Sass Mouth Dames Film Club: Series Two Pre-Codes

 

Join us for a film series from when Hollywood made films for women.

Hosted by Megan McGurk

We’re screening five Pre-Code woman’s pictures from 11 January-8 February

Get your tickets.

See you in the Denzille.

What Price Hollywood? (1932)

Screens 11 January

Constance Bennett plays a waitress in the Brown Derby who gets a renowned Hollywood director in her section and finagles a ticket to a big premiere and then a screen test. George Cukor’s picture gives women the playbook on how to become a star on the stairs. Considered the earliest version of A Star is Born dynamic about a woman whose career rises as a man’s falls, What Price Hollywood? examines the price of fame, while it also offers one of the best behind-the-scenes view of the motion picture industry.

Three on a Match (1932)

Screens 18 January

Director Mervyn LeRoy’s economy of storytelling leaves not a moment wasted. In 63 minutes, he traces the fortunes of three schoolgirls as they grow up. What happens to the bookish girl (Bette Davis) who went to business college? Or the bad girl (Joan Blondell) who skips class to smoke cigarettes with the boys? Or the rich girl in a boarding school (Ann Dvorak) who reads bodice rippers aloud after lights out? As adults, the trio struggle to make their own way. Ann Dvorak seems to have made an ideal match to a rich lawyer (Warren William) but everything leaves her cold. The picture also includes one of the frankest depictions of cocaine addiction in the Pre-Code era.

Bonus: Humphrey Bogart in an early role as a rough trade gangster.

Gold Diggers of 1933 

Screens 25 January

Another hit from Mervyn LeRoy and the best of the Busby Berkeley musicals, Gold Diggers combines glitz, glamour and a whole lot of wisecracks from sass mouth dames. Aline MacMahon, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers star in a Broadway show about the Depression. When the high-steppers are off-stage, they wage class war on a pair of rich men who declare them ‘cheap and vulgar’. If you ever wanted to learn how to get men to foot the bill for dinner or a new hat, Joan Blondell and Aline MacMahon have you covered. Don’t miss the spectacular musical numbers ‘Pettin’ in the Park’ and ‘Remember My Forgotten Man’.

Ann Vickers (1933)

Screens 1 February

Once upon a time, Hollywood could imagine a scenario with a woman who has an abortion and still goes on to have a happy and rewarding life. Irene Dunne plays a social worker who falls for a heel. Luckily, she has a dear friend who happens to run an abortion clinic in Cuba. Afterwards, she takes a job as warden in a woman’s prison. When Irene Dunne attempts to improve dire conditions, the men in charge frame her and threaten a scandal unless she leaves. She writes a bestselling expose about her time in prison. At a party a judge (Walter Huston) professes his admiration for her work. Unfortunately, he’s soon in the middle of his own scandal. Will Irene Dunne stand by her man?

Design for Living (1933)

Screens 8 February

Miriam Hopkins stars in Ernst Lubitsch’s masterpiece about a woman who picks up two men on a train, arranges a ‘no sex’ agreement, which she then abandons at the first opportunity. As an advertising executive, more successful than the two starving artists, Miriam mentors the painter (Gary Cooper) and the playwright (Fredric March). When things become complicated, she takes the easy way out in a marriage to straight-laced Edward Everett Horton. Will Miriam settle for monogamy or will the three-way romance win out?

 

Tyrone Power’s Reversal of Fortune in Nightmare Alley (1947)

By: Megan McGurk

Tyrone Power’s beauty invites discussion. Unlike other uncommonly handsome men in Hollywood who seemed uneasy with nature’s gift, Power wore his good looks with the elegance of a bespoke suit. He always had a relaxed fit with women onscreen. Robert Taylor, on the other hand, was profligate with his handsome face, which he treated like a burden he couldn’t wait to outgrow (and he did—just look at him in the late 1950s where he looks like a dissolute husk of his glory days). Somehow it de-sexed Taylor, left him unmoored, made him feel effeminate and open to questions about his masculinity. Taylor had to butch it up at every turn in manly outdoor pursuit. He hid behind his looks in a smirking remove from leading ladies, and rarely sent up his screen image or displayed any degree of humour about his screen idol status, unless you count the brief scene in Her Cardboard Lover (1942), when he slips into Norma Shearer’s silk pyjamas, something he probably only did because Cary Grant had pulled it off in Bringing Up Baby (1938), without accusations of weakened manhood.

