In this 1931 publicity photo, Dorothy Mackaill plays a secretary-turned-prostitute in Safe in Hell, a pre-Code Warner Bros. film.
Pre-code Hollywood: The brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the motion picture production code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the "Hays Code", in mid-1934.
SEX IN PRECODE CINEMA Hollywood movies in the 1920s depicted sex, violence, and alcohol and drug abuse with freewheeling abandon, but filmmaking freedom halted with the mysterious murder of director William Desmond Taylor, the drug death of writer-director-actor Wallace Reid, and the rape trials of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Hollywood had to choose self-censorship or face the moral indignation of the law. They chose to manage movie madcaps themselves. Will H. Hays, President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945, prescribed the Production Code in 1930 and began strictly enforcing it in 1934. The Production Code spelled out a set of moral guidelines that were popularly known as the Hays Code. For decades, moviemaking was never the same. Spicy films from the Pre-code era, including Stolen Heaven (1931), The Night of June 13th (1932), Three on a Match (1932), Red-Headed Woman (1932), Call Her Savage (1932), This Reckless Age (1932), Young Bride (1932), Panama Flo (1932), and Baby Face (1933). The fabled faces of these fiery films, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, Wallace Beery, Carole Lombard, Frances Dee, Chester Morris, and Sylvia Sidney, as well as directors Frank Capra, Rouben Mamoulian, James Whale, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, William Wyler, and W. S. Van Dyke defined an entire era in cinematic history.
June 30th, 2022
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