Fashions of 1934 (1934)

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Fashions of 1934 (1934)

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Director: William Dieterle

Cast: William Powell, Bette Davis, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert, Verree Teasdale, Reginald Owen, Henry O Neill, Phillip Reed, Gordon Westcott, Dorothy Burgess, Nella Walker

78 min

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Fashions of 1934 is a 1934 American pre-Code musical comedy film directed by William Dieterle with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley.

The screenplay by F. Hugh Herbert and Carl Erickson was based on the story The Fashion Plate by Harry Collins and Warren Duff.

The film stars William Powell, Bette Davis, Hugh Herbert and Frank McHugh, and has songs by Sammy Fain (music) and Irving Kahal (lyrics). (Sometime after the initial release, the title “Fashions of 1934” was changed to “Fashions”, replacing the original title with an insert card stating William Powell in “Fashions”).

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When the Manhattan investment firm of Sherwood Nash (William Powell) goes broke, he joins forces with his partner Snap (Frank McHugh) and fashion designer Lynn Mason (Bette Davis) to provide discount shops with cheap copies of Paris couture dresses. Lynn discovers that top designer Oscar Baroque (Reginald Owen) gets his inspiration from old costume books, and she begins to create designs the same way, signing each one with the name of an established designer.

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Sherwood realizes Baroque’s companion, the alleged Grand Duchess Alix (Verree Teasdale), is really Mabel McGuire, his old friend from Hoboken, New Jersey, and threatens to reveal her identity unless she convinces Baroque to design the costumes of a musical revue in which she will star. Baroque buys a supply of ostrich feathers from Sherwood’s crony Joe Ward (Hugh Herbert) and starts a fashion rage.

Sherwood then opens Maison Elegance, a new Paris fashion house that’s a great success until Baroque discovers Lynn is forging his sketches. He has him arrested, but Sherwood convinces the police to give him time to straighten out the situation. He crashes Baroque and Alix’s wedding and promises to humiliate the designer by publicly revealing who his bride really is unless Baroque withdraws the charges. The designer agrees and purchases Maison Elegance from Sherwood, who assures Lynn he’ll never get involved in another illegal activity if she returns to America with him.

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Cast notes:

  • Arthur Treacher, appearing in his fourth Hollywood film, played his first part as a butler, a role he was to play many times in his long career.[1]


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With this film, Warner Bros. chief Jack L. Warner tried to change Bette Davis‘ screen persona by putting her in a platinum blonde wig and false eyelashes and dressing her in glamorous costumes.

The actress, who had been trying to convince the studio head to loan her to RKO so she could portray slatternly waitress Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage, was appalled at the transformation, complaining they were trying to turn her into Greta Garbo.[2] In an interview with Photoplay editor Kathryn Dougherty, she complained, “I can’t get out of these awful ruts. They just won’t take me seriously.

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Look at me in this picture – all done up like a third-rate imitation of the MGM glamour queens. That isn’t me. I’ll never be a clothes horse or romantic symbol.”[3] To Gerald Clarke of Time she lamented, “I looked like somebody dressed up in mother’s clothes. But it was a great break because I learned from the experience. I never let them do that to me again. Ever!”[4]

Working titles for the film, which was filmed at Warner Bros. Burbank studios in 1933, were King of Fashion and Fashion Follies of 1934. Warners listed writers Gene Markey and Katherine Scola as having adapted the original story that was the basis of the film, but according to the Screen Writers Guild they had nothing to do with the film.[5]


The film’s musical numbers included “Spin a Little Web of Dreams” and “Broken Melody” by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal and “Mon Homme (My Man)” by Maurice Yvain, Albert Willemetz, and Jacques Charles. Harry Warren wrote the untitled theme that accompanies the fashion show.

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Critical reception

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The New York Times described it as “a brisk show” and added, “The story is lively, the gowns are interesting and the Busby Berkeley spectacles with Hollywood dancing girls are impressive . . . William Dieterle, that expert director who has been responsible for several imaginative pictures, does well by this particular production.”[6]

Variety called it “a bit far-fetched and inconsistent . . . but it has color, flash, dash, class, girls and plenty of clothes . . . Just why and how Bette Davis enters the picture never quite rings true.”[7]

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Canary Murder Case, The (1929)

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The Canary Murder Case (1929)

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Director: Malcolm St Claire, Frank Tuttle (scenes for talkie version)

Cast: William Powell, Jean Arthur, James Hall, Louise Brooks, Charles Lane, Lawrence Grant, Gustav Von Seyfertitz, E H Calvert, Eugene Pallette, Ned Sparks, Margaret Livingston

82 min

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The Canary Murder Case is a 1929 American Pre-Code crimemystery film made by Paramount Pictures, directed by Malcolm St. Clair and Frank Tuttle.

The screenplay was written by Willard Huntington Wright (as S.S. Van Dine), Albert S. Le Vino, and Florence Ryerson, based on novel The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine.

It was the first film in the series of Philo Vance films adapted from the novels, starring William Powell as Philo Vance, Jean Arthur, James Hall and Louise Brooks as “the Canary”.

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Charles Spotswoode’s son Jimmy became involved with “the Canary”, a conniving star showgirl. Fortunately, Jimmy has regained his senses and reconciled with Alyce LaFosse. However, the Canary is determined to force Jimmy to marry her so she can join the social elite, threatening to reveal that Jimmy was embezzling from his father.

She turns down the elder Spotswoode’s offer of money to leave Jimmy alone. She also telephones two men she has been blackmailing, Cleaver and Mannix, and demands one final generous gift from each of them by the next day.

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She also informs “creepy” admirer Dr. Lindquist. Her ex-husband Tony Sheel eavesdrops and wants half, but she refuses to give him anything, even after he hits her. Cleaver, Mannix and Lindquist are all shown lurking about her apartment building late that night.

Spotswoode visits her at her apartment around midnight, but cannot get her to change her mind. After he reaches the lobby of her building, he and another person hear screams from her place. They knock on the door, but she assures them that she is fine.

The next day, she is found strangled to death. The coroner places the time of death around midnight. District Attorney Markham investigates, aided by Philo Vance (a close friend of Charles Spotswoode) and Police Sergeant Heath. After all the prime suspects are questioned, Vance asks Markham to keep them waiting for a few hours.

William Powell and Louise Brooks

Markham agrees, as Vance has helped solve another case. Vance subtly maneuvers Cleaver, Mannix, Lindquist and the two Spotswoodes into playing poker to pass the time so he can observe their personality traits.

Only one shows the daring, imagination and discipline required for the crime; that man bluffs Vance, betting everything with just a pair of deuces. The suspects are then released.

Only one shows the daring, imagination and discipline required for the crime; that man bluffs Vance, betting everything with just a pair of deuces. The suspects are then released.

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Sheel, who was hiding the closet and witnessed the murder, sends the killer several blackmail letters. For his trouble, he too is strangled. A pen found at the scene has Jimmy’s name on it, so Heath arrests him for the murder. Jimmy then confesses to both murders, but Vance knows better.

He telephones Charles Spotswoode with the news and suggests they meet in an hour. Spotswoode speeds to the city from his country estate to confess, but his chauffeur makes a fatal mistake by trying to beat a train to a crossing, and Spotswoode is killed.

Now Vance has to show how he murdered the Canary in order to free Jimmy. Fortunately, he is able to figure out that the Canary was dead before Spotswoode left her apartment that night. Spotswoode had made a recording (Vance speculates it was Spotswoode himself pretending to be the woman) to fool a stuttering witness into believing she was alive and well. The record is still in the apartment, so Jimmy is released.

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This film was initially made as a silent picture, then reworked as a sound film. Louise Brooks’ refusal to cooperate in the sound version had a major impact on her career.

After filming the silent version, Brooks left for Germany to make two films for director G. W. Pabst. Her option with Paramount Pictures was up, and since the studio would not give her a raise, she saw no reason to remain in Hollywood.

the canary murder case

Months later, Paramount decided to re-shoot some scenes of Canary with recorded dialogue. The studio cabled Brooks in Berlin, demanding that she return to record her lines. She refused, taking the position that she no longer had an obligation to Paramount. Under the purported threat that she would never work in Hollywood again after such open defiance, she bluntly replied, “Who wants to work in Hollywood?”

Paramount spent considerable money to hire actress Margaret Livingston (the “Woman from the City” in F.W. Murnau‘s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans) to dub the dialogue for Brooks where possible, as well as to re-shoot some scenes, with Livingston seen only in profile or from behind. The golden age of German cinema soon ended with the rise of Nazism, and Brooks found herself back in Hollywood. She was never able to get good roles there again and soon retired. Though her time as a star was over, her battle with studio moguls helped add to her eventual legend.

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The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains Nominees” (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.

Canary Murder Case The 11

Canary Murder Case The 8

Canary Murder Case The 10

Canary Murder Case The 14

Canary Murder Case The 16

Canary Murder Case The 19

Canary Murder Case The 20

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Interference (1928)

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Interference (1928)

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Director: Lothar Mendes (silent version), Roy Pomeroy ( sound version)

Cast: Evelyn Brent, Clive Brook, William Powell, Doris Kenyon, Brandon Hurst, Tom Ricketts, Louis Payne, Wilfred Noy, Donald Stuart, Raymond Lawrence, Clyde Cook

84 min

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Interference is an early sound film drama released in 1928 and starring William Powell and Evelyn Brent.

This was Paramount Pictures‘ first ever full talking movie. It was also simultaneously filmed as a silent.

