If you’re not familiar with Ruth Chatterton, now’s the time to get familiar. While there may be good reason to not know Ruth, her work in some fantastic pre-code films in the 20’s and 30’s warrant attention. Those that paired her with husband George Brent were always particularly steamy.

One film most memorable is FEMALE, starring opposite hubby George. As in most of the pre-codes Hollywood goes to town with risqué topics- here we see the successful career women, unable to keep a man of her own, and as a result goes through them like water. Thus many a young engineer comes through her car company only to be spotted, tried out, and promptly disposed of. On a whim, and not wanting to be known for her success, Ruth takes to the town and runs into George. They flirt, and play and at the end of the night separate. Of course the next morning when he starts as the wonder boy engineer at her company, and suddenly doesn’t want anything to do with her. He knows this game, but she’s never been turned down before. The problem—she doesn’t really know how to be chased, and a man, well..likes to feel like a man. And so begins her transformation into a somewhat helpless lily in order to snatch the man she wants. But can she maintain the farce long enough to secure the man, or will her true nature get the better of her?




The Moon is Blue

Moon is Blue              1953 was the year the Production Code began to unravel, and in no short part due to the film, The Moon is Blue.

                 Laced with brazen questions brought on by Maggie McNamara , it’s William Holden who ends up holding all the moral ground in this story. It’s difficult to tell who is picking up who in the gift shop of the Empire State Building, and no way to tell what is about to follow! As Maggie accepts an invitation to Holden’s apartment she is well aware of what it may entail and has formed in her own mind how far is too far. Meanwhile, her insistence on staying out of the rain and cooking dinner at his apartment drives Holden out for groceries, leaving the girl unattended and fresh bait for David Niven. David is the father of Holden’s most recent female conquest, and there to talk about the grave insult he is responsible for, regarding his daughter; his insult-not sleeping with her. Thus progresses an interesting evening filled with accusations, assault, proposals, refusals, and confusion.  It’s an excellent film, reminding me slightly of the brazen attitude found in The Voice of the Turtle.

                This film, sprung from the Broadway sensation of the same name, was released WITHOUT the Production Code Seal, and while many feared that the film would be ill-received, all found that the cult following of writer/director Otto Preminger made it quite a success. The words Preminger refused to remove from the script that led to the movie being released without the Production Code Seal: Virgin, Mistress, Pregnant and Seduction.

Party Husband


Party Husband 1931 (First National)

The best part of Party Husband, which I feared may just be another one of these movies with a message, is when the husband emerges from a dark kitchen wearing non-removable lip rouge, and is caught by his wife.  Mind you, she brought someone home too, but didn’t know he was hiding a girl in the dark kitchen. They do have a modern marriage after all! Something you see everyone attempting in the 30’s but no one accomplishing. The legs in this film come in the form of the socialites trying to seduce both halves of this married couple.  Fake phone calls, and fake jobs luring the moths to the flame are nothing compared to the woman willing to fight for the man she loves- even when he’s not her husband. Laura, the wife, soon finds her modern marriage getting more modern when she discovers her biggest competition isn’t the local floozy, but her best friend since childhood, Kate.  There’s a little more depth to this film than originally supposed as both the husband and wife realize what they’re doing, but neither really willing to fight for it. Thankfully, the mother comes to visit and slaps them all upside the head, and tells it like it is.

Week-End Marriage


Week-End Marriage 1932 (First National)

“I like being independent.”

“Because you’re not in love, that’s why.”

This is the story of the Independent Woman in the 1930’s. If you were a working woman it was usually because you were single and needed to support yourself, or because you were stupid. See if you weren’t single, you had a husband who could support you, and you should stay home, do housework and make babies- that was your destiny.

This was sort of a difficult movie to watch, because so much of it can still be relevant today. Loretta Young plays a girl in love, but she doesn’t want to be single forever and manages to catch herself a hubby at the cost of him giving up a big career break in South America. Obviously no one should start a marriage with that much debt on the balance sheet.  But she, along with most women during this time, felt like they could be both a wife and working girl. Staying home and being a homemaker and mother was close to the death penalty. So… the wife does her work well, gets raises, neglects the home. The husband doesn’t take the South American gig, gets hours cut, and is now making less than his wife. Needless to say, that’s a recipe for disaster.  Aline MacMahon adds fun and clever lines to the plot helping to lighten up this tense topic.

There’s a lovely turning point in this film with a monologue given by the good doctor tending the sick bed of the neglected/made-to-look-after-himself husband that makes this whole film worth watching.  From our place in 2014, the words he spoke could have been spoken to a man or a woman. It wasn’t just about women sacrificing everything; it was about basic human needs we tend to look at as weaknesses. It feels like a brutally honest truth that we’ve all hidden under the goals we think we should have.

“You talk about freedom because you think it’s something they need and cherish, but they don’t, they hate it.  They get along best when they’re not free. They need old fashioned women nagging them, giving them families to live for. It’s human nature that’s all.”


Road to Paradise


Road to Paradise 1930 (First National)

Loretta Young Times Two

A 17 year old Loretta Young plays double roles as Mary- the girl mixed up with jewel robbers, and Margaret- the high society lady they plan to rob. Both can read minds. This is a fast-paced cat vs. mouse story laced with twists and turns enough to keep you guessing if Mary will get caught up until the very last moment.   Loretta showed excellent ability here to act two different characters and played Mary’s jittery, nervous and innocent to Margaret’s classy, poised and decisive. That’s all the story line I’m giving you, as its one you really do need to see for yourself to appreciate.


Three Wise Girls

Three Wise Girls 1932 (Columbia Pictures)

“Oh, go away, I hate blondes.”

“Well I hate drunks, so that makes us even.”

Frustrated that she can’t get anywhere in her own little town, Cassie( Jean Harlow) goes to New York to make her own way as a model. While staying with her friend Dot, she learns from her well-to-do-friend Gladys that love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re in love with a married banker. Of course that whole situation gets a whole lot fuzzier when Cassie catches the eye of the Gladys’ banker. Marie Prevost ( Dot) adds all the fun, wisecracks and perspective while Mae Clarke( Gladys) adds the dose of unpleasant reality. What’s more is that Cassie actually meets her knight in shining armor right at the beginning as she’s feeding him alka seltzer, and quitting her job as a soda jerk in NY, but she’s so clueless she has no idea that he’s actually the white knight!  Of course it seems all the good men are already married, wanting divorces, and being unable to get them. Shame. Luckily one pulls through for our dear Jean Harlow…. we knew he would didn’t we?