Walter Huston plays auto magnate Sam Dodsworth, who sells his business and sails for an adventure in Europe with his wife Fran, played by Ruth Chatterton. After twenty years together, their daughter married, will they be lovers or drift apart? Fran only wants to live it up while she’s still young enough to enjoy it, but Sam takes more interest in soul-searching than cocktail parties and dancing. Mary Astor, playing an American living abroad, points Sam in the right direction to find his true north.
Easy Living (1937)
Screens 10 November at 7.00.
At this time of year, it’s tempting to wonder if a new coat might change your life. In this sublime screwball farce, based on a story by Vera Caspary, adapted in a screenplay by Preston Sturges, and directed by Mitchell Leisen, a luxurious sable coat drops on Jean Arthur’s head and occasions seismic change. Formerly, Jean lacked the price of a good dinner, then suddenly, with help from a plush fur, she’s ensconced in fancy digs and handed all sorts of finery. Swoon merchant Ray Milland declares himself with a beef pie and a riot in the Automat.
Screens 17 November at 7.00.
Marlene Dietrich stars in a three-cornered romance with Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas. Does she stick with the neglectful workaholic husband? Or does she run off with the dashing stranger who says all the right things and never takes his eyes off her? Thanks to the sophisticated ‘Lubitsch touch,’ the audience learns more about their love triangle from food not eaten and a bed not slept in than other pictures would tell us with twenty pages of dialogue.
Bachelor Mother (1939)
Screens 24 November at 7.00.
According to the logic of screenwriter Norman Krasna and director Garson Kanin in this screwball gem, a woman in possession of a baby must be the mother. Ginger Rogers finds her life turned upside down once she’s pressed into caring for a foundling orphan. Does she keep the baby? And what about the department store heir played by David Niven?
Refunds are available up until noon on the day of the screening.
In 1931, Warner Bros. star Cleo Longe tops the box office in pictures where she gets away with it: no strings sex or sending men to the morgue. One night at a party, she meets Richard Tulliver, a new contract player who is cast as the juvenile in her next production. Cleo coaches him through the part and suggests a new name for his screen billing.
Cleo finds a story for her next picture from an unlikely source. From the ground up, she builds the plot, takes a chance on a new screenwriter, casts the picture, and presents creative opportunities for her crew. Meanwhile, Cleo’s romance with Tully takes a serious turn.
Despite her success, Cleo discovers that having script approval in her contract is meaningless once the Production Code is enforced. Under the new rules, Cleo must argue over every page and justify her artistic choices to men who don’t care about the integrity of woman’s pictures. At the same time, Tully’s star rises.
A Star Was Born is a Sass Mouth Dames production written and directed by Megan McGurk.
Art design by Mot Collins.
Sound editing and special effects by Thomas O’Mahony
Meet the cast:
Clara Higgins plays box office star Cleo Longe. Clara is an Irish artist and writer perhaps better known as her pseudonym Mot Collins. Under this moniker, she creates illustrations, zines, and tattoos. Mot is interested in subversive expressions of femininity, sexuality, occultism, and comedy. She is highly influenced by pulp and punk culture. She can be found on Twitter as @heavydutywoman and @motcollinsart on Instagram.
Danny Reid plays actor Rick Tully. Danny is a librarian who lives in Western Germany with his yappy dog, adorable children, and perfectly splendid wife. He spent most of his adult life working in videostores and movie theaters, watching any movie he could get his hands on, eventually writing about old Hollywood at pre-code.com. He is also fond of potatoes. Danny is @PreCodeDotCom on Twitter and Instagram
Jeanne Sutton plays hair and makeup artist Babe Dempsey. Jeanne is a former journalist and occasional writer who has been published in Banshee, IMAGE, STELLAR and The Gloss. Her favourite movie scene is Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea sitting on that stoop in The More the Merrier. She publishes a newsletter and is @jeannedesutun on Instagram.
Olympia Kiriakou plays press agent Phyllis Blake.
Dr. Olympia Kiriakou is a film historian based in south Florida. Her research focuses on stardom, gender, and genre in classical Hollywood cinema, as well as contemporary fan cultures. She is the author of Becoming Carole Lombard: Stardom, Comedy, and Legacy, an exploration of the star persona and career of the late star. Her work has also been published in Transformative Works and Cultures, Journal of Fandom Studies, In Media Res, and Film Matters. She has a website and is @thescrewballgrl on Twitter.
M. Shawn plays starlet Maxine Raymond. M. is a former television news producer, a writer, a researcher, an accidental homemaker, and a full-time Jean Harlow fan. After a year in quarantine, her blood type is banana bread, and if people were allowed to be fictional characters in a past life, she’d be Blondie Johnson.
Peter Bryant plays agent/manager Hank Webber. Peter’s interest in classic Hollywood started—later in life than he would have liked—with the discovery of Preston Sturges comedies. This soon led to the Astaire-Rogers and Busby Berkeley musicals and much more. His latest avocation is writing about the career of Ida Lupino at his blog Let Yourself Go … To Old Hollywood and is @pmbryant on Twitter and @pmbryant_oldhollywood on Instagram
Matt Harris plays film director Carter Hilary. Matt is a Joan Crawford superfan and talented TV news archivist who lives in London. You can find Matt on Twitter (@Glamorous_Matt)
Megan McGurk plays wardrobe woman Edel Geary. Megan carries a torch for studio era woman’s pictures. She is the host of Sass Mouth Dames podcast and film club. In the past year, she has written and directed four original radio plays set in the 1930s (Salon Devine, Mannequins, Stenographers, and A Star Was Born). Megan is on Twitter @MeganMcGurk and @SassMouthDames and sometimes remembers to use Instagram @sassmouthdames
Thomas O’Mahony is a London based Irish Podcast Producer who specialises in storytelling and audio design. He hosts a tattoo history show called Beneath the Skin, and is passionate about how we can use audio to tell new and innovative stories. You can find Thomas on all social media @gotitatguineys or contact him for business related inquiries at thomasomahony.media
Burlesque star Kitty Darling, played by renowned torch singer Helen Morgan, tried to shelter her daughter April (Joan Peers) from backstage coarsening by sending her to a convent school. Once April has finished her education, Kitty plans a respectable career, but her manager and main squeeze Hitch Nelson (Fuller Mellish Jr) has other plans. Shot on location in New York, Rouben Mamoulian crafts a dazzling love letter to the city in his directorial debut.
The Divorcee (1930)
Screens: Thursday 8 September, 5.00
What do you do if your husband is unfaithful? In pre-Code pictures, a heroine like Norma Shearer doesn’t take it on the chin. She tells her husband (Chester Morris) ‘I’ve balanced our accounts’ after having a fling with Robert Montgomery. Shearer won the Academy Award for Best Actress for playing a wife who insists upon a single standard in marriage. Gowned by MGM’s Adrian, Shearer showed women in the audience how to cope with men in style.
Call Her Savage (1932)
Screens: Thursday 15 September, 8.30
After more than a year’s absence from the screen, Clara Bow makes up for lost time, firing on all cylinders. In the opening scene, Gilbert Roland suffers at the end of her whip. Bow’s just getting started. She collects big plotlines from the woman’s picture canon and wrings them dry: Her character is expelled from school, creates a society scandal, has broken love affairs, a syphilitic husband, and a sick baby, while living in a cold water walk-up. Clara Bow is not to be missed.
Beauty for Sale (1933)
Screens: Thursday 22 September, 7.00
Metro’s adaptation of Faith Baldwin’s bestseller presents a cautionary tale about three gals who seek their fortunes in a beauty salon. Una Merkel plays a hardboiled wiseacre who knows the shortest route to a man’s wallet. Florine McKinney is the innocent one who believes the rough lies men tell to get what they want. Madge Evans plays the pragmatic dame forced into work by the Depression. Hedda Hopper joins the cast as Madame Sonia, the salon owner, who rules over society clients and the beauty operators with ice-water in her veins.