The film was based on the play Interference, a Play in Three Acts by Roland Pertwee and Howard Dearden. When a first husband turns out not to be dead, blackmail leads to murder.[1]

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  1. Jump up^ Interference at database (released in silent and sound versions)

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Shadow of the Law (1930)

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Shadow of the Law (1930)

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Director: Louis J Gasnier

Cast: William Powell, Marion Shilling, Natalie Moorhead, Regis Toomey, Paul Hurst, George Irving, Frederick Burt, James Durkin, Richard Tucker, Walter James, Broderick O Farrell

69 min

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Shadow of the Law is a 1930 film directed by Louis Gasnier and starring William Powell.


A woman being pursued by an intoxicated man breaks into John Nelson’s apartment, imploring his help. Nelson, a young engineer, confronts the man, who accidentally topples through a window to his death.

Unable to prove the circumstances, Nelson is convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. With the aid of his cellmate, he escapes and under an assumed name becomes manager of a textile mill in North Carolina.

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Later, his former cellmate, Pete, is commissioned to find Ethel Barry, the woman who can clear him so that he may marry Edith, the mill owner’s daughter; but Ethel forces his hand through blackmail.

Detective Mike Kearney tracks him down, but when Montgomery (Nelson) mutilates his hands in a machine to erase his fingerprint identity, Kearney decides to force Ethel to clear him.

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William Powell William Powell
Marion Shilling Marion Shilling
Edith Wentworth
Natalie Moorhead Natalie Moorhead
Ethel Barry aka Ethel George
Regis Toomey Regis Toomey
Tom Owens
Paul Hurst Paul Hurst
Pete Shore
George Irving George Irving
Colonel Wentworth
Frederick Burt Frederick Burt
Detective Lt. Mike Kearney
James Durkin James Durkin
Prison Warden
Richard Tucker Richard Tucker
Lew Durkin
Walter James Walter James
Captain of the Guards

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Four Feathers, The (1929)

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The Four Feathers (1929)

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Directors: Merian C Cooper, Ernest B Shoedsack

Cast: Richard Arlen, Fay Wray, Clive Brook, William Powell, Theodore von Eltz, Noah Beery Sr., Zack Williams, Noble Johnson, Phillippe De Lacy, Harold Hightower, Rex Ingram

81 min

The Four Feathers is a 1929 American war film directed by Merian C. Cooper and starring Fay Wray.[1] The picture has the distinction of being one of the last major Hollywood pictures of the silent era.

It was also released by Paramount Pictures in a version with a Movietone soundtrack with music and sound effects only.[2] The film is the third of numerous film versions of the 1902 novel The Four Feathers written by A. E. W. Mason, and the cast features Richard Arlen, Clive Brook, William Powell and Noah Beery, Sr.

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The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. Jump up^ Hall, Mordaunt. “New York Times: The Four Feathers”. NY Times. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  2. Jump up^ IMDB entry
  3. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers Nominees” (PDF). Retrieved August 14, 2016

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Four Feathers The 15

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Four Feathers The 17

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Benson Murder Case, The (1930)

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The Benson Murder Case (1930)

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Director: Frank Tuttle

Cast: William Powell, William Stage Boyd, Eugene Pallette, Paul Lukas, Natalie Moorhead, Richard Tucker, May Beatty, E H Calvert, Mischa Auer, Guy Oliver

65 min

The Benson Murder Case is the first novel in the Philo Vance series of mystery novels by S. S. Van Dine, which became a best-seller.

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Plot outline

New York dilettante Philo Vance decides to assist the police in investigating the death of another man-about-town because he finds the psychological aspects of the crime of interest, and feels that they would be beyond the capacities of the police, even those of his friend District Attorney Markham.

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Vance investigates the circumstances under which the body was found and reconstructs the crime sufficiently to determine that the murderer is five feet, ten and a half inches in height. Together, Vance and Markham investigate Benson’s business associates and romantic interests until Vance manages to pierce the murderer’s alibi for the time of the murder and force a confession.

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Literary significance and criticism

The novel was very loosely based upon a real-life case that had made headlines, the unsolved 1920 murder of bridge expert Joseph Bowne Elwell.

It was considered a roman à clef because the circumstances under which Elwell’s body was found—he was shot to death in a room in his home which was found to be locked from the inside, and he was not wearing his toupee—are duplicated in the novel. Modern knowledge of ballistics reveals that one of the central premises of the novel is fanciful, because the reconstruction of the height of the murderer is impossible (Dashiell Hammett had said as much at the time, in a 1927 book review).

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“The first and best, partly because Van Dine had the real-life model of the Joseph Elwell murder (1920) to hold his fancy in check.”[1]

“Vance spots the murderer almost immediately but doesn’t reveal him, allowing Markham and Sergeant Heath to fix the guilt on five successive persons by circumstantial evidence.”[2]

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Film adaptations

Paramount Pictures released The Benson Murder Case (1930) a film version directed by Frank Tuttle and starring William Powell as Philo Vance. The film was moderately faithful to the plot of the novel. Paramount also released a Spanish-language version, El Cuerpo del Delito, written by Catalan writer Josep Carner Ribalta (1898–1988), and co-directed by Cyril Gardner and A. Washington Pezet.

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  1. Jump up^ Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. New York: Harper & Row. 1971, revised and enlarged edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8
  2. Jump up^ Roseman, Mill et al.. Detectionary. New York: Overlook Press, 1971. ISBN 0-87951-041-2

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Paramount on Parade (1930)

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Paramount on Parade (1930)

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Directors: Dorothy Arzner, Otto Brower, Edmund Goulding, Victor Heerman, Edwin H Knopf, Rowland V Lee, Ernst Lubitsch, Lothar Mendes, Victor Schertzinger, A Edward Sutherland, Frank Tuttle

Cast: Maurice Chevalier, Richard Arlen, Jean Arthur, William Austin, George Bancroft, Clara Bow, Evelyn Brent, Mary Brian, Clive Brook, Nancy Carroll, Kay Francis, Richard Skeets Gallagher, Gary Cooper, Ruth Chatterton, Mitzi Green, Fredric March and many others

102 min

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Paramount on Parade is a 1930 all-star American Pre-Code revue released by Paramount Pictures, directed by several directors including Edmund Goulding, Dorothy Arzner, Ernst Lubitsch, Rowland V. Lee, A. Edward Sutherland, Lothar Mendes, Otto Brower, Edwin H. Knopf, Frank Tuttle, and Victor Schertzinger—all supervised by the production supervisor, singer, actress, and songwriter Elsie Janis.

Featured stars included Jean Arthur, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow, Evelyn Brent, Buddy Rogers, Jack Oakie, Helen Kane, Maurice Chevalier, Nancy Carroll, George Bancroft, Kay Francis, Richard “Skeets” Gallagher, Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, Lillian Roth and other Paramount stars. The screenplay was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky, with cinematography by Victor Milner and Harry Fischbeck.

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Paramount on Parade, released on April 22, 1930, was Paramount’s answer to all-star revues like Hollywood Revue of 1929 from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Show of Shows from Warner Brothers, and King of Jazz from Universal Studios.[1][2] The film had 20 individual segments—several of them in two-color Technicolor — directed by 11 directors, and almost every star on the Paramount roster except Claudette Colbert and the Marx Brothers. (Colbert became a star in May 1930 with the release of The Big Pond, also with Chevalier and also released in a French-language version.)

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International versions

Paramount also produced a French-language version Paramount en Parade directed by Charles de Rochefort and a Romanian-language version Parada Paramount (Chevalier and Martini also starred in the French version, and Romanian actress Pola Illéry starred in the Romanian version. There was also a Dutch version, Paramount op Parade with Theo Frenkel. The Scandinavian version starred Ernst Rolf and his wife, Tutta Rolf.

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Preservation status

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Paramount on Parade featured in a 1930 advertisement for Technicolor

The film, including some of its Technicolor sequences, has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The original title sequence and chorus girl number immediately following it, however, are still lost. The sound for two of the Technicolor sequences (“Gallows Song” and “Dream Girl”) are also missing.

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According to Robert Gitt, film archivist now retired from UCLA, in a lecture at Pacific Film Archive at UC Berkeley, the film was also released with sound-on-disc for those theaters not equipped for sound-on-film. The archive had a report of the soundtrack for this film still existing on disc until the 1994 Northridge earthquake destroyed a set of discs that a collector was planning to donate.

In August 2010, CapitolFest in Rome, New York showed a 102-minute version restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive. Some sequences are still missing the sound, for some sequences only the soundtrack exists.

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List of sequences

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Foreign-language versions

A large number of foreign-language versions were shot including:

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  • Parada Paramount (Romanian) with Pola Illéry; directed by Rochefort
  • Paramount op Parade (Dutch) with Theo Frenkel Jr., Mien Duymaer van Twist, and Louis Davids; directed by Job Weening

At Paramount’s Hollywood studio, Ernst Rolf and his Norwegian wife, Tutta Rolf, filmed introductions and sequences for the Scandinavian version. Japanese comedian Suisei Matsui introduced the film in Japan. Mira Zimińska and Mariusz Maszynski appeared in the Polish version, and Dina Gralla and Eugen Rex appeared in the German version. Paramount filmed most of the above versions, along with Czech, Hungarian, Serbian, and Italian versions, at their Joinville Studios in Paris.

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See also


  1. Jump up^ “Paramount on Parade”. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  2. Jump up^ “Paramount on Parade (1930) – Overview”. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Lynn Kear; James King (2009-07-31). Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood’s Lady Crook. p. 188. Retrieved 2016-02-06.

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Marriage Playground, The (1929)

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The Marriage Playground (1929)

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Director: Lothar Mendes

Cast: Mary Brian, Fredric March, Lilyan Tashman, Huntley Gordon, Kay Francis, William Austin, Seena Owen, Phillipe De Lacy, Anita Louise, Mitzi Green, Clive Brook (narrator)

70 min

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The Marriage Playground is a 1929 American Pre-Code drama film directed by Lothar Mendes and written by Doris Anderson, J. Walter Ruben and Edith Wharton. The film stars Mary Brian, Fredric March, Lilyan Tashman, Huntley Gordon, Kay Francis, William Austin, and Seena Owen.

The film was released on December 21, 1929, by Paramount Pictures.[1][2]

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Joyce and Cliffe Wheater, a much-divorced American couple, leave their seven children to fend for themselves as they tour the smart resorts of Europe. Judith, the eldest, takes care of the group. Martin Boyne, an American tourist, meets Judith and the children at the Lido and remembers that he knew their father in America; attracted to Judith, he is quick to sympathize with the problems of the children.

Although he is the way to Switzerland to meet Rose Sellers, his fiancée, Martin delays the trip to help the children through a crisis that threatens to separate them. When he leaves, Judith despairs, feeling that he regards her as only a child, and she decides to take the children to Switzerland; there Martin realizes he loves her, and when Wheater, repenting of his neglect, telephones him to bring the children back, Martin declares that he is marrying Judith and will himself care for the children.

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  1. Jump up^ “Movie Review – Lucky in Love – THE SCREEN; Fun and Romance”. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  2. Jump up^ “The Marriage Playground”. Retrieved February 15, 2015.

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Behind the Make Up (1930)

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Behind the Make Up (1930)

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Director: Robert Milton, Dorothy Arzner, Henry Hathaway

Cast: Hal Skelly, William Powell, Fay Wray, Kay Francis, Paul Lukas, E H Calvert, Torben Meyer, Bob Perry, Walter Huston

70 min

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Behind the Make-Up (1930) is an American Pre-Code drama film starring Hal Skelly, William Powell, Kay Francis, and Fay Wray, and based on the short story “The Feeder” by Mildred Cram.

This was the first of seven in which Powell and Francis co-starred, the others being Street of Chance (1930), Paramount on Parade (1930), For the Defense (1930), Ladies’ Man (1931), Jewel Robbery (1932), and One Way Passage (1932).

Plot Summary

Gardoni, a down-on-his-luck vaudeville performer, is taken in by a fellow performer, a clown who has a bicycle riding act. Gardoni shows his appreciation by stealing the clown’s act and his girlfriend, whom he marries.

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Critical reception

Mordaunt Hall, film critic of the New York Times, praised the performances of Powell (“excellent”), Wray (“pleasing”), Skelly (“goes about his part with earnestness and intelligence”), and Francis (“does nicely”), but noted “the story is rather limp and disappointing.”[1]

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  1. ^ Jump up to:a b Mordaunt Hall (January 18, 1930). “Behind the Makeup (1930)”. New York Times.

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Cocoanuts, The (1929)

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The Cocoanuts (1929)

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Director: Robert Florey, Joseph Santley

Cast: Zeppo Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Mary Eaton, Kay Francis, Oscar Shaw, Margaret Dumont, Cyril Ring, Barton MacLane

96 min

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The Cocoanuts (1929) is the Marx Brothers‘ first feature-length film. Produced for Paramount Pictures by Walter Wanger, who is not credited, the musical comedy stars the four Marx Brothers, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, and Margaret Dumont.

It was the first sound film to credit more than one director (Robert Florey and Joseph Santley), and was adapted to the screen by Morrie Ryskind from the George S. Kaufman Broadway musical play. Five of the film’s tunes were composed by Irving Berlin, including “When My Dreams Come True”, sung by Oscar Shaw and Mary Eaton.

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The Cocoanuts is set in the Hotel de Cocoanut, a resort hotel, during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) runs the place, assisted by Jamison (Zeppo Marx), who would rather sleep at the front desk than actually help him run it. Chico and Harpo arrive with empty luggage, which they apparently plan to fill by robbing and conning the guests.

Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont, in the first of seven film appearances with the Marxes) is one of the few paying customers. Her daughter Polly (Mary Eaton) is in love with struggling young architect Bob Adams (Oscar Shaw).

He works to support himself as a clerk at the hotel, but has plans for the development of the entire area as Cocoanut Manor. Mrs. Potter wants her daughter to marry Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring), whom she believes to be of higher social standing than the clerk. This suitor is actually a con man out to steal the dowager’s diamond necklace with the help of his conniving partner Penelope (Kay Francis).

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The plot is almost beside the point, and the story and setting are little more than an excuse for the brothers to run amok. The film is notable for its musical “production numbers”, including techniques which were soon to become standard, such as overhead shots of dancing girls imitating the patterns of a kaleidoscope.

The musical numbers were recorded live on the soundstage as they were shot, rather than pre-recorded, using an off-camera orchestra. The main titles are superimposed over a negative image of the “Monkey-Doodle-Do” number photographed from an angle that does not appear in the body of the film.

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One of the more famous gags in the film has Groucho giving directions to Chico, who keeps misunderstanding “viaduct” as “why-a-duck“. In another sequence Groucho is the auctioneer for some land of possibly questionable value (“You can have any kind of a home you want to; you can even get stucco!

Oh, how you can get stuck-oh!”) He has hired Chico to inflate the sale prices by making phony bids. To Groucho’s frustration, Chico keeps outbidding everyone, even himself. During the auction, Mrs. Potter announces that her necklace has been stolen and offers a thousand dollar reward, whereupon Chico offers two thousand. Still another sequence has Groucho, Mrs. Potter and Harvey Yates (the necklace thief) make formal speeches. Harpo repeatedly walks off, with a grimace on his face, to the punch bowl. (His staggering implies that the fruit punch has been spiked with alcohol.) Another highlight is when the cast, already dressed in traditional Spanish garb for a theme party, erupts into an operatic treatment about a lost shirt to music from Carmen (specifically, Habanera and the song of the Toreador). An earlier scene shows Harpo and Chico abusing a cash register while whistling the Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore, a piece also referenced in several other Marx Brothers films.

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The Cocoanuts (1929)
Zeppo Marx, Groucho Marx, Chico Marx & Harpo Marx Film: The Cocoanuts (USA 1929) Character(s): Jamison, Hammer, Chico, Harpo Director: Robert Florey & Joseph Santley 03 May 1929 AFF20867 AF Archive Picture Library/PARAMOUNT PICTURES **Warning** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of PARAMOUNT PICTURES and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company & can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To PARAMOUNT PICTURES is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from the Film Company.


Referring to directors Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, Groucho Marx remarked, “One of them didn’t understand English and the other didn’t understand comedy.”[2]

As was common in the early days of sound film, to eliminate the sound of the camera motors the cameras and the cameramen were enclosed in large soundproof booths with glass fronts to allow filming, hence the largely static camera work. For many years, Marxian legend had it that Florey, who had never seen the Marxes’ work before, was put in the soundproof booth because he could not contain his laughter at the brothers’ spontaneous antics.[3]

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Every piece of paper in the movie is soaking wet, to keep crackling paper sounds from overloading the primitive recording equipment of the time. In fact, this did not occur to director Florey until 27 takes had been made (of the “Viaduct” scene) and disposed of because of the noise made by the paper. Florey finally got the idea to soak the paper in water; the 28th take of the “Viaduct” scene used soaked paper, and this take was quiet and used in the film.[4]

The “ink” that Harpo drank from the hotel lobby inkwell was actually Coca-Cola, and the “telephone mouthpiece” that he nibbled was made of chocolate, both inventions of Robert Florey.

Filming took place at Paramount’s Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens. Their second film, Animal Crackers, was also shot there. After that, production of all Marx films moved to Hollywood.

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  • “Florida by the Sea” (instrumental with brief vocal by chorus during opening montage)
  • “When My Dreams Come True” (theme song, Mary Eaton and Oscar Shaw variously, several reprises)
  • “The Bell-Hops” (instrumental, dance number)
  • “Monkey Doodle Doo” (vocal by Mary Eaton and dance number)
  • “Ballet Music” (instrumental, dance number)
  • “Tale of the Shirt” (vocal by Basil Ruysdael, words set to music from Carmen by Georges Bizet)
  • “Tango Melody” (vocal included in the stage production, used in the film as background music only)
  • “Gypsy Love Song” (by Victor Herbert, piano solo by Chico Marx)

The Cocoanuts is one of the few Irving Berlin vehicles that did not yield any particularly memorable songs. Several songs from the stage play were omitted from the film: “Lucky Boy”, sung by the chorus to congratulate Bob on his engagement to Polly and “A Little Bungalow”, a love duet sung by Bob and Polly that was replaced with “When My Dreams Come True” in the film.

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Irving Berlin wrote two songs entitled “Monkey Doodle Doo”. The first was published in 1913, the second introduced in the 1925 stage production and featured in the film. They are very different songs.