For actors such as Taylor, or Errol Flynn, a louche charmer in the 1930s, yet whom Olivia de Havilland failed to recognise two decades later for a dead-eyed vampire he had become, beauty was the province of muliebrity, not a trait for red-blooded he-men. Their beauty caused concern, it jarred the macho template Hollywood stamped on celluloid with stars like brawny Clark Gable or rangy Gary Cooper. Only perhaps Douglas Fairbanks, Jr compares as another male screen idol from the 1930s who wore beauty like an accessory rather than reluctant iron shackles worn to meet their doom. (I’m not including Archie Leach here because he grew more handsome with age. In the 1930s, he was good looking but not on par with Power, Taylor, Fairbanks or Flynn. And Charles Boyer stands in a class by himself).

Continue reading “Tyrone Power’s Reversal of Fortune in Nightmare Alley (1947)”

Why We Need Sass Mouth Dames, Woman’s Pictures 1929-1959

 

Our current cinema stinks.

Instead of settling for crappy re-boots or second string roles, we should embrace the time when Hollywood believed that a film could only profit if it appealed to women.

Join the new Sass Mouth Dames Film Club: Series One, Pre-Codes. Dublin 12 Oct-9 Nov.

Get your tickets.

Here’s the Foreword from my book on woman’s pictures:

Sass Mouth Dames: 30 Essential Woman’s Pictures 1929-1939

By Megan McGurk

A punchline from Howard Hawk’s Monkey Business (1952) echoes into Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), the last film directed by Mike Nichols. In the original screwball classic, Cary Grant appears puzzled by Marilyn Monroe as a secretary who pleads with her boss for another chance at typing. Charles Coburn, as the boss, tells her no, that it’s very important, and to get someone else to do it. Crestfallen, Monroe accepts the sheet of paper and leaves to find a typist. The men watch Monroe wiggle out of the room. Coburn deadpans an explanation: ‘Anybody can type’.

Wynn Everett, listed in the credits as receptionist ‘Charlie’s Angel #1’, delivers the revised line in Charlie Wilson’s War.  She responds to a similar query from a visitor about the bevvy of centrefold-grade office staff employed by the Texas Congressman (played by Tom Hanks) in her boss’s knuckle-dragger wisdom: ‘You can teach ‘em to type, but you can’t teach ‘em to grow tits.’ Perhaps they felt the line wouldn’t seem as terribly sexist if it came from a woman. The original was funny because it need not state the obvious, while the updated version feels ugly and crass. ‘Grow tits’ has an odious ring to it, particularly when women are named in the cast after the man they happen work for, which recalls the grim totalitarianism of Ofglen and Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale. Who needs a name when you have great breasts, I suppose the logic follows.

Continue reading “Why We Need Sass Mouth Dames, Woman’s Pictures 1929-1959”

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club: Series One Pre-Codes, Dublin, 12 Oct-9 Nov

Sass Mouth Dames Film Club: Series One Pre-Codes

Your hosts: Megan McGurk & Danielle Smith

Thursdays, 12 Oct-9 Nov, 19.00-21.00

Denzille cinema

13 Denzille Lane

Merrion Square North

Dublin 2

Tickets: €10.50

Soft drinks, tea & coffee, snacks included

 

SADIE MCKEE (1934)

12 October, 19.00-21.00

Joan Crawford stars in the title role as a cook’s daughter serving rich folk their dinner. Over the first course, their son Michael (Franchot Tone) condemns Sadie’s boyfriend Tommy (Gene Raymond) as a thief. Sadie threatens to throw the soup in his face, quits, then runs off to New York with Tommy. They meet Opal (Jean Dixon) in a greasy spoon, who gets them a room in her boarding house. The next day, left alone for five minutes, Tommy takes off with mantrap vaudevillian Dolly Merrick (Esther Ralston). Jilted and penniless, Sadie takes a job dancing in the nightclub where Opal works as a hostess. Millionaire dipsomaniac Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold) soon proposes. Can money buy Sadie’s happiness?

