Home Hollywood The Most Important Pre-Code Hollywood Movies, Ranked

The Most Important Pre-Code Hollywood Movies, Ranked

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If you’ve never been to film school or aren’t a film history buff, you probably don’t know much about the difference between pre-coding Hollywood and post-coding Hollywood. Let’s start with the “code” itself: what is a Hayes code? The Filmmaking Code (named after William Hayes, president of American film producers and distributors), was established in 1930 to regulate what could be displayed on the screen, although it was not enforced until several years later.



Precoded movies, especially those with sound, are more modern and open than one might expect from earlier films. Precoded movies are honest about taboo issues, and more liberal in terms of language and even nudity. Hayes Code tries to break that and focus on good Christian values ​​in the film. While the document itself does not disclose religious affiliation, the language of the code contains deeply Christian overtones (originally brought to the studio by a Catholic layman and Jesuit priest). While studios adhered to the Hays code, it was not enforced until 1934; the Great Depression affected films in a number of ways, in part by inspiring darker themes, and by forcing studios to release more racial and cheesy films, To get people to pay for movies when the economy collapses.

This guideline was eventually removed from the filmmaking standards in 1968, replaced by the movie ratings we see today (PG, R, etc.). This enables filmmakers to make what they want and allows viewers to choose what to watch based on ratings. However, the Pre-code era has produced a plethora of great classic movies that can be surprisingly modern and obscene, so let’s take a look at the best of the best.

5 divorcee

A film about divorce and a woman’s revenge is shameful in a time when divorce is taboo (and can expel a person from the Catholic Church).favorite movie divorcee In this way the pre-code era is represented. In 1930, a film in which a woman avenged her husband’s infidelity, a film that could think and feel sorry for her husband’s betrayal, was controversial, but still very successful and loved by audiences.

The film helped usher in a new era of women’s rights (considering that women were given the right to vote just 10 years before the film was released) and showed in a whole new light how wives can be playboys and do anything Something else their husbands can do.On the level of equality and freedom between men and women divorcee, It’s almost hard to believe it was made nearly 100 years ago and not just 15.

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4 jazz singer

jazz singera film about a Jew who wants to be a jazz singer against the will of his family, is probably the most famous film of the pre-code era, essentially Changed the trajectory of filmmaking for the rest of history. Not only is the music in the movie in sync (since it’s a musical), but all the dialogue is in sync with the actors themselves. jazz singer The era of “talking movies” was created, leaving most of the content of the silent movie era and influencing the way movies are made. The film’s focus on poverty and the real-life conditions of Jewish and black communities also demonstrates the harsh realities that pre-code films can show.

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However, jazz singer Not a perfect walkie-talkie by any means; the movie itself contains only about two minutes of synchronized dialogue. It’s also extremely offensive to some because it features Al Jolson (a white Lithuanian-American) wearing blackface, which certainly fails the test of contemporary socio-political correctness.However, there is critical analysis and some fascinating film theory that highlights the role of blackface in jazz singer; as Colin Willis wrote in “Meaning and Value” jazz singer

Contrary to the racial jokes and innuendo that subsequently persisted in early sound films, blackface imagery jazz singer At the heart of the film’s central theme is an expressive and artistic exploration of concepts of duality and racial mixing in American identity. Of the more than 70 examples of blackface from the early sound film 1927-53 that I’ve seen (including the nine blackfaces that Jorson made later), jazz singer It is unique in that it is the only film where blackface is central to the development of the narrative and the expression of the theme.

while watching jazz singer On the surface, one can certainly see a lot of benefit from its impact on the industry and its bold decision to focus on the suffering of Jewish and Black communities.

3 public enemy

You know that gangster movie you watched and loved last weekend?it exists only because public enemy Made in the Pre-code era. public enemy The gangster genre we know today was created for the only reason it existed before the Hays Code. The code does not fully promote films that romanticize crime, such as gangster films. However, as fans of the genre know, gangster movies are about the inner workings of criminal minds and the politics of crime. Gangster movies made during the execution of the Hayes Code didn’t have the same impact as the pre-Code era, and arguably didn’t until the Scorsese and Coppola movies of the ’70s.Hence, the much-loved gangster type, made up of public enemy, Almost all lost together because of the code.


2 woman with red hair

As mentioned earlier, the pre-code era was more open to taboo topics, especially around sex and nudity. woman with red hair is a prime example of the use of overt sex in older movies, when many people believed that movies were a very conservative and humble industry. woman with red hair It’s about a woman using her sexuality to get what she wants from the men in her life. She was able to use her femininity to achieve her life goals, which in 1932 felt very taboo.

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It’s a microcosm of the pre-code era, where the plots and themes of the films seem out of place for the era in which they were made. Except they weren’t out of place (and the 20s and 30s were hardly so naive); that was the movie of its time, before Hayes Code saw the need to spoil it for audiences and filmmakers alike.


1 Frankenstein

Frankenstein One of the most iconic and beloved films of the pre-code era.If you haven’t read the original Frankenstein, it’s a must-see and a great example of the pre-film code era.Modern horror fans often don’t find old horrors very scary or funny due to ever-changing technology, but the original Frankenstein A masterpiece in itself. The film contains lines that were later deleted in the post-crypto era because they alluded to atheist thinking (including Dr. Frankenstein’s supposedly blasphemous dialogue screaming, “Now I know what it’s like to be a god!” ) and thus objectionable to Christian audiences. Frankenstein Being Monsters and Movies is the pinnacle of the history of cinema and the pre-code era that was crucial to the history of cinema.



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