Although legend claims Berlin wrote the song “Always” for The Cocoanuts, he never meant for the song to be included, writing it, instead, as a gift for his fiancee.[5]


When the Marx Brothers were shown the final cut of the film, they were so horrified they tried to buy the negative back and prevent its release.[6] Paramount wisely resisted — the movie turned out to be a big box office hit, with a $1,800,000 gross making it one of the most successful early talking films.[1]

It received mostly positive reviews from critics, with the Marx Brothers themselves earning most of the praise while other aspects of the film drew a more mixed reaction. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times reported that the film “aroused considerable merriment” among the viewing audience, and that a sequence using an overhead shot was “so engaging that it elicited plaudits from many in the jammed theatre.”

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However, he found the audio quality during some of the singing to be “none too good”, adding, “a deep-voiced bass’s tones almost fade into a whisper in a close-up. Mary Eaton is charming, but one obtains little impression of her real ability as a singer.”[7]

Variety called it “a comedy hit for the regular picture houses. That’s all it has – comedy – but that’s enough.” It reported the sound had “a bit of muffling now and then” and that the dancers weren’t always filmed well: “When the full 48 were at work only 40 could be seen and those behind the first line could be seen but dimly.”[8]

“It is as a funny picture and not as a musical comedy, not for its songs, pretty girls, or spectacular scenes, that The Cocoanuts succeeds”, wrote John Mosher in The New Yorker. “Neither Mary Eaton, nor Oscar Shaw, who contribute the “love interest”, is effective, nor are the chorus scenes in the least superior to others of the same sort in various musical-comedy-movies now running in town. To the Marxes belongs the success of the show, and their peculiar talents seem, surprisingly enough, even more manifest on the screen than on the stage.”[9]

Film Daily called it “a good amount of fun, although some of it proves tiresome. This is another case of a musical comedy transferred almost bodily to the screen and motion picture treatment forgotten. The result is a good many inconsistencies which perhaps may be overlooked provided the audience accepts the offering for what it is.”[10]

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Awards and honors

American Film Institute recognition

• AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs – Nominated

See also

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  1. ^ Jump up to:a b “Big Sound Grosses”. Variety. New York. June 21, 1932. p. 62.
  2. Jump up^ Bowen, Peter (August 3, 2010). “The Cocoanuts Released”. Focus Features. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  3. Jump up^ Paul Zimmerman, The Marx Brothers At The Movies. Putnam, 1968.
  4. Jump up^ Paul D. Zimmerman and Burt Goldblatt The Marx Brothers at the Movies,[page needed]
  5. Jump up^ Bader, Robert S. (2016). Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 309. ISBN 9780810134164.
  6. Jump up^ Nixon, Rob. “The Cocoanuts”. Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  7. Jump up^ Hall, Mordaunt (May 25, 1929). “Movie Review – The Cocoanuts”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  8. Jump up^ “The Cocoanuts”. Variety. New York: 14. May 29, 1929.
  9. Jump up^ Mosher, John (June 1, 1929). “The Current Cinema”. The New Yorker. p. 74.
  10. Jump up^ “The Cocoanuts”. Film Daily. New York: Wid’s Films and Film Folk, Inc. June 2, 1929. p. 9.

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Gentlemen of the Press (1929)

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Gentlemen of the Press (1929)


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Director: Millard Webb

Cast: Walter Huston, Kay Francis, Charles Ruggles, Betty Lawford, Norman Foster, Duncan Penwarden, Lawrence Leslie, Harry Lee, Brian Donlevy, Victor Killian

80 min

Gentlemen of the Press is a 1929 all-talking film starring Walter Huston in his first feature film role and Kay Francis in her first film role. The film still survives. This film’s copyright has expired and it is now in the public domain. It survives in a copy sold to MCA for television distribution.[1]

The film is based on Ward Morehouse’s 1928 Broadway play Gentlemen of the Press.[2]

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Not released on DVD


Virtuous Sin, The (1930)

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The Virtuous Sin (1930)


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Director: George Cukor, Louis J Gasnier

Cast: Walter Huston, Kay Francis, Kenneth MacKenna, Jobyna Howland, Paul Cavanagh, Eric Kalkhurst, Oscar Apfel, Gordon McLeod, Victor Potel

80 min

The Virtuous Sin is a 1930 American Pre-Code comedy-drama film directed by George Cukor and Louis J. Gasnier. The screenplay by Martin Brown and Louise Long is based on the play The General by Lajos Zilahy.


Marya is the wife of medical student Victor Sablin, who finds it impossible to deal with military life when he is inducted into the Russian army during World War I. With her husband is sentenced to death by firing squad due to his insubordination, Marya offers herself to General Gregori Platoff in order to save him. When the two unexpectedly fall in love, Victor — not caring that his life has been spared — threatens to kill his rival. His determination to eliminate the general falters when Marya confesses she is not in love with her husband — and never was.

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Critical reception

Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times called the film “a clever comedy with a splendid performance by Walter Huston” and added, “There is a constant fund of interest in this picture’s action. It is one of those rare offerings in which youth takes a back seat.[1]

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George Cukor’s reflection in 1972

In the book On Cukor, director George Cukor confided to biographer Gavin Lambert: “It wasn’t much good. I’d be in great shock if they [film restorationists & historians] rescued this one. I remember that I enjoyed working with Kay Francis and Walter Huston, though.”[2]

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Preservation status

A complete print of this film is held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. However, the UCLA archive’s website says the print is too shrunken for projection.[3]

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See also

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  1. Jump up^ “Review”, The New York Times.
  2. Jump up^ Parish, James Robert; Mank, Gregory W.; Stanke, Don E. (1978), The Hollywood Beauties, New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers, p. 73, ISBN 0-87000-412-3
  3. Jump up^ UCLA Film and Television Archive website

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Let’s Go Native (1930)

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Let’s Go Native (1930)

LET'S GO NATIVE, Jeanette MacDonald, 1930

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Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Jack Oakie, Jeanette MacDonald, Kay Francis, Richard Skeets Gallagher, James Hall, William Austin, David Newell, Charles Sellon, Eugene Pallette, Virginia Bruce, John Elliott, Douglas Haig

77 min

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Let’s Go Native is a 1930 American Pre-Code black-and-white musical comedy film, directed by Leo McCarey and released by Paramount Pictures.

Jerry comments on being the only man on an island populated by women, “It was one of the Virgin Islands, but it drifted.” The tagline was: “Paramount’s wild, merry, mad hilarious farce!”


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  • “It Seems To Be Spring”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
  • “Let’s Go Native”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
  • “My Mad Moment”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
  • “I’ve Gotta Yen For You”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
Sung by Jack Oakie
  • “Joe Jazz”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
Sung by Jack Oakie
  • “Pampa Rose”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.
  • “Don’t I Do?”
Lyrics by George Marion Jr.
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Copyright 1930 by Famous Music Corp.

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Street Of Chance (1930)

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Street Of Chance (1930)

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Director: John Cromwell

Cast: Kay Francis, William Powell, Jean Arthur, Regis Toomey, Stanley Fields, Brooks Benedict, Maurice Black, Irving Bacon, John Risso, Joan Standing

75 min

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Street of Chance is a 1930 American pre-Code film directed by John Cromwell and starring William Powell, Jean Arthur, Kay Francis and Regis Toomey. Howard Estabrook was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Achievement.

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John Marsden, a famed and powerful New York gambler who refuses to throw a game, is devoted to his wife, Alma, and his impressionistic younger brother, “Babe,” to whom he sends a wedding gift of $10,000, which Babe may keep on the condition that he does not indulge in gambling. Alma, dismayed by John’s ruthless tactics and his obsession with gambling, threatens to leave him unless he takes his winnings and leaves the city with her. He agrees.

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However, that evening Babe, who has become a cardsharp, comes to town with his new wife, Judith. He goes to see his brother, whom he believes is a stockbroker, unaware of John’s true profession and the reality that he is trying to quit and rebuild his marriage. Babe insists on playing and tries to win a fortune with his savings in an organized gambling session. He wins remarkably. The professional gambler sees that his card-playing sibling is preparing to make the same mistakes he did.

John therefore decides to risk his life and gamble one more time, and to break the gambler’s code and cheat by throwing the game, in order to disillusion Babe, thereby teaching him an unforgettable lesson. However, John is caught cheating by Dorgan and becomes a marked man. John is later mortally wounded, in spite of his wife’s attempts to save him.

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Street of Chance 7

Street of Chance 9

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For The Defense (1930)

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For The Defense (1930)

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Director: John Cromwell

Cast: Kay Francis, William Powell, Scott Kolk, William B Davidson, Thomas E Jackson, Harry Walker, James Finlayson, Charles West, Bertram Marburgh, Billy Bevan, John Cromwell, Sidney D’Albrook

65 min


For the Defense is a 1930 Pre-Code crime drama film starring William Powell as a lawyer whose ethics are challenged when the woman he loves hits and kills a pedestrian while out driving with another suitor.


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In New York City, William Foster (William Powell) is a criminal defense attorney so successful that prosecutors regard him as a menace. He holds himself to high ethical standards but is willing to mislead without actually lying.

Foster defends a man who planned a murder using explosives. District Attorney Stone (William B. Davidson) displays a vial and says chemical tests have shown that the liquid in it is sensitive nitroglycerin. Foster sniffs the liquid, questions him to verify the chain of custody, and then smashes the vial dramatically on the floor. When order is restored, he explains to the judge that he knew it was safe because nitro has a distinctive smell, and Stone says he had removed the actual nitro for safety after the chemical test. But Foster points out that only the liquid now in the bottle was entered into evidence, and wins his case.

