Pre-Code Horror Censorship

I joined the Turner Classic Movies Facebook group which I thoroughly enjoy. Talking about our favorite films, creepiest, classic vs. neoclassical films and which should be shown on TCM.

In our conversation on creepy movies,  “The Black Cat”, Universal 1934, was mentioned and the fact that this member didn’t realize pre-code films had this type of content; mummified women’s bodies in the basement, the proposed torture of skinning Boris Karloff alive, etc. If you haven’t seen it, put it at the top of your must-see list.

In the comments, I suggested in addition to “The Black Cat” to also check out “Mad Love”, Universal, 1935. It stars Peter Lorre and is a total freak fest. Another must-see flick. It stars Peter Lorre as the mad Dr. Gogol who’s obsessed with the wife ( Frances Drake) of a renown pianist whose hands he’s transplanted after a train wreck. Gogol has a definite fetish side and will do anything to have Miss Frances Drake.

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“Mad Love” – Peter Lorre  (Dr. Gogol)

I love Pre-Code films because they had so much leeway in terms of subject matter, even wardrobe. I always recommend adding Pre-Code to your film history education. By definition Pre-Code films:

Refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, popularly known as the “Hays Code”, in mid-1934.

In 1922, after some risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, the studios enlisted Presbyterian elder William H. “Will” Hays, a figure of “unblemished rectitude”, to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image. Hays, later nicknamed the motion picture “Czar”, was paid the then-lavish sum of $100,000 a year (equivalent to more than $1.4 million in 2015 dollars). (Wikipedia)

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William “Will” Hays

As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included depictions of sexual innuendo, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality.

Unlike silent-era sex and crime pictures, silent horror movies, despite being produced in the hundreds, were never a major concern for censors or civic leaders. When sound horror films were released, however, they quickly caused controversy. Sound provided “atmospheric music and sound effects, creepy-voiced macabre dialogue and a liberal dose of blood-curdling screams” which intensified its effects on audiences, and consequently on moral crusaders.

Boris Karloff in Frankenstein(1931).

The monster’s brutality, and the doctor’s declaration that “”Now I know what it feels like to be God!”, shocked many moviegoers. By the time of Bride of Frankenstein(1935), the Code was in full effect.

The Hays Code did not mention gruesomeness, and filmmakers took advantage of this oversight. However, state boards usually had no set guidelines and could object to any material they found indecent. Although films such as Frankenstein and Freaks caused controversy when they were released, they had already been re-cut to comply with censors. (Wikipedia)

So, the next time you or anyone else believes that black and white films are a bore, remember to check out “The Black Cat”, or “Mad Love”. If you do, leave a comment; I’d be intrigued to read your thoughts.


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“You Can’t Take it With You” 1938

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I enjoy classic television just like classic films so I’m hooked on a tv station called METV. Perry Mason with Raymond Burr is one of my favorites so I usually catch an episode daily. I love the convoluted storylines and the less than plausible show ending of the murderer jumping up in court and hysterically coping to the charge; a full confession no less.

I say all this because an episode the other day featured the scenario of the rich father trying to eliminate his son’s less than a suitable new bride; “There’s $50,000 in the safe for you to fly to Paris and get a divorce.” That’s quite the offer.

Anyhoo, that got me thinking about the brilliant, “You Can’t Take it With You” the 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra, and starring Jean ArthurLionel BarrymoreJames Stewart and Edward Arnold.


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Cast with Director Frank Capra


Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hartthe film is about a man (Jimmy Stewart) from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman (Jean Arthur) who speaks her mind and is from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

The film received two Academy Awards from seven nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra. An iconic director, this was Capra’s third Oscar for Best Director in just five years, following It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). It was also the highest-grossing picture of the year.

I love Jean Arthur’s character (Alice) because she is a strong woman who knows who she is and isn’t afraid to tell Jimmy Stewart (Tony) that his family can go to the blazes because they aren’t better than hers; as a matter of fact, her family understands what Jimmy’s doesn’t, that money isn’t everything and you can’t take it with you. Friends and family are what gives your life worth.


Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur


Alice, sensing that her engagement to Tony will not be well received by his parents informs Tony that if their engagement is to go forward, he must invite his parents to the house to meet her family. I’m not sure what Tony was trying to prove but, he gives his parents the wrong date so the house is in disarray with the usual family “madness” in full view. (I said they were eccentric.) 😁


Just another Tuesday night at the Sycamore house.

For me, the lesson of the movie is to live life to the fullest and cherish your family and friends. Don’t worry about being judged by others, they’re probably just jealous of how happy you are and how miserable they feel.


In the words of “Auntie Mame” from the 1958 movie.

What Fourth Estate? – “Network” 1976✍️️

The Fourth Estate

The fourth estate is a term that positions the press as the fourth branch of government and one that is important to a functioning democracy.

