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by Thomas Doherty

Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema 1930-1934


Let me preface my comments by saying that this book probably isn't for everyone. It's written in an academic style, but I persevered and the reward was worth the effort. In Pre-Code Hollywood, Doherty asserts that the political, social, and economic forces at work in early 1930's America were responsible first for the allowance of "dirty" movies, and then, after the nadir of the Great Depression when Roosevelt's "New Deal" began to take effect, for the erasure of anything remotely resembling amoral conduct. In the meaty middle of the book, Doherty chronicles the various directions the talkies of Pre-Code Hollywood were likely to take. Some examples include preachment yarns, gangster and prison films, exploration of Third-World wilderness and their accompanying racism, horror films, news reels, and films about prostitution and loose women. This period in Hollywood was a fascinating time in film history. I personally believe that the suppression of real-life problems in movies served as a detriment to us all. Doherty chronicles why, however, that the social and political times necessitated the governing of film conduct. At the very least, this book is a good one to find in a library somewhere, but as a budding student of film history, I'm glad I purchased it for my collection. 400 pp.

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