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Foster is in love with actress Irene Manners (Kay Francis), and she loves him, but she wants to be married and he does not. When another suitor, Jack Defoe (Scott Kolk), proposes to her, she says she needs to tell Foster about him before she can accept; but she finds she cannot do so. She stays out late enough at night with Defoe to leave only one implication of what they were doing, and while driving him home, she does agree to marry him. He suddenly hugs her and she loses control of the car, killing a bystander.

To protect Irene’s reputation, Defoe urges her to leave the scene, lying that the victim is not badly hurt. Presumed to have been driving while drunk, he is charged with manslaughter. They both still conceal her involvement, but she begs Foster to defend him. He asks why she cares enough about Defoe to insist; she says she and Defoe are just friends, but she had already promised him on Foster’s behalf, assuming Foster would be willing. Foster agrees, but finds that Defoe cannot tell a credible story at trial.

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Then Foster finds out that Irene was at the accident scene and therefore must be much more than “just friends” with Defoe. Foster is crushed, but she still begs him to get Defoe acquitted, while Defoe fears Foster will throw the case and Irene will be charged and convicted as well. Foster eventually puts his love for Irene first and, for the first time in his life, bribes a juror to vote not guilty, hanging the jury.

Foster is quickly found out and arrested, and defends himself at trial. As he will not see Irene, she goes to Stone, admits what really happened at the accident, and says Foster was only trying to protect her. If Stone does not agree to recommend mercy, Irene says, she will tell her story in court. Stone says he will think about it.

Although his defense is going well, Foster then offers to plead guilty (and thus be disbarred, no doubt making life easier for prosecutors in future) if only Stone will agree not to retry Defoe; but Stone says he does not make deals. Back in court, Irene sends Foster a note pleading to let her testify and tell the truth. To protect her, Foster immediately changes his plea to guilty. Stone then tells Foster that neither Defoe nor Irene will be prosecuted.

As Foster arrives at Sing Sing to serve his sentence, Irene is there and says she will be waiting for him when he comes out. He says that if she does, then he will marry her.

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Girls About Town (1931)

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Girls About Town (1931)

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Director: George Cukor

Cast: Kay Francis, Joel McCrea, Lilyan Tashman, Eugene Palette, Alan Dinehart, Lucile Gleason, Anderson Lawler, Lucile Browne, George Barbier, Robert McWade, Louise Beavers, Judith Wood, Adrienne Ames

80 min

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Girls About Town is a 1931 American pre-Code romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor and starring Kay Francis and Joel McCrea.


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Wanda Howard (Kay Francis) and Marie Bailey (Lilyan Tashman) go out with two balding, middle-aged businessmen from out of town (for $500 apiece) to help Jerry Chase (Alan Dinehart) close a sale. However, the women, who share a luxurious suite in an apartment building, have their African-American maid Hattie (Louise Beavers) disguise herself as their mother, waiting at the window, to avoid having to invite the men inside.

Wanda is getting tired of how she makes a living, but she and Marie go aboard a yacht the next night to divert rich practical joker Benjamin Thomas (Eugene Pallette) and his handsome business associate Jim Baker (Joel McCrea).

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Jim knows that the women are paid “entertainment”, but quickly finds himself falling for Wanda anyway, and vice versa. (When Jerry pays her for her efforts, Wanda tears up the check.) Once Jim realizes she genuinely loves him, he asks her to marry him. Although she is initially reluctant, she agrees. However, she informs Jim that there is one complication: her estranged husband Alex (Anderson Lawler). She asks him for a divorce, and he agrees.

Meanwhile, Benjamin’s wife, who is divorcing him because of his stinginess, shows up and asks Marie to stop making a fool of him. Marie realizes that Mrs Thomas (Lucille Gleason) is still in love with her husband, and comes up with a plan to cure him of his tightfisted ways. The next day, Marie steers Benjamin to the jewelry store where Mrs Thomas is waiting. Mrs Thomas, pretending not to see him, complains (in a loud voice) how cheap her husband is. Benjamin becomes so angry he buys Marie lots of expensive items for about $50,000.


That night, Alex crashes the birthday party Marie has arranged for Benjamin. He tells Jim that he wants $10,000 or he will name Jim as the co-respondent in the divorce. Alex insinuates that Wanda is part of the blackmail scheme. Believing the lie, Jim breaks up with Wanda.

Wanda visits Alex in Brooklyn and demands he give the money back. He introduces her (as “cousin Wanda”) to the ailing Mrs. Howard and their baby, the reasons he needs the money so desperately. He confesses that he got a divorce in Mexico 2 years before, and promises to pay her back once he is back on his feet financially. Touched, Wanda leaves without the check.

Wanda decides to auction off enough of her possessions to her friends to raise $10,000 and pay Jim back. She also asks Marie to return her jewelry. Wanda gives Jim the proceeds; even before that, however, he has come to his senses, and the couple reconcile. Marie gives Benjamin’s gifts to his wife and reunites that couple.

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Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times film critic, gave Girls About Town a qualified favorable review, writing, “This handsomely staged and ably directed production is one that affords no little laughter, but unfortunately it is burdened in the latter stages by highly improbable serious sequences.”[1]

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See also


  1. Jump up^ Hall, Mordaunt (November 2, 1931). “The Screen; Movietone News.”. The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2008.

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24 Hours (1931)

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24 Hours (1931)

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Director: Marion Gering

Cast: Clive Brook, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, Regis Toomey, George Barbier, Adrienne Ames, Minor Watson, Charlotte Granville, Lucille La Verne, Wade Boteler

66 min

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24 Hours is a 1931 American pre-Code romantic drama film starring Clive Brook, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins and Regis Toomey. It was based on the novel Twenty-Four Hours by Louis Bromfield and the play Shattered Glass by Will D. Lengle and Lew Levenson. An alcoholic married man is accused of murdering the woman with whom he has been carrying on an affair. The title comes from the fact that the film takes place from 11 pm one night to the same time the following night.

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At an evening party in New York City, the Towners mourn their failing marriage, then leave separately. The somewhat drunk Jim walks to a bar for some more liquor. Before he arrives, a man is shot to death outside the establishment; those inside hastily carry the body inside and surmise that someone named Tony is responsible. Meanwhile, Fanny is driven home by her lover, David Melbourn. On the way, she breaks up with him, telling him she realizes now that she still loves Jim. However, she plans to leave her husband, thinking she is not good enough for him.

Jim next heads to a nightclub to see his lover, star singer Rosie Duggan. He asks her if it is possible for a man to love two women, then remarks that the snow was red outside the bar. After he leaves, her ex-con husband Tony Bruzzi shows up. He wants her to take him back, but she has him thrown out, though she keeps his gun; she guesses from the red snow that Tony killed someone.

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Later, she takes Jim home. He falls asleep on her chaise longue. Then Tony shows up, jealous and determined to kill Jim. She tells him that Jim is not there, but he does not believe her. When she refuses to open a locked door, they struggle and he accidentally kills her.

The next morning, Jim wakes up and finds Rosie’s body. Meanwhile, Tony hides out at Mrs. Dacklehorst’s place, but he is tracked down by Dave the Slapper and his gang; the man Tony shot was part of Dave’s mob. Tony demands Mrs. Dacklehorst deliver or mail a letter to his gang, but she betrays him instead, and he is shot dead.

Jim is charged with Rosie’s murder. When Fanny shows up at the police station, Jim tells her to divorce him so she will not get entangled in his troubles, but she refuses to do so. Fortunately, fingerprints on a liquor bottle at Rosie’s place match Tony’s, and Jim is released. The couple reconcile, and Jim promises to stop drinking.

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See also[edit]

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Rain ( 1932)

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Rain (1932)

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Director: Lewis Milestone

Cast: Joan Crawford, Walter Houston, Fred Howard, Ben Hendricks Jr., William Gargan, Mary Shaw, Guy Kibbee,  Beulah Bondi, Matt Moore

94 min

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Rain is a 1932 South Seas drama film directed by Lewis Milestone with portions filmed at Santa Catalina Island, California. The pre-Code film stars Joan Crawford as prostitute Sadie Thompson and features Walter Huston as a conflicted missionary who wants to reform Sadie, but whose own morals start decaying. Crawford was loaned out by MGM to United Artists for this film.

The plot of the film is based on the 1922 play Rain by John Colton and Clemence Randolph, which in turn was based on the short story “Miss Thompson” (later retitled “Rain”) by W. Somerset Maugham.

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Actress Jeanne Eagels had played the role on stage. Other movie versions of the story include: a 1928 silent film titled Sadie Thompson starring Gloria Swanson, and the heavily sanitized Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), which starred Rita Hayworth.

In 1960, the film entered the public domain in the USA due to the copyright claimant’s failure to renew the copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[1]

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A westbound ship en route to Apia, Samoa, is temporarily stranded at nearby Pago Pago due to a possible cholera outbreak on board. Among the passengers are Alfred Davidson, a self-righteous missionary, his wife, and Sadie Thompson, a prostitute. Thompson passes the time partying and drinking with the American Marines stationed on the island. Sergeant Tim O’Hara, nicknamed by Sadie as “Handsome”, falls in love with her.

Her wild behavior soon becomes more than the Davidsons can stand and Mr. Davidson confronts Sadie, resolving to save her soul. When she dismisses his offer, Davidson has the Governor order her deported to San Francisco, California, where she is wanted for an unspecified crime (for which she says she was framed).

She begs Davidson to allow her to remain on the island a few more days – her plan is to flee to Sydney, Australia. During a heated argument with Davidson, she experiences a religious conversion and agrees to return to San Francisco and the jail sentence awaiting her there.

