Friday, 30 November 2012

Blogger Award!!!

The wonderful Alyssa at Oh So Very Classic gave me my second ever blogging award: The Versatile Blogger Award. Firstly, I encourage everyone to have a look at Alyssa’s blog, it is only a month old but she had made a great start and has written some interesting initial articles.

Like most of the blogging awards, I have to post seven facts about myself and, in turn, pass the award on to 11 other bloggers.  But like Alyssa, I can’t find that many and I have nominated 7.
So here goes, my 7 facts about myself.
1)      I suppose to begin at the obvious, I am a 20-year-old student who lives in Australia (based at the moment in Brisbane)

2)      The first thing people usually notice about me is my height as I tower  over most of my friends and other girls my age at almost 6 foot tall

3)      I am almost finished my university degree; which I am studying a Bachelor of Business/ Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, English Literature and Management

4)      I love classic film (hence the website)  but I also have a passion for literature, mainly, modernist novellas and articles

5)      I also have an unnatural addiction to politics and love watching election coverages and debates

6)      Like most journalism students and bloggers, I aspire, someday, to be a published author  

7)      Lastly, my favourite animal is the emu because they are elegant but simultaneously quirky  

Thanks again to Alyssa for the award and I pass the award on to 7 other bloggers:


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Marilyn Does Precode...

Since I decided to limit my blog to only Precode material, I haven’t had the time to research outside that era into my full passion of classic film in general.  Like most girls, I am/ was sort of obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and when I found a collection of pictures done by photographer Richard Avedon where she emulates some of the most popular silent and Precode actresses I had to share it on my blog. Below is the beautiful Marilyn as Theda Bara, Lillian Russell, Clara Bow, Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich.  

Marilyn as Clara Bow

Marilyn as Jean Harlow

Marilyn as Lillian Russell

Marilyn as Theda Bara

Marilyn as Marlene Dietrich

Thursday, 22 November 2012

My First Blogging Award!!

Before I talk about the blogging award, I want to acknowledge the anniversary of the death of the Queen of Precode herself, Mae West, who passed away 22nd November 1980. Through her two main films – ‘She Done Him Wrong’ and ‘I’m No Angel’ she created a great legacy of racy, entertaining yet intelligent plots, dialogue and film-making. She is gone but definitely not forgotten
Mae West: August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980
Secondly, a special thanks to Margaret from The Great Katharine Hepburn who gave me my first ever blogging award: the 7 × 7 link award. For this one I am to link posts that fit in the seven categories and then hand the award onto seven other bloggers. It is a few days late, but here is my contribution below:   
1.) Most beautiful pieceI was not sure about this category as I have done many pieces that feature beautiful pictures of Precode actresses and actors (see ‘Precode Colourisations’) but as an overall ‘beautiful piece’ is my post on ‘Lessons from Precode Hollywood’ which I discuss all the wonderful life lessons actresses such as Greta Garbo, Mae West and Ruth Chatterton have taught me through their best Precodes.

2.) Most helpful piece
For this topic I wanted to highlight my first ever post ‘In the Beginning.’ Although, it has appalling writing style and layout, it details a little bit of the history behind Precode Hollywood, mainly, the depression, the lead up to the decision to create the Hays Code and examples of classic movies from this era.  

3.) Most popular piece
My most popular post probably illustrates the mindset and interests of people interested in Hollywood, it is entitled ‘Nudity in Precode’. In it I feature pictures from the more racy movies, some with silhouetted and complete nudity. I also followed this post with two clips; one of Dolores del Rio in ‘Bird of Paradise’ and Busby Berkley’s famous dance number ‘Pettin’ inthe Park’ from ‘Gold-diggers of 1933’.

4.) Most controversial piece
Another feature in my series on forbidden topics and their presence in Precode is my most controversial post ‘Gay and Lesbian in Precode’. It details the depiction and prevalence of homosexual characters in the era which can tend to shock some viewers who believe these stereotypes – namely, the ‘sissy male character’ and the ‘masculine butch female character’ were not present in early cinema.      

5.) Surprisingly successful piece
I suppose this series appealed to the female audience and it really surprised me that my posts on ‘Precode Beauty Tips’ were so popular. I took most of my information from early Photoplay magazines and it was very interesting to discover how the actresses kept themselves beautiful and glamorous.

6.) Most underrated piece
Another piece I am proud of is a little study I did of remakes. Mainly those that were Precode films and were remade – and somewhat copied – in future film eras. My post called, ‘Beforethey were classics…’ discusses movies, such as, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘The Letter’ and ‘Scarface’ which were classics for two generations of moviegoers.

