This isn’t our first encounter with the Hays Code. This was the document which came into force in 1934, and delineated precisely what sort of behaviour was unacceptable in Hollywood movies for the next three decades. It was also, by implication, the marker for the end of Hollywood’s Pre-Code era – that glorious four-year stretch between 1930 and 1934 when mild immorality ran wild on the big screen. It’s an era of filmmaking that’s been frequently celebrated by the British Film Institute, most notably in BFI Southbank's excellent 2014 season, Breaking The Code.
Shortly after that season took place, The Belated Birthday Girl bought me a four-pack of Pre-Code DVDs as a birthday present. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7 was one of a small-run series of collections by the Warner Archive label. It contained one film from the BFI season, and three others that were unfamiliar to me. A lovely present, of course, but like most of the discs in our joint collection it was a question of when we would find the time to watch them.
That time turned out to be April 2021. My MostlyFilm colleague and Porn Valley High alumnus, FilmFan, set up the hashtag #PreCodeApril on Twitter, and invited everyone he knew to watch some Pre-Code films and write about them. If you follow the hashtag, you can see it’s been a roaring success: half the images in my timeline this month have been in black and white, as Film Twitter has rushed to post countless stills and GIFs from these films to accompany their reviews.
I don’t really do film reviews on Twitter. So here they are.