Pre-Code Pick of the Month
Omigosh, y’all – you do NOT want to miss all the pre-Code goodness that’s fairly spilling over the sides of TCM on Thursday, January 9th. It’s pre-Code-tastic! Pre-Code-errific! A veritable pre-Code-arama!
Here’s what’s on the line-up . . .
This movie is a gas. I discovered it during my recent obsession with Lilyan Tashman, when I was desperate to watch any of her movies I could rest my eyeballs on, and I lucked up on this one for free on YouTube! It stars Helen Twelvetrees in the title role of a woman who goes through more angst, upheaval, and melodramatic woe than you can shake a stick at. And it’s all that! Plus, in addition to the totally awesome Lilyan Tashman, the film co-stars Joan Blondell. You’re welcome.
Favorite quote: “From now on, I don’t care where I’m seen – as long as I’m not seen with you!” Millie Maitland (Helen Twelvetrees)
Trivia tidbit: The film’s star was born Helen Marie Jurgens. Her first husband was named Clark Twelvetrees (no, really!) and she used his moniker as her professional name.
The Firebird (1934)
This interesting and unusual film is set in Vienna and features Ricardo Cortez – need I say more? If you know anything at all about Mr. Cortez, you won’t be surprised to learn that he’s playing quite the cad – a self-absorbed skinflint with a bitter ex-wife and a hankering for the lady who lives upstairs. The cast includes Verree Teasdale as the lady and Anita Louise as her Firebird-loving daughter. Speaking of “The Firebird,” if you don’t know this musical composition now, you will by the time this film is over.
Favorite quote: “I’ll tell them a few things about a fashionable actor, who was nothing until a chorus girl picked him up and worked her head off to pay for his education. And now he won’t even pay her a measly alimony. You’ve got to spend it on society dames! And still you can’t hold one. You fool them for a while with that gentlemanly veneer, which I bought for you – then they begin to smell the male chambermaid in you!” – Mrs. Jolan Brandt (Dorothy Tree)
Trivia tidbit: The year after this film’s release, Verree Teasdale married actor Adolphe Menjou. The two remained together until Menjou’s death in 1963. Bonus tidbit: Russian composer Stravinsky sued Warner Bros. for their “misuse” of the music from his ballet, “The Firebird.” He was seeking 300,000 francs in damages. He won the case – and was awarded one franc.
Grand Hotel (1932)
This star-studded MGM gem is one of my favorites – it covers the comings and goings and behind-closed-door doings during two days in Germany’s Grand Hotel. The varied personages include a despondent prima ballerina, a cash-strapped baron, a worldly wise stenographer, and a terminally ill bookkeeper having one last fling. (Click here for more on this movie, which was my pick of the month for February 2013.)
Favorite quote: “Believe me, Mr. Kringelein, a man who is not with a woman is a dead man.” – Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone)
Trivia tidbit: Watch for this goof when the Baron steals the ballerina’s pearls from her trunk. When he pulls them out, they are shown to be a long strand of large pearls. But later, when he withdraws them from his pocket, the pearls are smaller and the strand is noticeably shorter.
Rain tells the story of Sadie Thompson – here in her second of at least three screen iterations (one was played by Gloria Swanson in a silent feature and another by Rita Hayworth in color) – that free-spirited “fallen woman” whose life is turned upside down by a religious zealot. If you haven’t seen Joan Crawford in Rain, you simply and truly must. It’s a riveting performance. And I’m not just saying that because I love Joanie so. Really not!
Favorite quote: “You men! You’re all alike – pigs! I wouldn’t trust any of you!” – Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford)
Trivia tidbit: Because of the negative response from critics and even some of her fans, Joan Crawford always hated her performance in Rain. (But I love it!) (Did I say that already?)
Those are my picks for pre-Code day on January 9th – don’t miss ‘em! (And stick around to see Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee on the next day – you only owe it to yourself!)