Our Classics on Sundays theme for September is Pre-Code Hollywood. Click here for films and schedule.
The early days of talking pictures just happened to coincide with the darkest days of the Great Depression, and escapism – especially at the movies – was the rule of the day. Believe it or not, until the fabled “Production Code” took force in mid-1934, the movies were a much racier, tawdrier, and more frank medium than they would be for another thirty years or more. The self-imposed Hollywood Production Code arose largely in response to the licentious ways of the likes of Mae West and the violence of the gangster and horror films of the time; in order to avoid the imminent threat of government censorship, the Code swiftly clamped down on moral issues with the grip of a Puritan vice. (One ironic indicator of the Code’s effect was that the biggest money-making female star of 1933 was Mae West, and in 1934 that honor went to Shirley Temple.) The Colonial Theatre’s classic film choices for this month are an attempt to honor the fascinating pre-code period of the early thirties, when vice sometimes won out over virtue, and daring (and sometimes bizarre) subject matter had yet to become taboo. Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear when, as Cole Porter so aptly put it, “anything goes.”