Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood Paperback – December 19, 2001
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Library Journal
Between 1929 and 1934, Hollywood was governed by a voluntary code of decency. During this period, women characters were often tough-talking, sexually aggressive, and independent. Under pressure from church and state decency groups, a code with enforcement powers was implemented in 1934. The effect of the 1934 code (which remained in effect until the late 1960s) has been hotly debated recently. LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, makes it clear what he thinks, blasting the code as a measure "to prevent women from having fun. It was designed to put the genie back in the bottleDand the wife back in the kitchen." He calls the code, as enforced by Joseph Breen, "anti-art," antiwoman, and anti-Semitic. However, LaSalle's main purpose is to celebrate the short-lived era of "complicated women," as personified by the early films of Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, and others. In particular, this book is an unabashed valentine to Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. It features insights on significant scenes from precode films and evaluates some modern counterparts to the great ladies of the early 1930s. This book is more narrowly focused than other recent books on the subjectDsuch as Thomas Doherty's Pre-Code Hollywood (LJ 7/99) and Mark A. Viera's Sin in Soft Focus (LJ 11/1/99)Dand some may disagree with the author's conclusions, but it is recommended for large film and women's studies collections.DStephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
LaSalle mines the brief, rich period of Hollywood history between the talkies' advent and that of the industry's production code, under which not only didn't crime pay but adultery, divorce, extramarital sex, and even women working outside the home were punishable when not verboten. Typically, the schemes of an offending woman in an American movie led to a crushing denouement. LaSalle concentrates on Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo as representative stars of the period. Subsequently less celebrated. Shearer was a transcendent celebrity in the early '30s, who greatly impressed, among others, Clark Gable: "Damn, the dame doesn't wear any underwear. . . . Is she doing that in the interests of realism or what?" She and Garbo portrayed women as independent beings possessing thoughts, urges, and desires. Those last two the code sought to suppress. Excellent on Hollywood as it entered the era of studio dominance, the book may also reawaken interest in Shearer. Meanwhile, limned less lengthily in an epilogue are Bankhead, Loy, Harlow, Lombard, and others. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Dorothy Mackaill, a hard drinking Ziegfeld Follies girl turned actress, was a strong contender of the roles of Jean Harlow in early 1930s, analyzed the effect of war on Hollywood and its portrayal women's sexual freedom as a logical change in values and none of the old taboos can affect them. Shearer began working with director Monta Bell; he shaped her career like Josef Von Sternberg did for Marlene Dietrich, and G.W. Pabst for Louise Brooks. Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, were also in top of the pack. They were like Lindberg for speed. From New York stage, came ladies like Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Harding, Bette Davis, and Kathryn Hepburn. Marlene Dietrich was imported from Germany by Paramount Studios as an answer to MGM's Greta Garbo.
Ruth Chatterton in the movie Female, hires young men for her firm, uses them for sexual pleasure, and then let them go. Constance Bennett played a poor girl who slept her way through to become rich in the movie, Easiest Way; she gives birth to a baby out of wedlock in Born to Love; and in Bed of Roses, she slides into the oldest profession. The most outrageous movie is the Common Law where she leaves her live in lover and becomes a nude model. Carole Lombard becomes a kept woman in Summer in the Sun to lead a luxurious life style. In Faithless, Tallulah Bankhead turns to the oldest profession when her husband becomes ill and incapable of supporting the family. All movies produced at the height of Great Depression. Ironically, some of these examples were the real life stories of the 1920's stars like Barbara La Marr and Louise Brooks who lurked into poverty. Cecil DeMill's Sign of Cross breached the boundaries of faith which annoyed the Catholic Church and Christian conservatives where in Claudette Colbert plays Nero's wife Poppeae and losses her lover to a Christian woman (Elisa Landi), and she is humiliated by pagans and aroused in a dance that contains lesbian like overtures.
In many pre-code movies women got away with murder. Most notorious example is the Ricardo Cortez. Loretta Young shoots Cortez in Midnight Glory; Kay Frances does the same in 56th Street, and poisons Cortez in Mandalay; and Dolores Del Rio stabbed Cortez in Wonder Bar. He also gets shot by Helen Twelvetrees in Bad Company and by Anita Louise in The Firebrand. Marjorie Rambeau kills blackmailer Arthur Hohl in A Man's Castle and Sally Eilers kills gigolo Ivan Lebedoff in cold blood. Ruth Chatterton kills a woman, Clair Dodd, a Broadway star for stealing her husband.
The code had significant effect on the work of many stars who built their career around uninhibited and honest portrayal of love, marriage, and womanhood. But this was not tolerated in the code era, consequently Ruth Chatterton, Constance Bennett, Miriam Hopkins, Ann Dvorak, Madge Evans, Glenda Farrell and Kay Frances faded. The code damaged stateside popularity and made Joan Blondell less important. Mae West also faded into the horizon. Ann Harding left Hollywood and triumphed on stage in London. Bernard Shaw, a caustic critique of marriage, said that Harding was the best for the role of Candida. By the end of 1942, Garbo was 36 and Shearer 40 had passed their final phase of movie business.
This book is brilliantly written and contains well researched materials. There are some rare pictures of 1930s stars, and I especially liked the pictures of Greta Garbo, Mae Clarke and Dorothy Mackaill; they are simply gorgeous.
1. Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets
2. Hollywood Babylon II
3. Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era
4. The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era
5. Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era
6. Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema; 1930-1934
7. Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood
8. Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man
I did give this book a 4 star rating, however, because it does shed some light on the women that were a big part of Pre Code era. I guess I can look up the women not really mentioned n the book on Wikipedia