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The evening before she is to leave, Sergeant O’Hara asks Sadie to marry him and offers to hide her until the Sydney boat sails, but she refuses. Later, while native drums beat, the repressed Davidson satisfies his lust with Sadie. The next morning he is found dead on the beach – a suicide. Davidson’s hypocrisy and betrayal cause Thompson to return to her old self and she goes off to Sydney with O’Hara to start a new life.

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Rain was not well received – either critically or financially – upon initial release. The unglamorous role for Crawford, and bold story (religious hypocrisy being its main theme), caught Depression-era audiences off guard.

Motion Picture Herald commented, “Because the producers have made such a strong attempt to establish the stern impressiveness of the story, it is rather slow. In its drive to become powerful, it appears to have lost the spark of spontaneity….Joan Crawford and Walter Huston are satisfactory.”

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Variety noted, “It turns out to be a mistake to have assigned the Sadie Thompson role to Miss Crawford. It shows her off unfavorably. The dramatic significance of it all is beyond her range…. [Director] Milestone tried to achieve action with the camera, but wears the witnesses down with words.

Joan Crawford’s get-up as the light lady is extremely bizarre. Pavement pounders don’t quite trick themselves up as fantastically as all that. In commercial favor of Rain is the general repute of the theme and Miss Crawford’s personal following, but the finished product will not help either.”

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Box office

The film earned $538,000 in the United States and Canada and $166,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $198,000.

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  1. Jump up^ Pierce, David (March 29, 2001). Legal Limbo: How American Copyright Law Makes Orphan Films (mp3 in “file3”). Orphans of the Storm II: Documenting the 20th Century. Retrieved 2012-01-05.

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Frankenstein (1931)

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Frankenstein (1931)

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Director: James Whale

Cast: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Marylin Harris, Ted Billings, Mae Bruce, Jack Curtis, Arleta Duncan

70 min

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Frankenstein is a 1931 American pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling (which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley), about a scientist and his assistant who dig up corpses to build a man animated by electricity, but his assistant accidentally gives the creature an abnormal, murderer’s brain. The resultant monster is portrayed by Boris Karloff in the film.

The movie stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Karloff, and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort with uncredited contributions from Robert Florey and John Russell.

The make-up artist was Jack Pierce. A hit with both audiences and critics, the film was followed by multiple sequels and has become arguably the most iconic horror film.

In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”[3]

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1931 Frankenstein film trailer

In a European village, a young scientist, named Henry Frankenstein, and his assistant Fritz, a hunchback, piece together a human body, the parts of which have been collected from various sources. Frankenstein desires to create human life through electrical devices which he has perfected.

Elizabeth, his fiancée, is worried over his peculiar actions. She cannot understand why he secludes himself in an abandoned watch tower, which he has equipped as a laboratory, refusing to see anyone. She and a friend, Victor Moritz, go to Dr. Waldman, Henry’s old medical professor, and ask Waldman’s help in reclaiming the young scientist from his experiments.

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Waldman tells them that Frankenstein has been working on creating life. Elizabeth, intent on rescuing Frankenstein, arrives just as Henry is making his final tests. He tells them to watch, claiming to have discovered the ray that brought life into the world. They watch Frankenstein and the hunchback as they raise the dead creature on an operating table, high into the room, toward an opening at the top of the laboratory. Then a terrific crash of thunder, the crackling of Frankenstein’s electric machines, and the hand of Frankenstein’s monster begins to move, prompting Frankenstein to shout ‘It’s alive!’.

Through the incompetence of Fritz, a criminal brain was secured for Frankenstein’s experiments instead of the desired normal one. The manufactured monster, despite its grotesque form, initially appears to be a simple, innocent creation. Frankenstein welcomes it into his laboratory and asks his creation to sit, which it does. He then opens up the roof, causing the monster to reach out towards the sunlight. Fritz enters with a flaming torch, which frightens the monster.

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Its fright is mistaken by Frankenstein and Waldman as an attempt to attack them, and it is chained in the dungeon. Thinking that it is not fit for society and will wreak havoc at any chance, they leave the monster locked up, where Fritz antagonizes it with a torch. As Henry and Waldman consider the monster’s fate, they hear a shriek from the dungeon. Frankenstein and Waldman find the monster has strangled Fritz.

The monster lunges at the two but they escape, locking the monster inside. Realizing that the creature must be destroyed, Henry prepares an injection of a powerful drug and the two conspire to release the monster and inject it as it attacks. When the door is unlocked the creature lunges at Frankenstein as Waldman injects the drug into the creature’s back. The monster falls to the floor unconscious.

Henry leaves to prepare for his wedding while Waldman examines the creature. As he is preparing to vivisect it, the creature awakens and strangles him. It escapes from the tower and wanders through the landscape.

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It has a short encounter with a farmer’s young daughter, Maria, who asks him to play a game with her in which they toss flowers into a lake and watch them float. The monster enjoys the game, but when they run out of flowers the monster thinks Maria will float as well, so he throws her into the lake where, to his puzzlement, she drowns. Upset by this outcome, the monster runs away.

With preparations for the wedding completed, Frankenstein is serenely happy with Elizabeth. They are to marry as soon as Waldman arrives. Victor rushes in, saying that the Doctor has been found strangled in his operating room. Frankenstein suspects the monster. A chilling scream convinces him that the monster is in the house. When the searchers arrive, they find Elizabeth unconscious on the bed. The monster has escaped.

Maria’s father arrives, carrying his daughter’s body. He says she was murdered, and a band of peasants form a search party to capture the monster, and bring it to justice. In order to search the whole country for the monster, they split into three groups: Ludwig leads the first group into the woods, Frankenstein leads the second group into the mountains, and the Burgomaster leads the third group by the lake.

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During the search, Frankenstein becomes separated from the group and is discovered by the monster, who attacks him. The monster knocks Frankenstein unconscious and carries him off to an old mill. The peasants hear his cries and they regroup to follow. They find the monster has climbed to the top, dragging Frankenstein with him. The monster hurls the scientist to the ground. His fall is broken by the vanes of the windmill, saving his life. Some of the villagers hurry him to his home while the rest of the mob set the windmill ablaze, killing the entrapped monster inside.

At Castle Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s father, Baron Frankenstein celebrates the wedding of his recovered son with a toast to a future grandchild.

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In 1930, Universal Studios had lost $2.2 million in revenues. Within 48 hours of its opening at New York’s Roxy Theatre on February 12, 1931, Dracula starring Bela Lugosi had sold 50,000 tickets, building a momentum that culminated in a $700,000 profit, the largest of Universal’s 1931 releases. As a result, head of production Carl Laemmle, Jr. announced immediate plans for more horror films.[4]

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Frankenstein begins with Edward Van Sloan stepping from behind a curtain and delivering a brief caution before the opening credits:

How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a friendly word of warning: We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation; life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to uh, well, ––we warned you!!

Immediately, following his success in Dracula, Bela Lugosi had hoped to play Dr. Frankenstein in Universal’s original film concept, but the actor was expected by Carl Laemmle, Jr. to be the Monster[5] (a common move for a contract player in a film studio at the time) to keep his famous name on the bill.[6]

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After several disastrous make-up tests (said to resemble that of Paul Wegener in The Golem), the Dracula star left the project. Although this is often regarded as one of the worst decisions of Lugosi’s career, in actuality, the part that Lugosi was offered was not the same character that Karloff eventually played.

The character in the Florey script was simply a killing machine without a touch of human interest or pathos, reportedly causing Lugosi to complain, “I was a star in my country[7] and I will not be a scarecrow over here!”[8] Florey later wrote that “the Hungarian actor didn’t show himself very enthusiastic for the role and didn’t want to play it.”

However, the decision may not have been Lugosi’s in any case, since recent evidence suggests that he was kicked off the project, along with director Robert Florey when the newly arrived James Whale asked for the property. Whale had been imported from England by the Laemmles and given a free hand as to his choice of projects at Universal.

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He was immediately attracted to Frankenstein and greatly revised the script and conceptualization of the project, which had troubled the management. Florey and Lugosi were given the Murders in the Rue Morgue film, as a consolation.

Lugosi would later go on to play the monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man a decade later, when his career was in decline (in the original shooting script the Monster spoke, cancelling Lugosi’s initial objection to the part, but his filmed dialogue sequences were cut prior to release, along with the premise that the Monster was blind, which was the way Lugosi had played it).[9]

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Actors who worked on the project were, or became familiar to, fans of the Universal horror films. These included Frederick Kerr as the old Baron Frankenstein, Henry’s father; Lionel Belmore as Herr Vogel, the Bürgermeister; Marilyn Harris as Little Maria, the girl the monster accidentally kills; Dwight Frye as Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant, Fritz; and Michael Mark as Ludwig, Maria’s father. Kerr died a year and a half later.

Kenneth Strickfaden designed the electrical effects used in the “creation scene.” So successful were they that such effects came to be considered an essential part of every subsequent Universal film involving the Frankenstein Monster. Accordingly, the equipment used to produce them has come to be referred to in fan circles as “Strickfadens.”

It appears that Strickfaden managed to secure the use of at least one Tesla Coil built by the inventor Nikola Tesla himself.[10] According to this same source, Strickfaden also doubled for Karloff during the creation scene, as Karloff was afraid of being burned by sparks being thrown off the arcing electrical equipment simulating lightning.

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Although he was partially covered by a surgical drape, Karloff’s abdomen was otherwise exposed during the scene and the high-voltage arc “scissors” threw white-hot bits of metal when they were used to create flashes.

