All posts tagged: pre-code era

Queer Christina: The Representation of LGBT Characters in Pre-Code Era Films

Historically, the representation of queer characters in film and onscreen is very poor. They are often one-dimensional stereotypes portrayed through gender inversions — the gay “pansy” or the “butch” lesbian. Despite the presence of LGBT persons in front of and behind the camera, showing homosexual characters in the early years of Hollywood “in anything but a degrading comic light” was “extremely rare.”[1] Queer characteristics were also often applied to the villains or monsters of early and classical Hollywood cinema to represent evil.[2] These demeaning representations lessened as Hollywood entered the pre-Code era. Homosexual and queer filmmakers and stars, such as Marlene Dietrich and arguably Greta Garbo, rose to fame, and studios grew more daring in the face of censorship, testing how far they could push the Production Code Administration and Studio Relations Committee in regards to the screen-time of banned topics. Although the Code prohibited “sex perversion,” which mainly concerned homosexuality, queer characters still appeared in pre-Code era films with alarming explicitness, growing less one-dimensional and more prominent, as particularly demonstrated in Morocco (1930), Queen …

Bushra Varachia is a Cinema Studies filmmaking major with a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she hopes to edit videos to help her pay her way through Europe. If she's not at Kresge Library, you can probably find her in her car, driving 2,000 miles to walk around some rocks and sleep on some dirt.

The “Utterly Impossible” Story of ‘Blonde Venus’

“As soon as you stopped singing and started luring men into the bedroom, that’s when the moral outrage would kick in.”[1] This quote sums it up best when referring to the 1932 pre-Code film, Blonde Venus[2]. Starring Marlene Dietrich, and directed by one of Dietrich’s biggest collaborators, Josef von Sternberg[3], Blonde Venus was set to be another hit. While production was scheduled to start on April 4, 1932, Paramount Pictures and the censors had many difficulties coming to agreements on the film, so production was pushed way back, with the film not being released until September 16, 1932. Being the pre-Code era, censors were not enforcing their rules quite as strictly as they did after 1934, but that did not stop them from trying hard to change this film, or not have it made at all. Looking into the Production Code Administration files[4] for Blonde Venus, there was much back and forth between Paramount Pictures, the censors, etc. In a letter addressed to Mr. Will H. Hays, the head of the Code, Jason S. Joy, …

Rachel Sarasin is currently a Cinema Studies student at Oakland University. Rachel hopes to pursue a career in production management in the film industry. Her friends love to take advantage of her passion for planning and organizing, but she doesn’t mind. If you’re one of the lucky people that receives the OUTV channel, you may spot her as the host of “OUt and AbOUt,” a monthly series documenting events happening around Oakland University. She’s also a Yooper, so if you see her around, feel free to ask her about the many mysteries and histories of the Upper Peninsula.

Pre-Code and “Scarface”‘s Impact

In July of 1934, the Production Code Administration of Hollywood, or commonly recognized as the Hays Office, began to regulate Hollywood made films. But before this occurred, there was a brief four-year period from 1930 to 1934 where films had more ability to venture out and have free creative expression. Those four years, before filmmakers agreed to adhere to strict regulations of what they can and cannot show on screen, are now known as the pre-code Hollywood years. During these pre-code years, many films pushed censorship rules, as they were not heavily enforced, films such as Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson’s 1932 Scarface. The Hays Office was concerned films were doing a disservice to the public by allowing sex and violence on screens. Scarface is a gangster film that not only included many violent scenes and gun use, but is also based on the real-life events of gangster, Al Capone. The Production Code Administration was concerned that making this into a film would glamorize the gangster lifestyle. Taking nearly a year to be released due …