One of my dearest friends also happens to be one of the foremost film historians, Professor Lou Sabini. Lou attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and now teaches film history at a college in Connecticut. His last book was the wonderful “Behind the Scenes of They Were Expendable” that discusses the iconic John Ford film and is loaded with great rare photographs of John Wayne, John Ford, Ward Bond, Robert Montgomery and stars of that film. Lou was a protege of the noted film historian William K. Everson (his books were important in my study of film).
Lou’s newest book, Sex in the Cinema: The Pre-Code Years 1929-1934 from Bear Manor Books will be available on June 5th. Lou was kind enough to share a copy with me. I was stunned. This book is a true masterpiece from my learned friend. It will be a must-have for any aficionado of film.
This is from Bear Manor in it’s description of what the book is about:
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.
Rediscover 107 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).
Relive 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.
Author Lou Sabini points his comprehensive spotlight on the often forgotten yet always fascinating films that dared depict violence, drugs, and sex with a sinful flair.
107 films profiled. Illustrated with 178 rare photographs and memorabilia from the world’s archives. Complete casts, credits, production history, and biographical profiles of the stars, director, writers, and cameramen.”
Simply put, this book delves into these fascinating films that were made during this period of five years before the strict motion picture code was tightly enforced starting in 1934.
During this short window-writers, performers and directors had more latitude and freedom to create a different type of movie.
The book discusses films that are well known such as The Thin Man, Death Takes a Holiday, Laurel and Hardy’s Sons of the Desert, Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen, 42nd Street, Mae West and She Done Him Wrong, International House, Gold Diggers of 1933, Bing Crosby and The Big Broadcast, Grand Hotel, Mervyn LeRoy’s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (with Paul Muni), Tarzan the Ape Man, Jimmy Cagney and The Public Enemy, The Marx Brothers “Horse Feathers,” Howard Hughes and Hell’s Angels, Dancing Lady (with Gable and Joan Crawford), Men in White and countless others.
Lou also uncovers some lost films of that generation such as Warner Brothers Convention City or Paramount’s Murder at the Vanities which had topless women and songs about marijuana or Frank Capra’s The Younger Generation by the risque Fannie Hurst.
The films of this era were grittier, more raw and frank. They fed a hungry audience during the throes of the great Depression were a harsh reality along with great fantasy (such as Grand Hotel). The crime dramas such as LeRoy’s I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, The Big House and William Wellman’s The Public Enemy were downright brutal. Warner Brothers carved their own niche with these gritty crime films and struck a chord with audiences. Paramount countered with the bawdy Mae West in risque comedy films suck as I’m No Angel and She done Him Wrong. Jean Harlow exploded on the screen in Howard Hughes Hell’s Angel that never would have been producer just four years later.
Sex in Cinema contains a fascinating Forward by film historian Richard Barrios who gives great insight into the films of this period. Lou, as he has done in his previous book, offers great insight into each film and provides the backstory that will keep you reading late into the night. There are some great, rare photographs that accompany the entries that are beautifully mounted.
You can pre-order the book at sites like Amazon so you can have your copy right on June 5th! Here is that link:
Lou also is a co-creator of a wonderful film group on Facebook that is called My “Reel” Life that everyday offers great insight into film that I proudly belong to.
So it it with my highest recommendation for any casual or serious movie lover, to order a copy of this fascinating book that will enlighten you about this rare period of motion pictures- that was written by one of our great film historians and my friend, Lou Sabini.