The First Amendment to the Constitution “frees” the press but carries with it a responsibility to be the people’s watchdog.


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Network 1976

Originally this film was going to be part of a favorite monologues piece. However, after watching Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) speech on the state of the world, I felt the need to turn it into a full-blown post on its own.


This prophetic monologue is incredible! It could very well have been given today. His truth and passion still hit hard. Politically, I feel this way most days.


Network film

“Network” is a 1976 American satirical black comedy-drama written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall.


When I saw this movie at its premiere I thought it was pinpoint accurate as a representation of the industry and the direction it was going. Today’s corporate media has even surpassed the foretold death of true journalism that “Network” showcased.

Entertainment television was the news style of the film and parrots the absurdity of what passes for the Fourth Estate today.


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As a journalism student in the ’70s, I’ve been outraged over time witnessing the demise and bastardization of the reason for journalism, to begin with. The news is supposed to inform the public of what is going on in Washington and globally. It’s supposed to be impartial, probing and take seriously the consequences of misleading and misinforming the American people of information needed to make informed decisions on our public servants and events.


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I often think of the Watergate scandal and how very different it would have emerged in today’s news environment. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein from the Washington Post represented the best of journalism and the importance of separating news from entertainment; digging deep and not letting up until all the facts had been revealed.


Chilling commentary and viewpoint from the Corporate Chairman (Ned Beatty)

Allegedly, part of the inspiration for Chayefsky’s script came from the on-air suicide of television news reporter Christine Chubbuck in Sarasota, Florida two years earlier. The anchorwoman was suffering from depression and battles with her editors, and unable to keep going, she shot herself on camera as stunned viewers watched on July 15, 1974. Chayefsky used the incident to set up his film’s focal point. As he would say later in an interview, “Television will do anything for a rating… anything!”


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However, Dave Itzkoff’s book Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies disputes this, asserting that Chayefsky actually began writing “Network” months before Chubbuck’s death and already planned for Howard Beale to vow to kill himself on air; Chubbuck’s suicide was an eerie parallel. (Wikipedia)

Whatever the order of events, Paddy Chayefsky’s intuition and writing are inspired! Words we should never take lightly and always remember.


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In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has “set an enduring standard for U.S. American entertainment”. (Wikipedia)


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In 2006, the two Writers Guilds of America voted Chayefsky’s script one of the 10 greatest screenplays in the history of cinema. In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.


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Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch

( September 28,  1916 – January 14, 1977)

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The role of Howard Beale earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor, his fifth Best Actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes. He was the first person to win a posthumous Academy Award in an acting category.

Although Finch didn’t live to receive the Academy Award for Best Actor, his performance as Howard Beale will never leave the memories of those who witnessed it.


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So, in honor of Howard Beale let’s all get up off our chairs, go to the window and yell – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”


And, after you’re done, make sure to stay woke, get involved and VOTE!






The City in the Sky 🎆 Metropolis (1927)




As a film student at The University of Michigan, I was exposed to the masters of cinema – Chaplin, Murnau, Kubrick, Lang, etc. There, we were challenged to critique and look beyond the surface to the underlying themes. “Metropolis” is supreme in incorporating intriguing layers of sub-texture and sub-plots.

Moloch Machine

Austrian director Fritz Lang’s German Expressionistic masterpiece helped to develop the science-fiction genre, with innovative imagery from cinematographer Karl Freund, art design by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, and Karl Vollbrecht and set design by Edgar Ulmer.(set designer for The Phantom of the Opera) It was the last of Lang’s silent films. (Filmsite Movie Review)


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Friedrich Christian AntonFritzLang (December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976)


“Metropolis” was not just some sci-fi flick from the silent era, it’s a visually-compelling allegory set in the dystopic, 21st-century city of Metropolis and represents a brilliant critique of the repercussions of man vs. machine and the brutality of the never-ending class struggle.

Establishing the tone of the film, this statement is presented following the opening credits.




“Metropolis” took over 2 years to complete at ten times the budget for the usual Hollywood production of the time and influenced visuals associated with classic films such as; Chaplin’s war against the machines in Modern Times (1936), the mechanical hand of Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or: (1964), the resemblance between the Maria robot and the droid C-3PO in George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) trilogy of films, and scenes of Los Angeles in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) to name just a few.

This symbolic tale was written by Lang’s wife Thea Von Harbou (from her own novel). Her vision detailed a self-indulgent, futuristic, industrial world built of skyscrapers and bridges incorporating the Art Deco style of the 20s for the 2026 city of Metropolis.

An ultra elite, 1% privileged class of powerful industrialists is juxtaposed with a subterranean environment of the nameless, oppressed and exploited drone-like slave labor class.

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Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria (Brigitte Helm), a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city.

