Friday, November 20, 2015

New pre-code film favorite!

I've been aching to watch more classic films lately. I don't have cable, so I can't access Turner Classic movies, and Netflix's selection of classic films is appallingly bad.

I have to find ones that are in the public domain and available to stream on YouTube, which narrows my selection down quite a bit. I'm not going to find any Clark Gable or Jean Harlow films in those parameters.

I ended up watching one called Young Bride from 1932. The opening scene takes place in a library, so I was interested in watching more. There's even a funny little aside in which a male patron comes in asking for an illustrated copy of Aphrodite. Upon hearing his request, the female library paige gasps and covers her mouth as she scurries on with her cart; the spinster librarian replies that the book is not currently in publication.  After a bit of research, I found out that this is referencing Pierre Louys' Aphrodite: moeurs antiques, published in 1896. The book was banned in 1929 by the United States Customs Bureau for being "lewd, corrupting and obscene," probably due to the lesbian relationships and "unrestricted sensuality among women."

From there, we cut to the children's room, where a pretty women is showing a miniature village to two children, and pointing out where all the fairytale characters such as Rapunzel and Peter Pan live.

So far the movie contained a library, banned books and a children's librarian who loves fairy tales and miniature renderings of them.


I was so happy in my new discovery that I can easily overlook the old spinster librarian trope. Librarians seem to be akin to nuns in 1930's and 40's films; remember George Bailey's horror at that alternate fate for Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life?

The story line isn't highly original; Good Girl falls for Bad Boy type of romance. The plot is reminiscent of No Man of Her Own, which is also from 1932. That movie must've had a much bigger budget for casting because Carole Lombard plays the librarian and Clark Gable plays the gangster.

I thought from the beginning that Eric Linden, who portrays the love interest, is a poor man's James Cagney and come to find out he actually plays Cagney's brother in Big City Blues (1932). The protagonist Allie is played by Helen Twelvetrees. I admit I'd never heard of her before, but from now on I'll be looking for more pre-code movies featuring her.

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