Hollywood When It Was Hot | Bleader

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hollywood When It Was Hot

Posted By on 03.25.10 at 06:00 PM

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"Precode cinema" refers to movies made in Hollywood before middle-American outrage over their licentiousness began to prompt threats of government censorship and forced the studios to institute their own voluntary policing of movies' content. When people talk about these movies now, they usually focus on sex, but it's important to remember that the Motion Picture Production Code, adopted in June 1934, covered a wide variety of subjects. Religious figures could not be ridiculed, and the American flag had to be respected. Drug use, interracial relationships, and even childbirth were never to be depicted onscreen.

In a sense the production code was a political as much as a moral stricture; it served as a bucket of cold water on the progressive moviemakers who were attacking America's social ills in films like Wild Boys of the Road and I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. If you aren't familiar with precode cinema, you might find it a subject worth investigating, particularly if you equate the Golden Age of Hollywood with the squeaky-clean Hollywood films of the late 30s and early 40s. When you hear conservatives lament their lost America, the America they're talking about may never have existed anywhere but in heavily policed media.

Tonight at 7 PM, Matthew Hoffman, a former programmer of the old LaSalle Bank Cinema (now Bank of America Cinema) launches a weekly nine-film series on precode Hollywood at the Park Ridge Public Library. The series kicks off with the Ernst Lubitsch comedy Trouble in Paradise, to be followed by William Wellman's Night Nurse (1931, screening April 1), Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931, screening August 8), Dorothy Arzner's Merrily We Go to Hell (1932, screening April 15), Mervyn LeRoy's Three on a Match (1932, screening April 22), Wellman's Heroes for Sale (1933, screening April 29) and Midnight Mary (1933, screening May 13), Alfred E. Green's Baby Face (1933, screening May 20), and Mitchell Leisen's Murder at the Vanities (1934, screening May 27).

Admission is free, and each program begins at 7 PM with an introduction by Hoffman. The library is located at 20 S. Prospect in Park Ridge, and the phone number is 847-825-3123.

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