Trailer â Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood PDF by ç Mick LaSalle What I love about this book is that Mick LaSalle sees the pre Code era of American filmmaking for what it was an exciting period with raw, uncensored content certainly, but also one that was often quite progressive and refreshingly feminist He is insightful in articulating the view that this era empowered female sexuality without condemning it or dooming its characters , questioned the institution of marriage, and examined issues like abortion, physical and sexual abuse, and economic disparity, often while telling women s stories The period also showed that an everyday woman could simply enjoy sex for physical pleasure LaSalle correctly points out that one underrated pioneer in this regard was Norma Shearer, who played average young women who were unapologetic about their sexuality in films such as A Free Soul and Strangers May Kiss both 1931 , and thus highly dangerous After the P I loved this book It s a thorough and joyful review of the leading ladies and their films in the late twenties and early thirties before the Code was enforced in Hollywood When you read about the actresses, their ambitions and independence, the influence they held and exercised in their work, the strength of the characters they played and the personas they inhabited it s all startlingly modern I came out of this book with a fresh andfavorable view of Garbo as an actress her mystique somewhat escaped me but I understand her better now in the context of her times and what she and the other ground breaking actresses of the day were attempting to accomplish and a long list of movies to watch Fantastic read for any film buff In The Pre Code Hollywood Era, BetweenAnd , Women In American Cinema Took Lovers, Had Babies Out Of Wedlock, Got Rid Of Cheating Husbands, Enjoyed Their Sexuality, Led Unapologetic Careers, And, In General, Acted The Way Many Think Women Only Acted AfterBefore Then, Women On Screen Had Come In Two Varieties Sweet Ingenue Or Vamp Then Two Stars Came Along Greta Garbo, Who Turned The Femme Fatale Into A Woman Whose Capacity For Love And Sacrifice Made All Other Human Emotions Seem Pale And Norma Shearer, Who Succeeded In Taking The Ingenue To A Place She D Never Been The Bedroom In Their Wake Came A Deluge Of Other Complicated Women Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, And Mae West, To Name A Few Then, In July , The Draconian Production Code Became The Law In Hollywood And These Modern Women Of The Screen Were Banished, Not To Be Seen Again Until The Code Was Repealed Three Decades LaterA Thorough Survey And A Tribute To These Films, Complicated Women Reveals How This Was The True Golden Age Of Women S FilmsTHORBIO Mick LaSalle Is The Film Critic For The San Francisco Chronicle And Teaches A Class At University Of California At Berkeley On Pre Code Film Mick LaSalle s central thesis is the pre Code offered the most complex portrayals of women in the classic studio era that this was the best time for actresses,so than the 1940s, because women were allowed to be real people and to have real fun on screen Although this argument might be persuasive and even true , most of this book is actually about how much LaSalle really, really likes Norma Shearer.
The book is organized around in depth sections on Shearer and Greta Garbo As a result, LaSalle gives short shrift to other major actresses of the pre Code era For example, there s very little on Barbara Stanwyck, despite her work in essential pre Code films, such as Baby Face and Night Nurses At times, he does offer some great critical insight, such as his deconstruction I have some disagreements with LaSalle s assessment of Pre Codes He makes them out to be muchprogressive then they are and is a harder on the films that came after 1934 then I think is fair I do agree that the representation of women between 1929 and 34 wascomplicated, as LaSalle says They did often subvert certain gender norms and cultural expectations, but they were also products of their time and could be just as misogynistic as any film made later If anything, many of the films werehonest and harsh about it and subverted things like rape culture almost accidentally because in their efforts to be the most shocking or sensational they dropped the romantic filter that distorts the violence and oppression of patriarchy All that said, I think part of why I liked the book so much was that I disagreed in places but remained engaged in the conversation LaSalle s style is incredi Entertaining and informative history of women s roles in the pre code late 20 s early 30 s era Warning this book will make you want to see all of the films mentioned in it But that s a GOOD thing.
The preponderance of this book covers the female stars of Pre Code Hollywood The movies and actresses of this era reflected the new freedoms women had obtained as a result of changes in society In the movies women were empowered and on an equal footing as men Sex and romance combined to provide movie goers an idea of the new society Stars like Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo exuded a sensuality that enticed men and women into the movies Alas, reality was not to last Anti Semetic misogynists such as Joseph Breen, Christian fundamentalist Roman Catholic and Protestant , and the Legion of Decency saw to it that strict moralistic 19th century propaganda was placed on the screen Woman was subservient to man A man could commit adultery and would always be taken back by a smiling wife If his wife also cheated then she bore the consequences by dying It was forbidden to portray independ
Fascinating subject and wonderfully written book These actresses deserve so muchrecognition that what they get Wow.
I ve watchedpre code movies since I read LaSalle His writing was so convincing and his cut to Breen s jugular so adept, I was carried along and convinced, although I m not usually so convincable Perhaps it was because he made Breen, the Censor who ruled over Hollywoodland from 1934 on so loathesome Also, like most Americans who consider themselves intellectual, whether that s justified or not, I am predisposed to find inanity in rigid controls and government interference in artistic portrayal Breen wasn t government, but he might as well have been.
I m not arguing here for censorship, however, but having seenof the movies he extols, I find that LaSalle has misrepresented what pre code films espoused First, he claims that they decried th
My only wish is that the author would mention race, i think he did once black maids I am bored with the idea that when we talk about women in American history we only mean white women That is as limiting as only talking about men But all in all a great lesson, quick and easy non academic read.