1932 films pushed limits before start of Production Code
This week, we begin with some shocking behavior. Shocking.
Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 4
Jewel Robbery (***),
Lawyer Man (***),
Man Wanted (***1/2) and They Call It Sin (***)
Available this week on DVD.
The manufactured-on-demand Warner Archive Collection returns with a package of four deliciously entertaining films from 1932, when the notorious on-screen restrictions of the Production Code had been established but had yet to be fully enforced. These entries show how movie studios pushed limits with various activities that would soon be forbidden.
In Jewel Robbery (68 minutes), a pre-Thin Man William Powell stars as a jewel thief in Vienna (looking a lot like a back-lot set at Warner). On a robbery, he encounters the bored wife (Kay Francis) of an aristocrat. He takes her jewels but then proceeds to profess love to her, even venturing into her bedroom that night.
The film held such shibboleths as adultery (a popular theme in this quartet of films), scant clothing and a frolicsome attitude towards marijuana.
Powell returns as the title character in Lawyer Man (68 minutes), a Manhattan attorney who goes from handling low-rent cases to the big time, only to be knocked down by a political scandal, which leads inevitably to his redemption. Warner staple Joan Blondell plays the often-overlooked loyal secretary.
An even saucier Kay Francis returns in Man Wanted (62 minutes), a morality tale about a professional woman (Francis) who neglects her husband for her work. While he finds female solace elsewhere, she hires a new male secretary (David Manners) who eventually advances in the business and with her.
A young Loretta Young stars in They Call It Sin (69 minutes) as a small-town girl who follows a traveling salesman (David Manners) to New York. Once there, she finds he is engaged. Alone and nearly desperate, she survives the best she can, eventually finding refuge with his best friend (George Brent). The film’s broad hints at premarital sex would soon be prohibited.
Surviving High School: Odd Girl Out (**1/2), Augusta, Gone (**H1/2), The Perfect Teacher (***), For One Night (**1/2) In a timely arrival for the start of school, the Lifetime Channel has packaged four films, on two discs, sharing the common theme of teen angst. None are rated, and all run around 88 minutes.
Odd Girl Out is based on Rachel Simmons’ novel focusing on teen bullying. A bright student, Vanessa (Alexa Vega), accidentally commits a minor but unpardonable sin that sets the school’s mean girls against her without telling her why. Rumors and Internet harassment steer Vanessa toward attempting suicide.
Mika Boorem plays the title character in Augusta, Gone, a resonant, fact-based story about a 14-year-old girl who becomes so rebellious her single mother cannot handle her. After growing up well adjusted, Augusta falls under bad influences and starts drinking, taking drugs and beginning to experiment with sex.
Her mother, Martha (Sharon Lawrence), and Martha’s ex-husband (Tim Matheson, who also directed) ship Augusta off to a boot camp of sorts in a desperate effort to save her. From there, Augusta’s ride still hits several bumps.
David Charvet is The Perfect Teacher in this nightmarish account of a student, Devon (Megan Park), developing an obsession with her teacher.
When the new math teacher, Jim Wilkes (Charvet), arrives, Devon immediately falls for him, claiming that she will do anything to entice him — which she does in the forms of lying, scheming and eventually kidnapping and murder. The chilling account slowly builds toward its imminent disaster.
In For One Night, a formulaic rendering of a now familiar topic, high school senior Brianna (Raven-Symone) begins a drive in Mercier, La., to have one prom for both the black and the white students, something never done before in the town. A local reporter (Aisha Tyler) covers the town’s growing rift, bringing in national attention to go along with the already prevalent racism.
Let It Shine: Extended Edition This original movie from the Disney Channel updates the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac and sets it in Atlanta.
Cyrus (Tyler James Williams) helps his friend Kris (Trevor Jackson) by artfully declaring his love, as Kris, for their childhood friend, the now famous entertainer Roxxie (Coco Jones). Through a mix-up, the words in Cyrus’ songs pave the way for Kris, even though Cyrus also loves her.
Courtney B. Vance plays Roxxie’s preacher father. The soundtrack holds 12 new songs by various artists.
Rated TV-G, 104 minutes. This new extended version includes an extended musical scene and is available in all formats and in various combo packs.
The Cat in the Hat: Dr. Seuss’s Deluxe Edition The animated TV version of the Dr. Seuss classic returns on Blu-ray along with two bonus Seuss favorites. 1950s cultural icon Allan Sherman voiced the cat, a 6-foot-tall, hat-wearing feline who turns up in the home of Dick and Sally looking for his “moss-covered, three-handled family gredunza.” He enlists Dick and Sally to help him and, before long, the family goldfish, Mr. Krinkelbein (Daws Butler), protests about all the commotion.
Rated TV-G, 30 minutes. The disc also includes the additional Seuss classics Daisy-Head Mayzie and Hoober-Bloob Highway.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: The Boogens, Killing Bono, Marley.