Based on a story by bestselling author Viña Delmar, directed by Clarence Brown, with gowns by ADRIAN.

 

BLONDIE JOHNSON (1933)

19 October, 19.00-21.00

In laddered hosiery and shabby clothes, Joan Blondell’s Blondie Johnson petitions for help in the relief office, a desperate plea for mercy on behalf of her sick mother. The clerk rules against Blondie, and as a result, her mother dies. Rather than sink into the gutter, Blondie devises a plan that involves taxi driver Red (Sterling Holloway) to fleece men with a sob story about a need for crosstown fare. Blondie splits the money with Red. After a big celebratory meal, one of the marks—Chester Morris, as Danny—calls her out on the scam. She compensates by helping him move up the ranks of a crime syndicate. Blondie proves a dab hand at gangster politics and before long, she runs the rackets. Backed by Mae (Mae Busch) and Lulu (Toshia Mori) and a phalanx of men, how long will Blondie occupy the corner office?

Directed by Ray Enright, with wardrobe by Orry-Kelly.

With bonus short: BABES IN THE GOODS (1934) Starring Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly.

 

 

VIRTUE (1932)

26 October, 19.00-21.00

Carole Lombard plays Mae, a sex worker ordered by the court to board a train out of New York. She sneaks off the train and seeks refuge with her friend Lil (Mayo Methot). On the way to see Lil, Mae had stiffed cab driver Jimmy (Pat O’Brien), but she later tracks him down to settle the debt. Mae and Jimmy bicker on the street, sparks flying. While she dates Jimmy, she works behind a lunch counter and allows him to believe that she was previously a secretary. After they marry, a detective from the vice squad tracks her down and mistakes Jimmy for a customer. Their marriage licence satisfies the cop that she has gone straight, but will Jimmy accept the truth about Mae’s past?

Directed by Edward Buzzell.

With bonus short: BEAUTY AND THE BUS (1933) Starring Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly.

HOLD YOUR MAN (1933)

2 November, 19.00-21.00

Jean Harlow’s Ruby relies on patronage from men and sales from bathtub gin to pay bills. Eddie (Clark Gable), a con man pursued by police, bursts into her flat to hide. Ruby assists, passing him off as her husband. Ruby and Eddie begin a romance which goes over like a lead balloon with his former lover, Gypsy (Dorothy Burgess). Eddie receives a custodial sentence and later so does Ruby, thanks to her dim but handsome partner in crime. In the reformatory, she finds Gypsy among her new roommates. How will Ruby survive in prison? Will Eddie remain true?

Story by bestselling author Anita Loos, directed by Sam Wood, and gowns by ADRIAN.

 

 

BABY FACE (1933)

9 November, 19.00-21.00

Barbara Stanwyck, as Lily Powers, was put to work in the sex trade at age 14, servicing men in her father’s speakeasy. Lily prevents lowlife Mr Powers from sacking her best friend, Chico (Theresa Harris). When she’s not pouring hot coffee on the johns, or breaking bottles over their heads, Lily learns about Nietzsche’s will to power from a kindly old cobbler who offers her advice to use men to get the things she wants. Lily and Chico ride the rails to New York, where Lily takes a job in a bank and uses sex to ascend the financial ladder. Men lose the run of themselves over Baby Face, who meanwhile fills a treasure chest she trusts only to Chico. Bank president Trenholm (George Brent) attempts to manage the scandal that results from Lily’s conquests. Lily’s life has been bitter and hard. Will she ever find happiness?

Directed by Alfred E. Green, with wardrobe by Orry-Kelly.

With bonus short: TOP FLAT (1935) Starring Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly