The Precode ’34’: AFS Favorites from Uncensored Hollywood

Back in 1934, when Hollywood’s self-censoring Production Code began to be enforced zealously, no one would have dreamed that nearly a century later the phrase “pre-code” would be a rallying cry that would drive audiences to repertory theaters en masse, or occasion reveries of nostalgia about hard drinking and adultery among otherwise mild mannered TCM aficionados. But here we are. The raunchiest pre-code movies are more well loved today than any number of formerly esteemed ‘prestige pictures’ with starchier collars.

It’s not hard to see why. The more daring pre-code film scenarios were more apt to depict class mobility and less restrictive gender roles. Mae West could really let loose with her own dialogue. Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell could embody a brassier brand of woman. Allusions to drug use, sexual freedom and other taboo subjects were not only allowed but – presumably – encouraged by producers of more urban fare.

At AFS we have shown our share of Pre-Code films. Here, drawn from the last few years of AFS programming, and with a few other titles added in, is what we are calling the “Precode ’34’ in memory of that dark year when the curtains were drawn closed on these wondrous years.

If you click on the “Read notes” button you can see what series these screened in, and, if they happen to be streaming on an online service, where. We hope you enjoy the films.

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