ROCKLAND — The Strand Theatre presents a “pre-Code Hollywood Film Fest,” a series of films produced in the 1930’s before the “Hay’s Code” imposed film censorship guidelines.
During the early 1930s, desperately trying to lure broke depression-era movie goers into theaters, Hollywood studios created many films that challenged and transcended the "moral" and sexual boundaries of their times. Some films depicted or implied sexual innuendo, romantic and sexual relationships between white and black people, mild profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, or homosexuality. Nefarious characters were seen to profit from their deeds, in some cases without significant repercussions; gangsters in films such as The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and Scarface were seen by many as heroic rather than evil. Strong female characters were ubiquitous in such pre-Code films as Female, Baby Face, and Red-Headed Woman. Many of Hollywood's biggest stars such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, and Edward G. Robinson got their start in the era.
In 1934, in response to this salacious and perceived "immoral" material, the “Legion of Decency” was founded with the purpose of rating and restricting films for Catholic and Christian movie goers. This led to the creation of The Motion Picture Production Code (also called the Hays Code). Often complex and subject to interpretation, it became a game for some producers to sneak things past the censors – but many filmmakers turned to portraying an artificial world in which it appeared that no one had any sex, there were no gay people, crime never paid, and the good guys always won.
By the 1960s this voluntary code was mostly being ignored, so in 1968 the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) established the system of movie ratings in use today.
These rare big-screen presentations of “pre-Code” films begin on Sunday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m., with Hot Saturday (1932), starring Cary Grant, Nancy Caroll and Randolph Scott. In the film, a virtuous small-town bank clerk is the victim of a vicious rumor from an unsuccessful suitor that she spent the night with a notorious womanizer. In addition to the theme of compromised virtue is a party scene surprising for the prohibition era.
Jean Harlow and Clark Gable star in Red Dust (1932), showing on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. On a rubber plantation in French Indochina during the monsoon season, the plantation's owner (Gable), a prostitute (Harlow), and the wife of an engineer (Mary Astor) are involved in a love triangle. In addition to the major plot point of adultery, the film features a bathing scene which surely would have been forbidden by 1934.
In I’m No Angel (1933), screening on Sunday, Nov. 27, sharp and seductive Tira (Mae West) is a lauded circus performer. Her newest suitor, a married New York City socialite (Kent Taylor), showers her with gifts, but his cousin (Cary Grant) goes to Tira to try and convince her to end the affair. The film opens with Tira doing a famous shimmy, a dance which Mae West herself had been performing live in music halls to much scandal.
“The witty script, written by West, is a great example of the kind of ‘blue’ material which would be censored just a few years later,” said the Strand, in a news release.
Streand Teatre film tickets are $9/Adults,$8/Seniors and under 12, $7/Strand Members. Tickets are available at the box office 30 minutes prior to each show time.
For more information, visit www.rocklandstrand.com or call (207) 594-0070 EX 3.
The Strand Theatre is located at 345 Main St., Rockland.
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