A hearty slice of pre-code cinema screens at the Egyptian Theatre Thursday, May 22 and Friday, May 23, with double- and triple-features of films not yet released to DVD, alongside documentaries that cast an illuminating light on movies that flagrantly flaunted their vice-laden pedigree.
Harnessing the wilder impulses of Hollywood cinema at the end of the silent era was one of the prime items on the agenda of every politician and crusading do-gooder in America. A production code was actually drawn up circa 1930, supposedly severely limiting some of the sexy, saucy and ultra-violent antics cropping up in the movies. But things still continued apace, with little real censorship beyond nod-and-a-wink lip service to the new standards. In the wake of Prohibition in the early 1930s, though, public and political outcry forced the appointment of Joseph Breen to preside over enforcement of the code in 1934, finally putting some teeth into the new criteria.
As numerous films from the era have been restored, most notably by Sony
Repertory’s Preservation Department, Warner Bros. (in conjunction with
their recent “Forbidden Hollywood” pre-code DVD releases) and the UCLA
Archive (in conjunction with Universal Pictures), a fascination has evolved among current movie fans for the pre-code Hollywood phenomenon, especially for the talkies from the early 1930s. Several excellent documentaries on the subject have been made, including Why Be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema, executive produced by Hugh Hefner and directed by Elaina Archer.
That film, as well as a handful of some of the rarest yet most fascinating pre-code movies available, including Frank Capra’s Forbidden, Cecil B. DeMille’s Madam Satan and Charles Brabin’s Beast of the City (none of which have yet been released to DVD) will screen May 22 and 23 at the historic
Egyptian Theatre, which is located at
Tickets for all events are available through Fandango, but for 24-hour recorded information on screenings,
directions and other matters, phone (323) 466-FILM, or visit the Cinematheque’s eponymous
Web site by clicking here.