American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for Over 80 Years!


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Series compiled by: Chris D.
Special Thanks to: Suzanne Leroy, Helena Brissenden & Grover Crisp/SONY REPERTORY; Marilee Womack/WARNER BROS.; Elaina Archer and Marvin Paige.

 

 

SOLD OUT SCREENINGS: There will be a waiting line for Sold Out screenings. Tickets often become available at the door the night of an event.

Sold out programs will be indicated here if sold out 24 hours in advance of screening date.

 

 

All guests are subject to availability. The Cinematheque will offer a refund due to guest cancellations only IF the refund transaction is complete PRIOR to the start of the show.

Tickets available 30 days in advance. Tickets are $10 general admission unless noted otherwise.
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The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling. Barry King. Aero Theatre exterior.

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<<< May 22 - 24, 2008 >>>

Why Be Good? Pre-Code Hollywood Films

 

An Egyptian Theatre exclusive!

 

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Reining in the wild and woolly Hollywood cinema at the end of the silent era was one of the prime items on the agenda of every politician and nosey do-gooder in America. Just as the silent era dawned, various machinations behind the scenes between Hollywood bigwigs, civic boosters and government figures, such as Will Hays, transpired. A Production Code was drawn up circa 1930, supposedly severely limiting some of the sexy, saucy and ultra-violent antics cropping up in the movies. But things still continued apace, with little real censorship beyond a nod-and-a-wink lip service to the new standards. In the wake of Prohibition in the early 1930s, public and political outcry continued until Will Hays appointed Joseph Breen to preside over enforcement of the Code in 1934, finally putting some teeth into the new criteria. A fascination has evolved among current movie fans for the Pre-Code Hollywood phenomenon, especially for the talkies from the early 1930s that most flagrantly flaunted their vice-laden pedigree. Several documentaries have been produced, including Elaina Archer’s WHY BE GOOD? SEXUALITY AND CENSORSHIP IN EARLY CINEMA (executive produced by Playboy’s Hugh Hefner) and THOU SHALT NOT: SEX, SIN AND CENSORSHIP IN PRE-CODE HOLLYWOOD (produced by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros.). Numerous films have been restored, most notably by Sony Repertory’s Preservation Department, Warner Bros. (in conjunction with their recent FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD Pre-Code DVD releases) and UCLA (in conjunction with Universal Pictures). Join us for a screening of Elaina Archer and Todd Friedrichsen’s WHY BE GOOD? as well as a handful of some of the most fascinating Pre-Code movies available, including Frank Capra’s FORBIDDEN, Cecil B. DeMille’s MADAM SATAN and Charles Brabin’s BEAST OF THE CITY, none of which have yet been released on DVD!

 

 

 

Thursday, May 22 – 7:30 PM

Pre-Code Double Feature:

NIGHT NURSE, 1931, Warner Bros., 72 min. Dir. William A. Wellman. Barbara Stanwyck is one tough cookie as a nurse assigned to a private home to watch over two little girls who are heirs to a fortune. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that gangster chauffeur Clark Gable is out to starve the tykes to death so he can marry the kids’ alcoholic mother and lay his mitts on the inheritance. Stanwyck plots to thwart Gable and soon resorts to an old underworld flame to even the score. Chock full of plenty of scandalous bits as well as a pervasively cynical, seamy atmosphere that is shocking for the time period. Joan Blondell is Stanwyck’s irreverent nurse roommate.

THREE ON A MATCH, 1932, Warner Bros., 63 min. Director Mervyn Leroy pulls out all the stops with this freewheeling saga of three schoolgirls and their lives growing up during the Roaring Twenties. Joan Blondell is the nominal bad girl who contends with reform school and a wild reputation, while Ann Dvorak is the straight arrow who goes for family life but before the end of the decade has gone off the deep end with sex, liquor and drugs. Bette Davis rounds out the trio as a secretary with high ambitions in the business world. A short, fast-moving, sometimes unflinching look at life during the Prohibition Era with several shocking moments involving Dvorak. Warren Williams is Dvorak’s hubby and look for Humphrey Bogart and Edward Arnold as underworld bad -- and I mean really bad! -- guys. More on this film.

 

 

Friday, May 23 – 7:30 PM

Pre-Code Triple Feature!

