Hopefully a regular addition to my website, ‘This Week in Precode History’ will include all the exciting goings-on and new that occurred this week in the years 1929 to 1934. All the information is gathered from contemporary film and Hollywood weeklies, mostly from publication The Hollywood Reporter. These newspapers were all accessed from the wonderful Media History Project website.
|A scene from the shooting of A Free Soul|
· Two famous Precode films premiered this week with A Free Soul in 1931 and Gold Diggers of 1933 later proving both financial and critical successes. A Free Soul continued the rise of Norma Shearer whose career had captured public interest since her appearance in the controversial film The Divorcee the year before as well as her subsequent Oscar win. The Hollywood Reporter said of the film,
o “It’s got a title designed to drag ‘em in and probably will. Shearer, dressed and undressed, acting and posturing. A yarn, that often stretches logic thin, but a combination of ingredients that, in toto, undeniably is swell box-office.”
· While Shearer’s picture debuted at the Astor in New York, Gold Diggers of 1933 premiered at the renowned Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with tickets costing $5. Starring a bevy of stars including Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Aline MacMahon and Dick Powell it was also another crowd favourite.
|An advertisement for the world premiere of Gold Diggers of 1933|
· This week in 1934, announced the death of prominent silent actor, Lew Cody. He death aged only 47 was attributed to a heart attack but it was reported that Cody had had a breakdown four years earlier. Reports comment that the actor was found at 3pm, “had been dead several hours, but his house staff thought he was still sleeping”. Cody until his death had appeared in at least 99 films and, other than his film credits, was also notable the last husband of acclaimed comedian Mabel Normand.
· The filming of Greta Garbo’s triumph Queen Christina was reportedly held up from starting shooting. Although, the project and leading lady had been set for some time, the casting of Garbo’s male lead was left open. Apparently, all male stars were tested but known at that time had filled the expectations. The role would later be performed by Garbo’s ex-lover John Gilbert.
· Paramount announced plans for the beginning of a new campaign – to find a young actress with the skill, charm and looks to bring the role of Alice in Alice in Wonderland to the big screen. The search – it was reported – was even extended to overseas countries.
|A scene from Alice in Wonderland|
· Similarly, Warner Bros. also announced exciting plans, with Joan Blondell pronounced as the female star in a new musical production called Footlight Parade. Both James Cagney, Allen Jenkins and Arthur Hohl had already been named to feature in the new film.
· Both Dr Monica and Dames were also new releases in 1934: