s, including: prostitution, drugs, unwed sex, abortion, interracial relationships, sexual health, critiques of the clergy and various forms of violence.

With this mini-festival, TCM offers three of the best-known pre-Codes in partnership with TCM's new book Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934): When Sin Ruled the Movies by Mark A. Vieira, available now in the TCM Shop. Little Caesar (1931), starring Edward G. Robinson as an Al Capone-like hoodlum, offers blunt portrayals of violence and sexuality--including undertones of homosexuality in Robinson's friendship with an aspiring dancer (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).

Red-Headed Woman (1932) is a comedy starring Jean Harlow as a beauty from the wrong side of the tracks who openly enjoys sex and uses it to get ahead socially. This amoral dame shows off her body at every opportunity, seduces everyone from her boss to the chauffeur and even attempts to murder a man.

Baby Face (1933), starring Barbara Stanwyck, is another tale of a working-class girl who sleeps her way to the top--in this case literally, as she moves from floor to floor of a bank building until she lands in the penthouse atop it. Even by pre-Code standards, this one is remarkably frank about its heroine's sexuality and predatory attitudes.

by Roger Fristoe
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