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
Screens: Thursday 29 September, 7.00
Although Glenda Farrell takes fourth billing, she owns this rare wonder in two-strip Technicolor from Warner Bros. Farrell plays an ace reporter who breaks a story about an actress’s suicide. Later, she happens upon a strange racket in the new wax museum in town and investigates. Fay Wray plays the roommate who has the misfortune to resemble Marie Antoinette. The special effects haven’t lost their wow factor over the years.
Refunds are available up to noon on the day of the screening.
Stenographers is an original podcast drama series set in Hollywood during December 1934.
A stenographer disappears after taking a fancy locket from a man she hardly knows. Co-workers in the steno pool try to find her and uncover a network of dangerous men.
Will they find her in time?
Meet the characters:
Terry Nolan (played by Clara Higgins) had planned on teaching literature, but soon learned that colleges weren’t interested in putting women at the front of a lecture hall. She fell back on her secretarial skills and opened the Nolan Executive Stenographers office.
Fiona Clarke (played by Jennifer O’Meara) comes from a family that raised horses. She worked as a stuntwoman in Hollywood, without receiving a contract or compensation when she broke her leg during production. Secretarial work pays the bills.
Margaret O’Donnell (played by Jeanne Sutton) gave up a job teaching at Katharine Gibbs, a prestigious secretarial school, to work for Hunt Stromberg in MGM. The studio grind took its toll, as did the lack of promotion.
Ivy Miller (played by Olympia Kiriakou) joined the U.S. Treasury department because they recruited women as ideal candidates for clerical positions, yet quickly discovered women could not advance beyond the steno pool.
Dolly DePeyster (played by M. Shawn) is a reporter with the L.A. Times. She rents desk space from Terry to get away from the lads in the bullpen, but also because she can’t type and relies on stenographers for meeting column deadlines.
Kay Carroll (played by Megan McGurk) believes every word she reads in fan magazines and romance stories. She wants nice clothes and a home to hang her apron.
Benjamin Franklin kept a checklist of 13 virtues that he monitored each day to reflect on his growth as an upstanding citizen. By contrast, Stanley Timberlake, played by Bette Davis, keeps a scorecard of vice. She runs off with her sister’s fiancé then drives him to commit suicide. She’s manipulative, greedy, reckless. For the coup de grâce, she pins a homicide on an innocent Black man. Olivia de Havilland, as Stanley’s unfortunate sister Roy, holds her own with a steady underplay. In one scene, Olivia takes her time putting on a hat, which is enough to tell the audience she’s no doormat. John Huston’s Southern Gothic melodrama reaches a steady boil.
MY REPUTATION (1946)
Before Douglas Sirk exposed narrow-minded views about widowhood in vivid Technicolor with All That Heaven Allows, Curtis Bernhardt painted a stark monochrome portrait of a community who expects a woman to put herself in mothballs once she loses her husband. Barbara Stanwyck’s character shares the same fate as many other women after the war. Should Jessica wear black, stay single, and avoid gossip? Or should she follow the advice of wing woman Eve Arden and see what happens with George Brent?
THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947)
Gene Tierney takes her adorable daughter (Natalie Wood) and trusty housekeeper (Edna Best) to live in a cottage by the sea. Unlike past occupants, she refuses to leave when she learns it has a resident ghost, a former ship’s captain played by Rex Harrison. Instead of rattling chains or disturbing her sleep with a repertoire of sea shanties, the mariner allows the women to stay and even strikes a bargain: Gene can write his salty memoirs and make herself financially independent.
DAISY KENYON (1947)
Joan Crawford stars in a three-cornered romance, caught between a cynical married man (Dana Andrews), who has strung her along for years and a battle-scarred veteran (Henry Fonda), who rushes to commitment one minute and disappears the next. Otto Preminger fashions a postwar melodrama about hot-and-bothered men who upset the placid life of a successful career gal.