Filming took place in 1925 at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks. The art direction draws influence from Bauhaus, Cubist, and Futurist design. (Wikipedia)

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As with all great films, “Metropolis” was influenced by the historical events occurring during its time. Centered around the developing Industrial Revolution and depressed economic times, the film also incorporates the rise of fascism in a pre-Hitler Weimar Republic Germany following World War I.

Another influence of the movie’s themes was the rise of the American labor movement and unions during the 1920s due to oppressive working conditions. “Metropolis”, like the Progressive, investigative journalists of the day, took on corrupt politicians and the establishment in an effort to make people aware of the contrast of poverty with the upper-crust classes of the opulent Roaring 20s.

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I’m a steadfast believer that understanding history is empowering. “Metropolis” tackles the rise of immigration into the US and exploitation of workers at the beginning of the 20th century along with Capitalists exploiting labor. It deals with the conversation of doing what’s right versus greed and the power of modern science.

The creation of the evil android Maria (Bridgitte Helm) was an abuse of science but that same knowledge powered the city in the sky and could have been used to enrich the lives of the subterranean slaves.

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Describing these themes and comparisons in “Metropolis” is like writing a piece for The Nation magazine today. The similarities are frightening like George Orwell’s “1984” or H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine”. It’s incredible to think that a film I critiqued back in the 70’s which was made in the 20’s is actually unfolding in the year 2018; only 8 years away from the 2026 Art Deco Metropolis city in the sky.

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Does art imitate life or life imitate art? I’m not sure, but in our “reality” tv driven news programming, a low information population and the “I don’t believe in science” faction, we might as well be living in the dystopian world of “Metropolis”.

Lest we forget.


This is a restored version of “Metropolis”

If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend this viewing experience. But, lasting 2 1/2 hours, prepare to settle in with an extra large bag of popcorn.


A Charlie Brown Christmas: Hark the Herald Angels Sing😇 🌲

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Premiered December 9, 1965

A Charlie Brown Christmas will always have a special place in my heart for its honesty, faith, humor, and appreciation of a child’s intelligence. I’ve watched every year since its premiere in 1965. I fell in love with Charlie and the Peanuts gang, relating to the familial relationships we all had as children.


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Charlie’s sad little Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown is the quintessential “nice guy.” Sweet, awkward and sincere. All the traits that guarantee a life of hell for an 8-year-old boy on the playground. In this musical special, Charlie is depressed about the commercialism of Christmas and seeks ways to enjoy the true meaning of the season; the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Charlie confides his feelings to his best friend Linus who’s also sweet, but also philosophical.



After Linus tells him to stop being so ” Charlie Brownie,” Chuck seeks the advice of his nemesis Lucy (aka Dr. Lucy). We’ve all had a Lucy in our lives. The kid who takes tremendous pleasure in the humiliation and torture of the sweet, awkward and sincere kid on the block. You know – Charlie Brown.



Charlie takes Lucy’s advice to become involved in a Christmas project and becomes the play’s director. However, his vision is the complete opposite of Lucy’s vision of becoming the Christmas Queen. (hey, don’t judge; what’s your fantasy?)  The result, my favorite scene:



OMG!! The dance scene is hilarious. Everybody who’s ever seen this has their favorite dancer. I see myself as one of the twin girls with their head and individual hair strands swinging side to side. They look so happy and diggin’ the groove. I love it! My other fave is the little boy doing what I call the Frankenstein. His arms are out in front of him and he’s doing some sort of “running man” dance move. Go ahead baby, get your dance on!

charlie brown christmas dance

For Charlie, the play’s a disaster. His decision for a Christmas tree being even worse; failing to bring any of the holiday spirit to Charlie Brown.

But ever faithful, his best friend Linus tells him what Christmas is all about and gives the most memorable soliloquy of my young life. (the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 through 14 from the Authorized King James Version)

I was raised in the church and heard this passage before but never in the context of a cartoon or animation. Quoting the bible in this realm was a bold move but is one of the reasons why I have such respect for the creator, Charles Schultz, and this project.

It reminds me, to this day, don’t forget the reason we celebrate Christmas; it’s the birth of Christ.



Even though Charlie’s day started with doom, gloom, and humiliation (including his dog Snoopy laughing in his face); in the end, he finds joy and empathy from his friends.

Let the choir sing:

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”



I raised my children on this timeless classic and they continue the tradition. A Charlie Brown Christmas touches my heart in so many ways. The innocence of childhood, the unbridled excess of commercialism on what is a holy holiday. But also the friendships, experiences, and faith that shapes our lives forever.


 A Christmas Miracle – The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas

Gratitude of the Heart💝

The Wizard of Oz (1939) – “There’s No Place Like Home”



Yes, it’s that time of year again with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and everyone running around like crazy, gearing up for the big day – Christmas! But, it seems every year when I read about shoppers nearly killing each other over a 12-pack of socks or the last $10 cashmere sweater; my heart sinks with the realization that too many of us forget what the holidays should be about; Gratitude.

