Pre-Code on YouTube

Happy New Year, classic film lovers!

I hope that you all are having a great start to 2021 – the last time I wrote, it was for 30 straight days of noir for Noirvember 2020, so I thought I’d start this year with a leap into the pre-Code pool. If you read my Noirvember posts, you’ll know that there’s a wide variety of noir features on YouTube – but there’s also a plethora of pre-Code movies there as well. Some of them are not in the best condition, and there are certainly some that aren’t worth your time, but there are others that are absolutely first-rate – today, I’m sharing two of these:

Don’t Bet on Women (1931)

“All women need handling.” Hmph.

I first discovered this film at the 2015 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, and it was one of the highlights of the event for me. This feature stars Edmund Lowe (who was married at the time to actress Lilyan Tashman) as Roger Fallon, a notorious womanizer with a low opinion of the opposite sex (“They’re all bad. They’re deceitful! Hard! Calculating! But, oh, how fascinating!”). Fallon’s views on women are in sharp contrast to those of his new attorney, Herbert Drake (Roland Young), who is happily married and theorizes that women are like children who are only “as bad as we allow them to be . . . all women need handling.”

When the two men encounter each other at a party, they clash again over their differing outlooks regarding women. Drake winds up betting the self-assured Fallon that it will take him more than 48 hours to capture a kiss from the first woman he sees. As it turns out, the first woman Roger sees is Herbert’s wife, Jeanne (Jeanette MacDonald). And that’s when the fun really begins!

Other Stuff:

If Una Merkel was in a scene, she was walking away with it.

Una Merkel plays Tallulah Hope, the man-crazy, slightly scatterbrained, Southern belle friend of Jeanne Drake. She’s a sheer delight in the role, and steals every scene she’s in.

Louise Beavers is seen in the film for a scant couple of seconds; she enters a room, says, “I beg your pardon” and leaves.

Another small part is played by Henry Kolker – you might remember him from one of the best-known pre-Codes, Baby Face, where he played a wealthy executive who becomes the “sugar daddy” to the title character. He can also be seen as Baron Franz in Jewel Robbery (1932), with William Powell and Kay Francis, and the father of Katharine Hepburn in Holiday (1938).

Favorite Quotes

“All parties are alike . . . Women wear a new frock now and then. But they never think of wearing a new face.” – Edmund Lowe

“There’s no virtue in a woman being good if she’s never had a chance to be bad.” – Jeanette MacDonald

Deluge (1933)

The effects were pretty special — especially for 1933.

Last summer, as part of my (failed) attempt to complete the annual Classic Movie Book Challenge, I managed to read one book: Hollywood’s Hard-Luck Ladies, by Laura Wagner. The book talks about the careers and personal tragedies of 23 actresses from the Golden Age of Cinema; one of these was Peggy Shannon, who – according to the author – was a standout in a 1933 film “about the dog-eat-dog world that results from an apocalyptic earthquake and flood.” That film was Deluge. I’d never heard of it before, but I soon found that it was available on YouTube, so I decided to check it out. And what an experience!

The film opens as information about the approach of a violent storm begins to spread across the world. We’re introduced to a few characters – Claire Arlington (Shannon), a marathon athlete who was just about to embark on a world-record swimming attempt, and Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer), who tries to save his wife and two small children after hearing about the impending disaster on the radio. After a sudden lunar eclipse and earthquake, we’re shown nearly 10 minutes of the destruction of the city of New York, complete with toppling skyscrapers and massive floods. And while some of the special effects are obviously low-budget, much of the sequence is frighteningly impressive. After the destruction, we see that Claire and Martin have survived – only to find that their troubles are just beginning.

Peggy Shannon. So pretty. So sad.

Logging in at about 66 minutes, this once-lost film is fascinating to watch. It’s no Gone With the Wind, but it will hold your attention from start to finish. Shannon, who was strikingly pretty, had a sad life off-screen, dying from alcoholism at the age of 34, just eight years after the film’s release – but author Laura Wagner was right: she’s a standout in this feature.

Other stuff:

One of the many creepy men in this movie who try to get their hands on Claire is played by Ralf Harolde. He was good at bringing these kinds of characters to life – he was an unethical doctor with a facial tic in Night Nurse (1933) and another crooked physician in Murder, My Sweet (1944).

Samuel Hinds was in approximately two gazillion movies during his career. Take a peek at his IMDB page sometime.

Samuel Hinds is seen in a small role as a weather forecaster – you’ll recognize him as Jean Arthur’s father in You Can’t Take It With You (1936) and George Bailey’s father in It’s a Wonderful Life (1939).

Deluge was directed by Felix Feist, who I know better for his noir work; he helmed The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), The Threat (1949), and The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950).

Favorite Quote:

“If you mean talk it over calmly, you picked the wrong time and the wrong woman. I’m used to fighting for what I want.” – Peggy Shannon

And that’s it for my first installment of pre-Codes on YouTube. Stay tuned for future posts on time-worthy pre-Codes that you can find on this website. For free!

You only owe it to yourself.

~ by shadowsandsatin on January 17, 2021.

17 Responses to “Pre-Code on YouTube”

  1. “If Una Merkel was in a scene, she was walking away with it.” Truer words were never spoken!

  2. Excellent article.

  3. Looking forward to adding these to the “watched” column.

  4. Ah, great! Will have to watch these ones out. Always a joy to see Una Merkel.

  5. Great recommendations on YouTube is like getting a present on your birthday. Thanks for these!

  6. I loved Deluge so much I got the ebook, but then I forgot I bought it. Until now! So many things I’ve gotta read…

  7. Hello! Are you planning on hosting the Great Villain Blogathon this year?

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