The film opened in New York City at the Mayfair Theatre on December 4, 1931, and grossed $53,000 in one week.[8]

Pre-Code era scenes and censorship history

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The scene in which the monster throws the little girl into the lake and accidentally drowns her has long been controversial. Upon its original 1931 release, the second part of this scene was cut by state censorship boards in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.[8]

Those states also objected to a line they considered blasphemous, one that occurred during Frankenstein’s exuberance when he first learns that his creature is alive. The original line was: “It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”[8] Kansas requested the cutting of 32 scenes, which, if removed, would have halved the length of the film.[11]

Jason Joy of the Studio Relations Committee sent censor representative Joseph Breen to urge them to reconsider. Eventually, an edited version was released in Kansas.[8] The shot of Maria being thrown into the lake was rediscovered during the 1980s in the collection of the British National Film Archive. Modern copies incorporate it.[12]

As with many Pre-Code films that were reissued after strict enforcement of the Production Code in 1934, Universal made cuts from the original camera negative.[13]

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Mordaunt Hall gave Frankenstein a very positive review and said that the film “aroused so much excitement at the Mayfair yesterday that many in the audience laughed to cover their true feelings.” “[T]here is no denying that it is far and away the most effective thing of its kind. Beside it Dracula is tame and, incidentally, Dracula was produced by the same firm”.[14]

Film Daily also lauded the picture, calling it a “gruesome, chill-producing and exciting drama” that was “produced intelligently and lavishly and with a grade of photography that is superb.”[15]

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Variety reported that it “Looks like a Dracula plus, touching a new peak in horror plays,” and described Karloff’s performance as “a fascinating acting bit of mesmerism.” Its review also singled out the look of the film as uniquely praiseworthy, calling the photography “splendid” and the lighting “the last word in ingenuity, since much of the footage calls for dim or night effect and the manipulation of shadows to intensify the ghostly atmosphere.”[16]

John Mosher of The New Yorker was less enthused, calling the film only a “moderate success” and writing that “The makeup department has a triumph to its credit in the monster and there lie the thrills of the picture, but the general fantasy lacks the vitality which that little Mrs. P.B. Shelley was able to give her book.”[17]

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Frankenstein has continued to receive acclaim from critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1931,[18][19][20][21] as well as one of the greatest movies of all time.[22][23] It holds a 100% “Fresh” rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[24] In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.[25][26] In 2004, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.[27]

Frankenstein also received recognition from the American Film Institute. It was named the 87th greatest movie of all time on 100 Years… 100 Movies.[22] The line “It’s alive! It’s alive!” was ranked as the 49th greatest movie quote in American cinema.[28] The film was on the ballot for several of AFI’s 100 series lists, including AFI’s 10 Top 10 for the sci-fi category,[29] 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition),[30] and twice on 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains for both Dr. Henry Frankenstein and the Monster in the villains category.[31]

The film was ranked number 56 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills, a list of America’s most heart-pounding movies.[32] It was also ranked number 27 on Bravo‘s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[33] Additionally, the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 14th scariest film ever made.[34]

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Box office

The film was a big hit. In June 1932 the film had earned reported rentals of $1.4 million. In 1943 Universal reported it had earned a profit of $708,871. By 1953 all the Frankenstein films earned an estimated profit of $13 million.[35]


The next sequel, 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, was made, like all those that followed, without Whale or Clive (who had died in 1937). This film featured Karloff’s last full film performance as the Monster.

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Son of Frankenstein featured Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as bearded hunchback Ygor, and Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh.

The Ghost of Frankenstein was released in 1942. The movie features Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Monster, taking over from Boris Karloff, who played the role in the first three films of the series, and Bela Lugosi in his second appearance as the demented Ygor.

The fifth installment, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was released in 1943, directed by Roy William Neill, and starring Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein’s monster. This is also the sequel to The Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man.

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Karloff returned to the series, but not the role, in the 1944 followup, House of Frankenstein, which also featured Chaney, and adds Dracula, played by John Carradine, and a Hunchback for good measure. 1945’s House of Dracula continued the theme of combining Universal’s three most popular monsters.

Many of the subsequent films which featured Frankenstein’s monster demote the creature to a robotic henchman in someone else’s plots, such as in its final Universal film appearance in the deliberately farcical Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

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Other adaptations

  • Karloff would return to the wearing of the makeup and to the role of the monster one last time in a 1962 episode of the TV show Route 66.
  • The popular 1960s TV show, The Munsters, depicts the family’s father Herman as Frankenstein’s monster, who married Count Dracula‘s daughter. The make-up for Herman is based on the make-up of Boris Karloff.

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Frankenstein’s assistant

Although Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant is often referred to as “Igor” in descriptions of the films, he is not so called in the earliest films. In both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein has an assistant who is played both times by Dwight Frye who is crippled. In the original 1931 film the character is named “Fritz” who is hunchbacked and walks with the aid of a small cane.

In Bride of Frankenstein, Frye plays “Karl” a murderer who stands upright but has a lumbering metal brace on both legs that can be heard clicking loudly with every step. Both characters would be killed by Karloff’s monster in their respective films.

It was not until Son of Frankenstein (1939) that a character called “Ygor” first appears (here played by Bela Lugosi and revived by Lugosi in 1942’s The Ghost of Frankenstein after his apparent murder in the earlier film). This character — a deranged blacksmith whose neck was broken and twisted due to a botched hanging — befriends the monster and later helps Dr. Wolf Frankenstein, leading to the “hunchbacked assistant” called “Igor” commonly associated with Frankenstein in pop culture.

Frye also appears in later films in the series, such as in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).

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Cancelled remake

Guillermo del Toro had expressed interest in directing the reboot film for Universal.[36] Del Toro said his Frankenstein would be a faithful “Miltonian tragedy”, citing Frank Darabont‘s “near perfect” script, which evolved into Kenneth Branagh‘s Frankenstein.[37] Del Toro said of his vision, “What I’m trying to do is take the myth and do something with

Del Toro said of his vision, “What I’m trying to do is take the myth and do something with it, but combining elements of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein without making it just a classical myth of the monster. The best moments in my mind of

The best moments in my mind of Frankenstein, of the novel, are yet to be filmed […] The only guy that has ever nailed for me the emptiness, not the tragic, not the Miltonian dimension of the monster, but the emptiness is Christopher Lee in the Hammer films, where he really looks like something obscenely alive. Boris Karloff has the tragedy element nailed down but there are so many versions, including that great screenplay by Frank Darabont that was ultimately not really filmed.”[38]

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He has also cited Bernie Wrightson‘s illustrations as inspiration, and said the film will not focus on the monster’s creation, but be an adventure film featuring the character.[39] Del Toro said he would like Wrightson to design his version of the creature. The film will also focus on the religious aspects of Shelley’s tale.[40] In June 2009, del Toro stated that production on Frankenstein was not likely to begin for at least four years.[41] Despite this, he has already cast frequent collaborator

Despite this, he has already cast frequent collaborator Doug Jones in the role of Frankenstein’s monster. In an interview with Sci Fi Wire, Jones stated that he learned of the news the same day as everybody else; that “Guillermo did say to the press that he’s already cast me as his monster, but we’ve yet to talk about it. But in his mind, if that’s what he’s decided, then it’s done … It would be a dream come true.”[42] The film will be a period piece.[43]

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Universal Pictures is developing a shared universe of rebooted modern-day versions of their classic Universal Monsters, with various films in different stages of development.

In June of 2017, producer/director Alex Kurtzman revealed that Frankenstein is one of the films that will have an installment in the Dark Universe.[44]Javier Bardem is cast to portray the titular character.

