Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema
26 Sep – 2 Nov 2014
Gallery of Modern Art
'When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad, I'm better.' Mae West as Tira in I'm No Angel 1933
Hollywood's transition from silent to sound cinema in the early 1930s delivered some of the most risqué films seen onscreen until those of the late 1960s. 'Forbidden Hollywood' celebrates this unique period of creative freedom which ended with the reinstatement of traditional moral values through the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934.
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the Depression which followed, struggling Hollywood studios sought to attract audiences by creating films that pushed the boundaries of social acceptability. With a gleeful mix of realism and glamour, these films tackled issues of sexuality and crime, social criticisms and a growing mistrust of authority. Strong women dominated the screen, scorning the prevailing Victorian-era ideals of passivity and purity, while stories about the police and gangsters were ripped straight from newspaper headlines during the Prohibition era.
By 1934, conservative groups — who had railed for years against what they saw as Hollywood's attack on traditional family values — succeeded in making the film studios adhere to the Production Code's censorship guidelines, a move that would affect audiences until 1968, when the code was abandoned in favour of a rating system.
QAGOMA thanks George Eastman House, Rochester; Library of Congress, Washington; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and UCLA Film and Television Archive, Los Angeles, for providing film prints for this program. Program curated by Amanda Slack-Smith, Australian Cinémathèque.
List of Works
Little Caesar 1931 | Director: Mervyn LeRoy
The Public Enemy 1931 | Director: William A Wellman
Possessed 1931 | Director: Clarence Brown
Shanghai Express 1932 | Director: Josef von Sternberg
The Beast of the City 1932 | Director: Charles Brabin
Scarface 1932 | Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Red-Headed Woman 1932 | Director: Jack Conway
Jewel Robbery 1932 | Director: William Dieterle
Blonde Venus 1932 | Director: Josef von Sternberg
Trouble in Paradise 1932 | Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Red Dust 1932 | Director: Victor Fleming
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932 | Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Call Her Savage 1932 | Director: John Francis Dillon
The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933 | Director: Frank R Capra
She Done Him Wrong 1933 | Director: Lowell Sherman
42nd Street 1933 | Director: Lloyd Bacon
Christopher Strong 1933 | Director: Dorothy Arzner
Gold Diggers of 1933 1933 | Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Baby Face 1933 | Director: Alfred E Green
I'm No Angel 1933 | Director: Wesley Ruggles
Female 1933 | Directors: Michael Curtiz, William A Wellman