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The Daring, the Risque, the Unique. Pre-Code.

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Pre-Code films were made before the Motion Picture Production Code or hayes Code was put into effect during the middle of 1934. The code served as a set of guidelines for movie studios on the production of films. There was a conduct code for film that was made in 1930, but many ignored it and it wasn't enforced. It was written by Daniel Lord and officially adopted in 1930--but ignored in Hollywood, since no one saw any reason to follow the guidelines. But, as sound came into the scene of motion pictures, so did risque movie subjects. Films made during the early 1930s were and still are very risque. They could include illegal drug use, homosexuality or sexual innuendoes. Not to mention, women in their lingerie. This was all considered taboo at the time, whereas nowadays you're lucky if that's all you see! Popular film characters included assertive women, gangsters and prositutes. You name it, they had it.

As a result of the references to drug use, sexual promiscuity, gangster life and morally-wrong film endings, this drew attention from various religious groups. This included both Catholics and Protestants, but it was in particular Amleto Giovanni Cicogani, who was a delagate to the Catholic Church. They called upon American Catholics to unite against morally-wrong films and by 1933, many were boycotting films that seemed offensive. Some even started their own organizations, such as the Catholic Legion of Decency, also created in 1933.

By 1934, movie-goers were dropping like flies, although the Depression might've had something to do with it. People in the film industry weren't happy with the idea of losing more of an audience, so the Pre-Code era came to a close with the opening of a special bureau originally titled the Breen Office. Their purpose was to review possible movie scripts and finished films in order to make sure they followed the code to the absolute letter. If it wasn't approved and still released to the public, many devout religious people wouldn't go, just because it hadn't been approved. Many stars, also, such as Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and especially Jean Harlow were forced to go through a metamorphosis of their images because of their code. Their careers were circled around sex and lies, but as many can see, over the years, their images changed from trashy to classy. Harlow even ditched her signature platinum hair and went as a brunette for a more sophisticated look.

As soon as the Pre-Code era had come, it was gone in an instant. The film industry drastically changed because of this new code. Just to note, this code also popularized several Biblical films (mostly made by director Cecil B. DeMille, whose plots were focused on strong women). But, today, most old movie fans prefer Pre-Code films for their attitudes towards some could say "adult" topics. Their prevention of risque themes weren't seen in movies until after the code demolished.

 

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