WHY BE GOOD? SEXUALITY AND CENSORSHIP IN EARLY CINEMA, 2007, 70 min. Executive produced by Hugh Hefner, produced and edited by Elaina Archer and Todd Friedrichsen and directed by Archer, this illuminating documentary examines the tug-of-war between the early films that were created, those who censored them and those who opposed such censorship. Pioneers of early silent and sound cinema (1900 – 1935) are spotlighted, among them Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Rudolph Valentino, Norma Talmadge, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Barbara Stanwyck and many others. There are new interviews with Maria Riva, Budd Schulberg, Barry Paris, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain and Kevin Thomas as well as mesmerizing archival interviews with Louise Brooks, Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford. The film contains many rare, incredible clips, some that have not been seen since their initial release, including footage from THE IRON MAN starring Jean Harlow, THE LADY starring Norma Talmadge and THE DREAM starring Mary Pickford. Film Review. NOT ON DVD

FORBIDDEN, 1932, Sony Repertory, 83 min. This early Frank Capra-directed talkie is one of the most deliriously over-the-top tearjerkers from the Pre-Code era. Barbara Stanwyck is a timid librarian who meets and falls in love with multi-millionaire Adolphe Menjou while on a holiday cruise to Havana. The tryst results in a child, but Menjou turns out to be married (and to an invalid, yet!). Stanwyck’s portrayal is a contradictory testament to determined personal strength as well as masochistic self-sacrifice as she raises their child with the hopes of someday getting together with her true love. Enter tabloid rat Ralph Bellamy, who smells a juicy story, knowing Menjou has political aspirations. Things end in unhappily lurid fashion, serving up a powerful through exaggerated tragic demise for everyone concerned – all suffering the consequences from trying to keep an "embarrassing" secret. More on this film. NOT ON DVD

MADAM SATAN, 1930, Warner Bros., 116 min. "Who wants to go to Hell with Madam Satan?" Epic filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille starts small with an awkward bedroom farce focusing on wealthy Kay Johnson as she patiently deals with her playboy husband, Reginald Denny, and his rebrobate pal Roland Young. But before long, Johnson has had enough and decides to become a sexy siren to try to counteract Denny’s all-too-frequent extra marital flings. As Johnson’s moral stock plummets, DeMille throws in bizarre, surreal musical numbers as well as a climactic masked ball on a zeppelin that culminates in a huge air disaster! "The second half of ‘Madam Satan’ is one of the great examples of weirdness in American pop cinema: a twilight zone wherein musical comedy meets disaster epic, all designed and costumed…with the farthest out Art Deco affectation." -- Richard Barrios; "Cecil B. De Mille's second talkie was a bizarre amalgam of his silent era domestic farces, his sinful spectacles and the new craze for musicals. He would never make another picture like this one…wait a minute, there is no other picture like this one!"Moviediva.com More on this film. NOT ON DVD

 

 

 

Saturday, May 24 – 7:30 PM

Pre-Code Double Feature!

BEAST OF THE CITY, 1932, Warner Bros., 86 min. Director Charles Brabin was a silent film pioneer married to infamous screen vamp Theda Bara. A fixture at MGM, he also helmed the wild, over-the-top Pre-Code THE MASK OF FU MANCHU. Warner Bros. was the king of the fast-moving, fast-talking gangster picture. Even though BEAST OF THE CITY’s rights are now Warners-owned, this was originally MGM’s slam-bang slice of gangland insanity, adapted from a story by LITTLE CAESAR writer W.R. Burnett. Created as competition against MGM’s gangster film rivals across town, it stars Walter Huston as a hard-nosed cop unwilling to take any guff from mob kingpin Jean Hersholt (a bizarre casting choice, as Hersholt usually played idealistic good guys). But Huston’s efforts are undermined when his brother on the force (Wallace Ford) falls for torrid gun moll Jean Harlow and is corrupted. Urban crime, spurred by Prohibition and the depravity it nurtured, was peaking at the time, and there were contradictory emotions seething in the breasts of the American public – on the one hand, movie audiences were fascinated; on the other, they were outraged. With the film’s tone of widespread vice and the excessively violent, shocking, guns-ablazing climax, the controversy generated by the picture’s release was akin to that of THE WILD BUNCH in 1969. Two years later, when the Production Code was fully put into effect, this movie never could have been made. Look for a very young, uncredited Mickey Rooney as Huston’s son. More on this film. NOT ON DVD

SKYSCRAPER SOULS, 1932, Warner Bros., 99 min. Yet another title now owned by Warner Bros., but originally produced and released by MGM, this Edgar Selwyn-directed melodrama practically shouts its amorality from the rooftops. MGM later became known for its more family-oriented pictures, but here, Pre-Code, it was neck-and-neck with Warner Bros. in churning out some of the most salacious, lurid cinema being unleashed by Hollywood. Warren Williams is a ruthless financier who will crush anyone in his path to maintain control of a hundred-story skyscraper. Maureen O’Sullivan, Veree Teasdale and Hedda Hopper are the exploited women in his life. This glossy, sexy soaper, adapted from Faith Baldwin’s novel, aptly contrasts the poor working stiffs slaving away as Williams’ office tenants while he luxuriates in the lap of decadent luxury. More on this film. NOT ON DVD