Pre-Coded Movie Recommendations for April – Movie Stories

This week in our old films section, we challenge you to participate in the April pre-code – here are some recommendations of films to see.

It’s April pre-code month! Created last year by film critic, author and podcaster Matthew Turner, the object is quite simple – watch as many pre-Code movies as possible. For those who don’t know, pre-Code signifies an era in Hollywood cinema from 1929 to 1934 when movies were riskier with their content.

There are loads of movies to start watching with snappy runtimes, dark themes or brilliant comedies.

So, if you are looking for something to watchI will dive into my repertoire and suggest films at random that you must see if you participate in Pre-Code April (And I’ll try to leave Fredric March, who is often mentioned in these columns, out of it – although you should watch all of his movies!).

I am not an angel (1933)
Real. Wesley Ruggles

“Come see me once in a while.”

Mae West – the queen of sensual innuendo. Here, she directs this fantastic romantic drama that’s pretty much everything perfect about the pre-code era. She plays the role of a circus star who agrees to stick his head in the lions’ mouths but gets into a heated argument with his boss.

With Cary Grant, it’s an absolute treat because everything West says is positively indecent and decadent. You will quote it for a while after your first watch.

The age of consent (1932)
Real. Gregory La Cava

Mike and Betty are two college sweethearts who are meant to be with each other. However, they continue to enter the gender politics of being young while trying to be in a relationship. They break up a lot throughout the movie and get into all sorts of hijinks.

In true pre-Code style, a lot happens in just one hour and four minutes, plus the ending really jumps the shark. Yet it touches on a lot of themes about sex and love that some modern movies haven’t even elaborated on yet.

big hotel (1932)
Real. Edmond Goulding

A Grand Hotel. A Crawford. A garbo. A Grand Hotel. Two Barrymores.

The cast dynasty steals scenes in this epic drama. The film revolves around the residents of the titular hotel. John Barrymore plays a baron (who is also a gambler and a con artist) trying to get rich out of the pockets of the wealthiest elite out there. Lionel Barrymore is a dying man who wishes to spend his savings on luxury. Garbo is a sick dancer who falls in love with the Baron while Crawford is an assistant trying to uncover the truth about the people who populate the hotel.

A terrific look at the complex lives of the characters, with stellar performances from everyone involved. big hotel won the Best Picture Oscar although it was not nominated in any other category!

Jewel theft (1932)
Real. William Dieterle

Kay Francis and William Powell shine in this brilliant comedic caper dripping and oozing with sexuality. Heiress Teri is bored with her life. While shopping with a future fiancé, she is restrained by a suave thief and ends up falling in love with him.

The incredible chemistry between Francis and Powell is divine and Kay Francis delivers seductive, sassy lines that are dripping with need. Lots of fun with a brilliant ending too!

The Criminal Code (1931)
Real. howard hawks

walter huston leads this stellar film that delves into the horrifying psychological upheaval that is the American prison system. The story sees Huston as DA Mark Brady who makes an example of the young and naive Robert Graham after he accidentally kills a man during a fight in a pub. However, the hardships of the prison begin to drastically alter Graham.

It’s an intense look at a system that breaks men, as well as the power of friendships forged in prison. There are shocking scenes and Hawks’ use of a violent soundsthe cape is absolutely haunting. Plus, he has a supporting performance from Boris Karloff in a role where he’s not a hulking monster!

Double Carries (1934)
Real. Charles Vidor

Move over Mrs. Danvers, there’s a new manipulative psychopath in town. This Time It’s Victoria Van Brett in Charles Vidor’s Sullen Horror Drama Double door. The film sees Victoria stalking her brother Rip’s new bride, Anne, in a game of manipulation and cruel mind domination.

Based on a stage show that apparently had Broadway gasping; this movie deals with everything from incest to murder. It boasts a surprisingly good performance from Mary Morris who, unfortunately, only starred in one film.

city ​​streets (1931)
Real. Rouben Mamoulian

With Sylvia Sydney and Gary Cooper, city ​​streets revolves around a gallery showman who falls in love with a racketeer’s daughter. When her own father implicates her in a murder, she is sent to prison and oh‘ dad tries to bring the showman (known only as The Kid) into the gang in order to free her.

Classified as a proto-noir film, this the film is packed with impressive characters and snappy dialogue that both burns and sucks. Mamoulian is truly one of the masters of pre-Code cinema, so the shots and transitions are seriously inventive.

trouble in paradise (1932)
Real. Ernst Lubitsch

Speaking of masters of cinema, here is Lubitsch. There are many films of his that you can immerse yourself in this era and enjoy, especially his musicals with the one and only Maurice Chevalier.

However, there is just something special about trouble in paradise. The film sees Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins play the role of a gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket who fall in love. Yet when they try to scam a beautiful woman -Kay Francis- of his fortune, mischief occurs when one of the two begins to fall into disrepute.vand with her.

Funny, succinct and utterly watchable, this is an impeccable Lubitsch film. It was also one of Wes Anderson’s inspirations The Grand Hotel in Budapest.

It happened one night (1934)
Real. Frank Capra

It’s an amazing road trip, with Clark Gabthe and Claudette Colbert, who sees our couple taunting and berating each other until they fall irresistibly in love with each other. It revolves around a socialite who runs off to get away against her father’s wishes and a depressed journalist who crosses paths with her on the bus.

Not only are there some fantastic spats between Gable and Colbert, but there are also some iconic scenes including Colbert stopping traffic at the mere sight of his flesh.

It was the first film to win all five major Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor. The other two films that managed to do this are Flight over a cuckoo’s nest (1975) and Thesilenceofthelambs (1991)

The Wild Party (1929)
Real. Dorothy Arzner

I would be remiss if I did not mention at least one Dorothy Arzner movie! The Wild Party is classified as Clara Bow’s very first walkie-talkie and what a riot it is! She plays the role of a student who comes acrossand bangs his head with it, his future teacher on a train. Their relationship is strained but eventually, as it always does, they fall in love with each other.

True story, Arzner invented the boom mic to help Clara Bow get used to sound equipment. The film also stars Fredric March in his one of his first tracking roles and it is often cited as the film that propelled him to stardom.

What will you be watching in this pre-code April?

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