Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930–1934); When Sin Ruled the Movies

Mark A. Vieira. Running, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7624-6677-1
In this informative, intelligent, and delightfully scandal-filled account, film historian Vieira takes as his topic the era between 1927—when the film industry created the production code, a self-censorship standard—and the summer of 1934, when it came into full force. From the stratospheric body count of 1932’s Scarface to the overt sexuality of 1933’s She Done Him Wrong, Vieira reveals a wide range of then-shocking material in early Depression-era cinema. He puts the lie to the most common misconception about the so-called pre-code era: that there was no film censorship at all during this time. Instead, he reveals an era of weak and ineffective code enforcement, with the studios raking in profits from risqué hits like 1929’s The Cock-Eyed World, until a religious backlash forced the studio heads to practically beg for the code to be enforced. Vieira further illuminates this story through hundreds of pristinely reproduced photographs, including of Boris Karloff conducting a Black Mass in The Black Cat, a cross-dressing Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, and Busby Berkeley’s “vista of showgirls” in Footlight Parade. Illuminating an integral part of movie history often seen through soft-focus and murky lighting, this clearly written survey deserves a spot both on film scholars’ book shelves and movie buffs’ coffee tables. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 03/20/2019
Release date: 04/30/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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