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See also

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  1. Jump up^ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p24
  2. Jump up^ Box Office Information for Frankenstein. The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  3. Jump up^ “Brief Descriptions and Expanded Essays of National Film Registry Titles”. The Library of Congress. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  4. Jump up^ Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 35. ISBN 0-8109-4535-5.
  5. Jump up^ It’s Alive! The Classic Cinema Saga of Frankenstein – A.S. Barnes, San Diego, California,1981
  6. Jump up^ “”Frankenstein” Cast Chosen.”. New York Times. August 30, 1931. The Universal production of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is taking shape under the knowing guidance of James Whale. Boris Karloff and not Bela Lugosi is the final choice to play the monster.
  7. Jump up^ Bela Lugosi was born outside the western border of Transylvania in Austria–Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania)
  8. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Vieira. pgs. 42–3
  9. Jump up^ MagicImage Filmbooks Series, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
  10. Jump up^ Golman, Harry (November 11, 2005). Kenneth Strickfaden, Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-2064-2.
  11. Jump up^ Doherty. pg. 297
  12. Jump up^ Robert Horton Frankenstein, New York & Chichester: Wallflower Press & Columbia University Press, 2014, p.24
  13. Jump up^ Vieira. pg. 48
  14. Jump up^ Review by Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times
  15. Jump up^ “Frankenstein”. Film Daily. New York: Wid’s Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 10 December 6, 1931.
  16. Jump up^ Greason, Alfred Rushford (December 8, 1931). “Frankenstein”. Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. p. 14.
  17. Jump up^ Mosher, John (December 12, 1931). “The Current Cinema”. The New Yorker. New York: P-B Publishing Corporation. p. 81.
  18. Jump up^ “The Greatest Films of 1931”. AMC Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  19. Jump up^ “The Best Movies of 1931 by Rank”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  20. Jump up^ “The Best Films of 1931”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  21. Jump up^ “Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1931”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  22. ^ Jump up to:a b “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies” (PDF). Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  23. Jump up^ “5-Star Movies by Rank”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  24. Jump up^ Frankenstein Movie Reviews, Pictures”. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  25. Jump up^ “Films Selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress 1989 to 2009”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  26. Jump up^ Frankenstein: Award Wins and Nominations”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  27. Jump up^ “The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made”. The New York Times. April 29, 2003. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  28. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  29. Jump up^ “AFI’s 10 Top 10 Official Ballot” (PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  30. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Official Ballot” (PDF). Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  31. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains: The 400 Nominated Characters”(PDF). Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  32. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills” (PDF). Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  33. Jump up^ “Bravo’s The 100 Scariest Movie Moments”. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  34. Jump up^ “Chicago Critics’ Scariest Films”. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  35. Jump up^ Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 107
  36. Jump up^ Brendon Connelly (2009-06-11). “Guillermo Del Toro Confirms Hugo Weaving For The Hobbit… And Much More”. /Film. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  37. Jump up^ Mike Sampson (2007-10-26). “Guillermo talks!”. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
  38. Jump up^ Chris Hewitt (2008-02-08). “Guillermo Del Toro Talks The Hobbit”. Empire. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  39. Jump up^ Max Evry (2008-10-05). “Guillermo del Toro on The Hobbit and Frankenstein”. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  40. Jump up^ Josh Horowitz (2008-10-14). “Guillermo Del Toro Talks ‘Hobbit’ Casting, Creatures”. MTV. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  41. Jump up^ “Guillermo Del Toro Casts Doug Jones in Frankenstein. June 14, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
  42. Jump up^ Frappier, Rob (June 24, 2009). “Doug Jones Talks Frankenstein, The Hobbit, &Hellboy 3. Screen Rant. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
  43. Jump up^ “Hobbits, monsters and CSI vampires”. BBC News Online. 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
  44. Jump up^

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  • Doherty, Thomas Patrick. Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema 1930-1934. New York: Columbia University Press 1999. ISBN 0-231-11094-4
  • Vieira, Mark A., Sin in Soft Focus. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2003. ISBN 0-8109-8228-5

See also

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Film Collectors Corner

Watch Frankenstein Now – Amazon Instant Video

Blu Ray

Complete Legacy Collection


Double Bill – Frankenstein/The Bride Of Frankenstein


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Night World (1932)

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Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque

Night World (1932)

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Director: Hobart Henley

Cast: Lew Ayres, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, Dorothy Revier, Russell Hopton, Hedda Hopper, Clarence Ruse, Bert Roach, George Raft, Arleta Duncan, Jack La Rue

58 min 

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Night World is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film featuring Lew Ayres, Mae Clarke, and Boris Karloff.[1] The supporting cast includes George Raft and Hedda Hopper (before she became a noted gossip columnist).

The movie was directed by Hobart Henley and features an early Busby Berkeley music number, “Who’s Your Little Who-Zis”.[2] Although Karloff is a villain, he plays a charming man, quite unlike most of the parts he was allowed to play at the time.

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1 – Plot

2 – Cast

3 – See also

4 – References

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On a cold winter’s night outside Happy’s Nightclub, Irish-American police officer Ryan (Robert Emmett O’Connor) chats with African-American doorman Tim Washington (Clarence Muse), who is worried about his critically ill wife.

Inside, club owner Happy (Boris Karloff) is arguing with his shrewish but glamorous wife Jill (Dorothy Revier) and welcoming frequent customers Ed Powell (George Raft), a crooked gambler, and Michael Rand (Lew Ayres). Rand is a wealthy college boy who watched his mother kill his father after catching him with another woman, a case widely covered by the tabloids. Rand is now drinking heavily to deaden his pain.

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Backstage, gambler Powell asks chorus girl Ruth Taylor (Mae Clarke) for a date and, after losing an impromptu bet, she agrees to go out with him. After the floor show, all the chorus girls are asked to stay late by their cruel dance master, Klauss (Russell Hopton), who is secretly having an affair with Happy’s wife Jill.

Edith Blair (Dorothy Petersen) spots a drunken Michael sitting alone at a table. Edith was the ‘other woman’ in the murder of Michael’s father. She tell Michael that she and his father were only good friends, and that his father loved him deeply.

She also tells Michael that his killer mother never loved his father, and cursed him as he was dying. An upset Michael creates an outburst and overturns a table at the nightclub. He passes out after being punched, and is taken to the back room of the club where Ruth cares for him.

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Happy leaves to discuss bootleg liquor purchases with another gangster, Jim. (Huntley Gordon.) As he exits, doorman Tim asks if he can leave early to visit is ailing wife, but Happy refuses.

When Michael wakes up from his liquor-related nap, he and Ruth have a warm chat. Gambler Powell interrupts them and insists Ruth to come to his apartment immediately. Michael punches Powell and Tim takes the fallen gambler out to a taxi. Suddenly, Michael’s mother (Hedda Hopper) arrives at the nightclub. Michael confronts her about the way she treated his father.

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The late-night dance rehearsal continues, but Klauss calls a break so he can spend more time with Jill. Happy returns, and Tim asks again if he can go see his wife in the hospital. Happy refuses. Happy catches Jill and Klauss together, and Klauss leaves in disgrace. Happy tells Jill that he will not divorce her, but remain married to her and do his best to make her miserable.

Michael and Ruth sit down for a meal together. Michael asks Ruth if she would be interested in running away to Bali with him, as his wife, even though they have only known each other for a few hours.

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Their happy moment is interrupted by Tim, who has just learned that his wife is dead. As he leaves the club to finally go to her bedside, he is fatally shot by gangster Jim and a comrade, who have come for Happy. They shoot Happy and then his wife Jill. When they turn their guns towards Michael and Ruth, they are suddenly shot dead by the returning police officer Ryan. Michael and Ruth get into the police wagon together, and Ruth agrees to go Bali with Michael.

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  1. Jump up^ Night World,; accessed August 9, 2015.
  2. Jump up^ Everett Aaker, The Films of George Raft, McFarland & Company, 2013 p 26

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Not Available On Amazon or Other Major Retailers At Present

Parole Girl (1933)

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Parole Girl (1933)

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Director: Edward F Cline

Cast: Mae Clarke, Ralph Bellamy, Marie Prevost, Hale Hamilton, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Ernest Wood, Sam Godfrey, Lucille Browne, Frank Fanning, Raul Freeman

67 min

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Parole Girl is a 1933 American Pre-Code romantic drama film directed by Edward Cline. The film stars Mae Clarke and Ralph Bellamy.


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When Sylvia Day (Mae Clarke) is caught trying to pull a scam on the Taylor Department Store in New York City, she pleads with the store manager to let her go, but his boss, Joe Smith (Ralph Bellamy), insists on following store policy, and she is handed over to the police, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. Sylvia is consumed with the idea of getting revenge on Joe.

She becomes friends with chatty fellow inmate Jeanie Vance (Marie Prevost), who offers to team up with her (and commit more crimes) once they have served their time. When Sylvia learns that Jeanie has a surprising connection to Joe, she decides to get out early. She sets a fire, then passes out from the smoke while trying to put it out. For her “heroism”, she is granted parole.

Parole Girl 8

Tony Gratton (Hale Hamilton), her partner in the failed con, tries to talk her into marrying him and going to Chicago to continue their life of crime, but she is determined to avenge herself. Besides, she knows that Tony is already married.

Sylvia stalks Joe, learning all she can about him. Then, she pretends to be an old acquaintance at a nightclub where Joe is celebrating his promotion to general manager by getting drunk. The next morning, Joe discovers her in his apartment. She informs him that they have gotten married. Joe laughs, then tells her that he already has a wife. She tells him she knows (it is Jeanie), then reveals her motives. Tony shows up, masquerading as the person who married them; he gives Joe the marriage license the couple supposedly left behind. Threatened with a charge of bigamy, Joe reluctantly agrees to support Sylvia for a year, the length of her parole.

Parole Girl 7

Tony tries again to get Sylvia to be his partner in crime. When she refuses, he slips a counterfeit $20 bill in her purse. Sylvia goes on a shopping spree and pays for some of her purchases with the bill. It is traced back to her, but when a policeman shows up to take her back to jail, Joe pretends that she took the money out of his pants pocket. As a store manager, he deals with counterfeit money all the time. The ploy works, and Jeanie sends back her extravagant purchases.

Later, Joe calls her from the office and asks her for a favor. Mr. Taylor (Ferdinand Gottschalk), the store’s somewhat eccentric owner, has found out that Joe is married, so he is coming to dinner at their apartment. While Sylvia is cooking, Jeanie shows up. Her friend has been released early and intends to blackmail her husband (whom she married long ago while he was in college and then lost track of), once she can locate him, before heading to Florida with Sylvia. Sylvia gets her to leave before Joe and Mr. Taylor show up (early) by promising to give her a decision the next day. Taylor insists on doing the cooking; he is fed up with being waited on by servants. He becomes very fond of the couple and hints at a promotion to vice president if they were to have a baby.

Parole Girl 9

The next day, Sylvia persuades Jeanie that it is too dangerous to try blackmail in New York because of her record and agrees to go with her to Florida. Sylvia leaves a letter for Joe explaining everything, ending with the admission “I love you”. On the train, however, Jeanie reveals that she divorced Joe without his knowledge. Sylvia gets off and rushes back to the apartment; Joe has already read the letter and takes her in hi