To quote author Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 


A classic film I think represents gratitude and appreciation for what we already have is, “The Wizard of Oz”; it’s overflowing with gratitude! Dorothy (Judy Garland) accompanied by her little dog Toto, leaves home seeking a better place, but her journey becomes a revelation of what home really means.

Dorothy and her compatriots – The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley), and The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) wishing to be more than they perceive themselves to be, learn to appreciate their unique gifts. The Great and Powerful Oz (Frank Morgan) realizes the blessing and value of truth and in this case, the truth truly does set him free.


 It all starts with a wish to be “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and results in unexpected consequences – the terror of being caught up in a twister, inadvertently dropping a house on the sister of the Wicked Witch of the West (oops) and inheriting both the wrath of said Witch (Margaret Hamilton) and a pair of coveted ruby slippers.


Sadly, “Over the Rainbow” doesn’t materialize into the idyllic place of which Dorothy sings, her personal vision quest. Dorothy’s longing for home dovetails with the desires of The Scarecrow, Tin man, and The Cowardly Lion. These three, also wishing for what they believe they don’t have – a brain, a heart, and courage – join the quest to the Emerald City to finally have their dreams realized through the power of the omnificent Wizard of Oz.

The trio’s perilous journey to get Dorothy home leads to the self-realization that they possessed the traits they sought all along and didn’t really need the wizard to bestow these attributes upon them.

Dorothy also learns a valuable lesson we all tend to forget, “there’s no place like home” and if we can’t find what we’re looking for there, then we won’t be able to find it anywhere. Home exists within us and it’s our outlook and attitude that dictates whether it’s a black and white existence filled with worries and that ole Gulch “heifer” or a technicolor world filled with musical munchkins and the love of three very special friends.




With Gratitude, we can appreciate and give thanks for the joys and blessings in our lives because the truth is we could be far worse off. My spiritual goal every day is to be mindful and thankful for the bounty which I’ve already received.




Always remember!


























Gratitude and Miracles




Today marks the start of the holiday season, but it doesn’t officially kick off for me until I’ve watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade and one of my favorite holiday films, Miracle on 34th Street (1947).



Until I see Santa arrive at the end of the parade there can be no Christmas Tree, tinsel, ornaments or stockings. This has been a tradition of mine since I was a kid. Without a doubt, Edmund Gwenn is Santa Claus. No matter what other films he’s made, each character turns into Kris Kringle. (he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) Gwenn played a cockney assassin in Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent in 1940, but all I could scream was “Santa, don’t throw that man off the ledge!”


Edmund Gwenn

Miracle Kris

(September 26, 1877 – September 6, 1959)

Natalie Wood was precious as Susan, the precocious daughter of Maureen O’Hara (Doris) who doesn’t believe in fairy tales and attends a “progressive” school. Natalie Wood had an illustrious career until her death in 1981. She was able to make the transition from child star to ingenue starring opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass (1961). Known as a loving, giving person, as well as a star, she’s always had a special place in my heart.

Natalie Wood

Miracle on i believe

(July 20, 1938 – November 29, 1981)

miracle DorisDoris is cynical as a result of a bitter divorce so she’s raising her daughter to be practical and sensible. None of this believing in fairy tales and Santa crap. All was going well until Doris – the parade coordinator asks Kris to replace the drunken Santa originally set for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Kris is a big hit and becomes Macy’s official Santa resulting in a personal relationship with Doris and Susan.

Maureen O’Hara (August 17, 1920 – October 24, 2015)


Kris is an immediate influence teaching Susan it’s okay to pretend after she tells him the other kids don’t play with her because she won’t join in their game and act like a zoo animal.

The production took flack from the Catholic League of Decency because how dare you to depict a divorced woman with a successful career and a young child as a “normal family.” Yep, 1940’s mentality and morality were hard at work.

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Susan learning to act like a monkey!

Just as Doris is learning to have more faith in life and Susan is embracing imagination, Kris’s sanity is questioned and a legal battle ensues to prove that not only is he sane but the one and only Santa Claus. Fred (John Payne) who is Kris’s lawyer and Doris’s boyfriend, understands the importance of the spirit of Santa especially in the lives of Susan and Doris.

John Payne (on left)

(May 23, 1912 – December 6, 1989)

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Kris is exonerated and Christmas day has arrived. Susan has asked for a very special present and is disappointed at the Christmas party to see it isn’t under the tree. Doris, in a refreshing change of heart, tells Susan she must have faith.

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But, Santa Claus moves in mysterious ways and in the end teaches them both the true value of faith and miracles.


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Here’s to Faith and Miracles!