7.) Piece you are most proud of -
It is strange, but the piece I am most proud of was not written by me but by Ian who created several articles for me on the lovely Mack Sennett comedienne, Marjorie Beebe. For this category I choose the review of ‘Cowcatcher’s Daughter’ because it seemed to standout to me for several reasons; first because it took me a while to see the picture and it is really a hilarious and charming short, second as it was the first time that I successfully created and posted my own set of animated gifs (I can attest is not an easy feet) and, in general, Ian has written an entertaining and very informative piece which I encourage everyone to read. 

I know I am supposed to pass it on to seven other bloggers but I don’t think I could choose just seven; so I pass it on to anyone who wants to highlight their best posts.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Wow Racy!! Precode Shower Scene - 'Meet the Baron' (1933)

Here's a musical number I just discovered from a little known Precode musical 'Meet the Baron' (1933). I haven't yet watched the entire film mainly because it features the Three Stooges and I am not much of a slapstick humour fan. But, this scene is surprising racy, with an entertaining and catchy song and great choreography. Enjoy!!

How to be a Good Girl: Barbara in 'Ladies of Leisure' (1930)

Barbara, with a lot of tears, wise-cracks and ‘hope’ is the perfect actress for a self-sacrificing bad girl-turned-good girl in her third talky ‘Ladies of Leisure’ (1930).


Artist Jerry Strong (Ralph Graves) is at a wild party hosted by his carefree, society fiancée Claire Collins (Juliette Compton) and his drunken, playboy friend Bill Standish (Lowell Sherman). It is filled with untamed antics, fuelled by alcohol and reckless abandonment.

Precode Party Antics
Bored, Jerry leaves the party for a quiet early morning drive. He stops by a river to fix a flat tire and, serendipitously, runs into a pretty young woman paddling frantically in a row boat. The wise-cracking and brash Kay Arnold (Barbara Stanwyck) is escaping from a ship anchored far out in the ocean; she is a ‘party-girl’ by trade and was hired out for the party. In order to save the damsel in distress from a 30-mile walk into town Jerry offers her a ride in his car. They share jokes, problems and cigarettes and Kay falls asleep on his shoulder.

In Kay, Jerry sees something he hasn’t seen in a long time – hope – and asks her to pose for him. They begin work on the portrait. But, Jerry is struggling to find the spark and position to make the picture come alive and sees her as a model or an object and not a woman. He removes her makeup and changes her clothes; however, it appears the picture is a ‘lost hope’. Optimistic the pair continues, the more Kay becomes infatuated with Jerry and engrossed in the project the more she changes into a refined lady. This goes unnoticed by the blind and art-obsessed Jerry.

One night under the stars, Kay hits breaking point and threatens to quit. Jerry, through charm and love of the project persuades her into continuing. When she is looking into the stars he sees the hope he spotted in her at the beginning. Jerry starts frantically painting into the night. They spend hours working and Kay ends up sleeping the night at Jerry’s apartment. She pretends sleep and notices Jerry lovingly covering her with blankets and tucking her in. However, next morning everything has changed; Jerry is back to his professional self, talking to Kay as an object and not a person. She breaks down over breakfast and Jerry demands to know why she is crying. Before she can open-up, John Strong (George Fawcett) – Jerry’s father – pops in eager to discuss a plan with his son. He tells of a scheme for the Strong’s, Jerry and his fiancée to move to Paris where they can finally marry and Jerry can attend a prestigious art school. Jerry bluntly refuses and Mr Strong automatically assumes he has fallen for Kay and demands Jerry get rid of her. Thankfully, he ignores the warning and they return to work despite Kay’s incessant crying. Jerry confronts her, calling her a ‘dirty blackmailer and a thief’ and shakes her. Miraculously, this breaks the tension between them; this moves to a hug and he carries her onto the bed where they kiss.

They hatch a plan to escape to Arizona where Jerry can paint under the stars in the country. But Mr Strong has other plans and vows to never see his son again if he marries Kay. Mrs Strong (Nance O'Neil), instead, talks directly to Kay and pleads with her to give up Jerry for the sake of her husband and sons relationship. After a lot of hugs and tears, Kay loses her strength and agrees to leave Jerry. She decides to go to Havana with Jerry’s best friend, the often drunk, playboy Bill who had been pursuing her as well. She tells Jerry she needs to finish packing and elopes with Bill. When Jerry realises what has happened there is little time to reverse the damage his family has caused and prevent the damage Kay’s reputation – and perhaps her life - forever.


“Most men never get to be eighteen and most women are eighteen when they are born.” Bill Standish

This film is the first in the famous Capra-Stanwyck collaboration and, as a result, is one of the most emotional and well-developed movies of the Precode era. I found it very modern in its structure – being around 30 minutes longer than normal films of this period – and less focused on newspaper style, fast-paced racy and scandalous subject matter. It is interesting to note, as this seemed like a perfect vehicle for Barbara’s wise-cracking and touching acting style, that both her and Capra barely agreed to do the film. By 1930 Stanwyck’s career appeared to be faulting and her first meeting with Capra reputably ended in tears. But, after persuasion by her then husband Frank Fay, both hesitantly started filming and Capra discovered, “Stanwyck gave her all the first time she tried a scene . . .”
In saying this there is one feature of the Stanwyck performance I didn’t like. Perhaps it’s a result of my obsession with traditional hard-edged Precodes, but Barbara does a massive amount of crying in this film – during the early painting phase, before she and Jerry become engaged and pretty much the entire time afterwards. She is a very good and believable film ‘crier’ but it was too excessive and became boring by the end.
Although this is a Stanwyck vehicle, two actors did steal the movie in many occasions, namely, a Precode favourite Lowell Sherman as Jerry’s best friend Bill Standish and the silent beauty Marie Prevost as Kay’s confidant and room-mate Dot Lamar. They are beautifully comical and witty and compliment the high drama perfectly. I especially love Dot’s food and weight issues; she is constantly complaining about her increasing size and even tries the popular vibrating slimming machine but, at the same time, unapologetically loves eating large and rich meals. 
Lowell Sherman as playboy Bill Standish

Marie Prevost as Dot Lamar
‘Ladies of Leisure’ (1930) is a wonderful and emotionally-charged film with moving acting by the lovely Stanwyck and some cute comic relief by great character actors Lowell Sherman and Marie Prevost. Although, I found Ralph Graves as Jerry Strong a little stilted and boring, the pair’s relationship blossomed and was very believable. I would recommend this movie to any person interested in classic films as this is not a traditional Precode film and would  be accessible to most people.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Precode Meets Modern Day: SJP versus Claudette Colbert

Sometimes modern movies like to take a little from the Precode gems. Here’s Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in ‘Sex and the City 2’ performing the ‘hitch-hiker’ move made famous by Claudette Colbert in ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934). Who do you prefer? I know who I do, but perhaps I’m a bit biased.

Claudette Colbert: The Original Hitch-hiker


SPJ the Hitch-hiker of the 21st Century 


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Precode Recipes: 2# Warren William

I was looking through a couple of vintage websites and to my surprise found a recipe created by the ‘King of Precode’ himself, Warren William. I’m not much of a pork chop fan but Warren assures that this dish of ‘Stuffed Pork Chops’ and ‘Baked Onions and Rice’, “…is a most appetizing dish, and…makes a grand dinner. Complete the meal with a green salad, an ice, and coffee.” It is under the recipes section of the Silent MovieCrazy website and, again, I haven’t made it so I cannot say whether it’s good of bad. Leave a comment if anyone gets the chance to sample Warren’s favourite:


Stuffed Pork Chops
Wipe six thick (one inch or inch and a half) loin pork chops, and slit a pocket the entire length of the fat side of each chop. Avoid cutting too near the ends, which will spoil the pocket. Stuff each pocket as full as possible with the dressing. Skewer each chop with two toothpicks. Arrange in a shallow baking pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck left-over dressing around chops. Pour in enough water barely to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake an hour or longer, depending on the thickness of the chops, at 325 to 350 degrees. Baste the meat occasionally.
For the dressing, mix together:
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped tart apples
2 Tablespoons green pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped onion

2 Tablespoons melted butter

salt and pepper

Accompaniment recipe for above:
Baked Onions with Rice
Peel six or eight onions and par-boil until almost tender, changing the water once. To one cup well seasoned medium thick cream sauce, add three-fourths cup grated American cheese. Bring to the boiling point over a low heat, stirring constantly. Place in a buttered casserole alternate layers of cooked rice, and the onions, broken apart. Cover with the cheese sauce and bake in a moderate oven for about twenty minutes.

6 or 8 onions

1 cup white sauce

3/4 cup grated American cheese

2 cups rice


Monday, 5 November 2012

Marjorie Beebe in 'The Cowcatcher's Daughter' (1931)

Below is the last part of the trilogy on the great Mack Sennett comedienne, Marjorie Beebe. It took me a while to watch the comedy staple, ‘Cowcatcher’s Daughter’ but it was totally worth the wait. The short was filled with hilarious Precode antics, lots of misbehaving and riddled with Miss Beebe’s genius touch. The following is Ian’s review:

                     Cowcatcher’s Daughter- The Review. The Acme to Zenith (A to Z) of Misbehaving 
For my third, and for the moment final, piece on Marjorie Beebe I have singled out Cowcatcher’s Daughter (Babe Stafford 1931) for special attention. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly it was the swansong of Beebe’s most regular role, Marge Martin, the misbehaving daughter of Andy Clyde’s Pop Martin, so she was at her most outrageous. Secondly it was a reprise of her old Fox triumph we have spoken of before, The Farmer’s Daughter (Arthur Rosson 1928), so it would have meant something special to her. Thirdly it’s a wonderful romp named for and written around her. And it could almost have been written to order for a site called Let’s Misbehave. If you want a logline for Cowcatcher’s Daughter try “Marjorie Beebe Misbehaves”.

But there’s another reason. Cowcatcher is a rather exquisite example of a very old form, an  antic dance in aspic, a tale that had been told since the days of troubadors and Meistersingers. It’s a Harlequinade. The story of Harlequin and Columbine crystallized in commedia dell’ arte and passed into the English speaking world at the Restoration, eventually becoming pantomime which gave many a Brit such as I his or her first introduction to traditional storytelling. Harlequin is a prankster and a shapeshifter who sets his cap at the lovely Columbine. She is set to wed Fool, her crabby old father Pantaloon’s man. Harlequin has to outsmart Pantaloon.

As soon as Andy Clyde, a wonderful actor with a career that lasted into television Westerns of the 1960s, but at the time only in early middle age, perfected his old man routine through innovative experiments in make-up, supported by costume, attitude and delivery, Mack Sennett was ready to make Harlequinades.  For Clyde, knowingly or not, had recreated old Pantaloon, and since his origins lay in Scottish music hall I suspect he knew all about Harlequinades. Of course nothing that came out of the madcap mayhem of Mack Sennett’s studios was entirely set in aspic; Sennett was a Janus figure looking back on centuries of popular entertainment while looking forward to the boundless new possibilities of cinema, and by this stage sound cinema.

And there was one huge difference from the Harlequinades of old- Marjorie Beebe herself. She turned the Harlequinade upside down. She was the prankster now not Harlequin. And given her bravura acting she was something of a shapeshifter as well, essentially playing different characters when with Harlequin, now an oh so handsome itinerant cattle inspector, Fool, her father’s dolt of a foreman and Marge’s fiancé, and Pantaloon, already introduced. Marjorie Beebe, hidden away in these obscure two reel shorts, has not been given credit for what she did to the old story. This Americanized Harlequinade, transformed into that quintessentially American form the Western, starred a girl who was constantly prepared to take the men on at their own game while never losing sight of her femininity.

Incidentally Cowcatcher’s Daughter provides one of the few examples I know of the word “cowcatcher” being used to describe a man rather than those devices placed on the front of American trains to push cows off the track. The film was shot on location in the beautiful San Fernando Valley which gives it a much more open and expansive feel than most Mack Sennett shorts. Given it was made only a very few years after the coming of sound it’s really rather an impressive technical achievement apart from anything else. It’s easy to forget just how innovative generally Mack Sennett and his behind the scenes crew (which included William Hornbeck) were.

I described Marjorie Beebe’s antics before as 24 carat misbehavior. They certainly encompass a lot more than Columbine would once have done, which was basically just to flirt with a handsome stranger behind her fiancé’s back- and anyway in Beebe’s case she does it in front of him as well! Clyde is not even aware of this fellow when the show opens, but he’s still hopping mad with his disorderly daughter. In a previous Marge Martin romp, Campus Crushes (Mack Sennett 1930), she had fooled around at college. Now she has upped sticks entirely and joined a circus as a trick rider. She does so well that the circus folk put her on their posters and, unfortunately for her, one falls into her old father’s hands. The hapless foreman is sent to retrieve her- if he fails, warns Clyde, there will be no marriage. So he finds her, and gets treated to plenty of delicious sass on the long journey home.              
MARGE:  There are a lot of things I don’t like, Jim. One of them’s school and the rest are you.
JIM: Me! Why my old Ma said I had more in my head than all the other boys put together. Now how do you suppose she found that out?
                      MARGE: With a fine comb?

 Respect for one’s elders, let alone one’s apparent future husband, is certainly not on the menu. He puts her on the back of his own horse so she can’t gallop away from him, and facing the horse’s tail in disgrace. Unfortunately for him that only makes matters worse when Harlequin, now known as Mr Thornby the cattle inspector, drives up behind them in a new-fangled open top car- this is a contemporary horse opera, set when it was made. Future marriage vows and engagements are of as little moment to Marge as respect, and she sets about shamelessly flirting with the handsome intruder until the horse gets spooked by the car and careers away at full speed to the Martin ranch. Marge Martin will arrive home decked out in all her cowgirl clobber from her big hat to her ornate boots, and halfway down a rather strange almost fetishy looking belt or corset cinching in her waist; the sexy trick rider has been displaying her curves and her charm in equal measure to her adoring circus-going public.
Her currently less than adoring father is waiting for her on the veranda. It’s time for Marge Martin to come down off her high horse. As the title implies this little Harlequinade centers on the tussles between father and daughter, Pantaloon and Columbine. The two younger men are slightly sidelined, both as far as the script goes and the acting talent on show. Beebe bats for Mr Thornby and Clyde for the foreman but who will win the day? Really though the film is about how outrageously Beebe can behave and whether Clyde is still enough of a father to control her- he certainly isn’t going to get any help from the foolish fiancé of a foreman, the latest in a long line of sops trying to woo Marjorie Beebe.
As far as the former goes this is misbehaving Ms Beebe at her best. Apart from running away to that circus she also sneaks out of the ranch at night to go nude swimming. What few clothes she has at the lakeside get stolen and she has to return home as dawn is breaking naked save for hat and boots. She walks behind a barred fence. There is a gap ahead. We wait. As she comes to the gap, and almost playing with the audience, she closes an obscured gate and walks on.

She also continues to flirt outrageously with the cattle inspector. And there is a fifth star to this Harlequinade as filtered through pantomime, her horse Trixie. The beast adds a further delightful element to the proceedings. Wicked Marge has trained Trixie not only to remove her fiancé’s hat and throw it down the well but also to push the poor fellow down after it. There is also a delightful scene between Marge and Trixie when they “talk” about love. Trixie it emerges has fallen big time for an Arabian stallion at the circus, and the lustful prancing of the filly as its memory is stirred would I suspect have raised eyebrows a few years on when the Hays Code set about its business.

As for Clyde his Pop Martin is only superficially an old-fashioned disciplinarian. He is essentially a more amiable old buzzard than the malevolent Pantaloon, perhaps the first of a Western staple that would resonate down the years with the likes of Walter Brennan and my personal favourite of the breed, Edgar Buchanan. Sternness does not come easy to him as played by Andy Clyde with an engaging mix of irritability and absent-mindedness. It requires concentration and fixity of purpose which he has not generally displayed in previous shorts in the series. Equally though Pantaloon was never faced with such a provocative daughter. And he did save up his hard-earned money to send her away to finishing school.

 So from the start he has promised himself, and anyone else who cares to listen, that his precious daughter would be getting her bottom spanked just as soon as he caught her. And, given a certain amount of prevarication and further provocation from Beebe herself, she does. She is frogmarched into the house and put over the paternal knee. Pop is determined to carry out his promise and for a minute or two Marge Martin is made to squirm for her misdeeds. Clyde at last wears the pants as he gets to the bottom of his daughter’s misbehavior. Marjorie Beebe is in her element playing this uppity girl getting her comeuppance, but she has still has tricks to play as she works to bring her spanking to a premature conclusion. It’s a little war of attrition.
                                  POP MARTIN: (mopping his brow) This job’s getting too much  for me. I’ll be glad when Jim takes you off my hands.
                                  MARGE: Don’t exert yourself, Pop.

But Jim the foreman is a complete dolt and Clyde loses patience with him. The irrepressible Beebe has won the day and proved herself to be beyond parental control. Now Clyde’s priority is to get her married- to anyone who cares to volunteer. So the match with Mr Thornby is struck. Now Marge Martin goes all coy. She’s still having fun playing these men off each other. A travelling preacher man turns up with a wedding licence just like an old pantomime Fairy Godmother- and with Beebe still in her cowgirl clothes.

                               MARGE: But Pop I wanted a trousseau
                              POP: I thought you wanted a husband.

                             MARGE (all girlish and mischievous again) What’s the rush?

This is Marjorie Beebe at her madcap best playing a character whose similarity to the actress playing her was possibly more than coincidental. Made right in the middle of her annus mirabilis of 1931 Cowcatcher’s Daughter is a short film with long antecedents.