Forbidden Cinema: Infamous Pre-Code Classics

Saturday 1 September – Sunday 18 November 2012

It seems like a glimpse into an alternate universe, but there was a brief, glorious moment in early cinema history during which Hollywood censorship was all but vanquished.

Thanks to a gentlemen’s agreement by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, studios promised to police their own content and abide by the Production Code. For four years, from March 31, 1930 when the formal pledge of the Code was made, until the Production Code Administration’s strict enforcement of it began on July 2, 1934, Hollywood gave itself a free pass to produce and promote whatever morally ambiguous material it dared. Often salaciously advertised, hyping the bawdy or violent content promised within, Pre-Code films were the epitome of everything the Catholic League despited about Hollywood. When MPPDA president Will H. Hays finally brought the hammer down and appointed the zealously administrative Joseph I. Breen to chair the PCA, Hollywood’s wild ride was over.


Saturday, September 1st, 2012

  • 11:30am: Scarface

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

  • 11:30am: Scarface

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

  • 11:29am: I’m No Angel

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Baby Face

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Baby Face

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

  • 11:30am: Gold Diggers of 1933

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

  • 11:30am: Gold Diggers of 1933

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Red-Headed Woman

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Red-Headed Woman

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Blonde Venus

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Blonde Venus

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

  • 11:30am: Night Nurse

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

  • 11:30am: Night Nurse

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

  • 10:30am: Two Seconds

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

  • 10:30am: Search For Beauty

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

  • 10:30am: Search For Beauty


  • Sat 1 Sep 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 2 Sep 2012, 11:30am

Scarface (1932)

directed by Howard Hawks starring Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, and Karen Morley in English

Of all the gangster films produced in the 30s, Scarface was the most controversial and violent. Thinly disguising an Al Capone biopic, Ben Hecht’s screenplay keeps a near forensic level of detail to the ordered killings Capone organized, as Hollywood double Tony Camonte wastes his boss and takes over the racket, aided by the coin-flipping George Raft.

IMDb Page

  • Sun 9 Sep 2012, 11:30am

I’m No Angel (1933)

directed by Wesley Ruggles starring Mae West, Cary Grant and Gregory Ratoff

With I’m No Angel, Mae West wrote the plot for her own star vehicle, thanks to a surprise hit in She Done Him Wrong. Tira (West) is a dancing beauty at a carnival sideshow, prancing and preening in a formfitting dress before her dumbstruck male audiences. Before an all-male jury, she brings a similar wiggling panache to the courtroom to defend her modern ways.

  • Sat 15 Sep 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 16 Sep 2012, 11:30am

Baby Face (1933)

directed by Alfred E. Green starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and Donald Cook

Barbara Stanwyk stars in the most notorious sex-in-the-workplace vice film made during the Pre-Code era. Arriving in the big city after a stint in a speakeasy dive to work at Gotham Trust Company, Lily (Stanwyck) starts at the bottom floor but resolves to leap to the executive suite, two floors at a time! Screening in a restored, unedited print from the Library of Congress.

  • Sat 22 Sep 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 23 Sep 2012, 11:30am

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

directed by Mervyn LeRoy starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, and Aline MacMahon

Three gold-digging roommates aim to skip the breadlines in this Busby Berkeley musical. Coin-clad Ginger Rogers warbles “We’re In The Money” while Ruby Keeler falls for tunesmith Dick Powell and Joan Blondell fends off upperclass lecher Warren William. Including the downright smutty “Pettin’ in the Park” number.

  • Sat 29 Sep 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 30 Sep 2012, 11:30am

Red-Headed Woman (1932)

directed by Jack Conway starring Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, and Lewis Stone

Jean Harlow plays Lil Andrews, the titular scheming vixen who targets her rich married boss, and any other dimwitted male, to siphon his funds and advance her financial and social standing. After wrecking one marriage, Lil can’t help but keep climbing the ladder ‘til there’s no more rungs to grab!

  • Sat 6 Oct 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 7 Oct 2012, 11:30am

Blonde Venus (1932)

directed by Josef von Sternberg starring Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, and Herbert Marshall

While her impoverished and sickly husband can’t even sell his body to medical science for radium treatment, Marlene Dietrich has to beat back those who’d gladly purchase hers. Hitting the streets to pay for her hubby’s medicine, Dietrich climbs up and down the socioeconomic ladder, including a lucrative affair with Cary Grant. Featuring Dietrich’s (in)famous gorilla-suited number “Hot Voodoo”!

  • Sat 20 Oct 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 21 Oct 2012, 11:30am

Night Nurse (1931)

directed by William A. Wellman starring Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, and Joan Blondell

Spunky nurses Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell, in between a quick change of their uniforms for negligees, uncover a plot by a wealthy society doctor to starve two children to death in order to seize their trust fund. Aided by the evil chauffeur (Clark Gable), the doctor keeps the mother hopped up on pills and booze to advance his scheme!

  • Sun 11 Nov 2012, 11:30am

Two Seconds (1932)

directed by Mervyn LeRoy starring Edward G. Robinson, Vivienne Osborne, and Guy Kibbee

In two seconds he became the slave of the woman he hated! Two blinding, flashing seconds that stripped him of honor and branded his soul! That’s how long it takes for Edward G. Robinson to die in the electric chair! In those moments, Robinson relives the events that brought him here, from a loveless marriage to a scheming taxi dancer and the psychotic crimes he’s committed. Robinson’s outstanding performance brings to life the story of a high-rise construction worker whose grand ambitions were crushed by a cruel world. Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.

  • Sat 17 Nov 2012, 11:30am
  • Sun 18 Nov 2012, 11:30am

Search For Beauty (1934)

directed by Erle C. Kenton starring Buster Crabbe, Ida Lupino, and Robert Armstrong

Larry “Buster” Crabbe and Ida Lupino (in her American screen debut!) are a pair of Olympians duped into running a nudie rag dressed up as a fitness magazine. When the two want out to start something a bit more wholesome, their patrons have other ideas. This playfully dirty comedy runs true to the tabloid at the story’s center, often making the film an excuse to parade cheese – and beefcakes – around.

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