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Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood

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Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the pre-Code Hollywood era, between 1929 and 1934, women in American cinema took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, led unapologetic careers, and, in general, acted the way many think women only acted after 1968.

Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties-sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along: Greta Garbo, who turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale; and Norma Shearer, who succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom. In their wake came a deluge of other complicated women-Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, and Mae West, to name a few. Then, in July 1934, the draconian Production Code became the law in Hollywood and these modern women of the screen were banished, not to be seen again until the code was repealed three decades later.

A thorough survey and a tribute to these films, Complicated Women reveals how this was the true Golden Age of women's films.

Mick LaSalle is the film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and teaches a class at University of California at Berkeley on pre-Code film. He lives in San Francisco.

Between 1929 and 1934, for five short years, women in American cinema were modern. They took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, led unapologetic careers and, in general, acted the way many think women only acted after 1968. Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties—good or bad—sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along to blast away these common stereotypes. Garbo turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale. Meanwhile, Norma Shearer succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom. Garbo and Shearer took the stereotypes and made them complicated.

In the wake of these complicated women came others, a deluge of indelible stars—Constance Bennett, Ruth Chatterton, Mae Clarke, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Kay Francis, Ann Harding, Jean Harlow, Miriam Hopkins, Dorothy Mackaill, Barbara Stanwyck, Mae West, and Loretta Young all came into their own during the pre-Code era. These women pushed the limits and shaped their images along modern lines. Then, in July 1934, the draconian Production Code became the law in Hollywood and these modern women of the screen were banished, not to be seen again until the code was repealed three decades later.

Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, takes readers on a tour of pre-Code films and reveals how this was the true golden age of women's films and how the movies of the pre-Code are still worth watching. The bold, pioneering and complicated women of the pre-Code era are about to take their place in the pantheon of film history, and America is about to reclaim a rich legacy.

"LaSalle's marvelous Complicated Women is the best kind of film book, making us see with fresh eyes the women of pre-Code Hollywood, a truly revolutionary lot by any standards. LaSalle wittily and insightfully celebrates the multiform 'New Woman' of the late '20s and early '30s."Molly Haskell, author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

"LaSalle's marvelous Complicated Women is the best kind of film book, making us see with fresh eyes the women of pre-Code Hollywood, a truly revolutionary lot by any standards. LaSalle wittily and insightfully celebrates the multiform 'New Woman' of the late '20s and early '30s. The author does a persuasive job of reminding us of the contribution of lesser-known stars while rescuing the much-maligned Norma Shearer from her gilded cage as MGM's plastic princess and restoring her to her rightful place as a breathtakingly risky (and risqué) sensualist with plenty of career savvy. Bravo!"Molly Haskell, author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

"Mick LaSalle's Complicated Women isn't just a great title for life, it's an eye-opening examination of pre-Code Hollywood that retrieves lost films and overlooked careers. It's also a delight to read and argue with."David Thompson, author of Beneath Mulholland and Rosebud

"Mick LaSalle is a guy who really knows his stuff. He's actually seen everything he writes about, evoking a whole era of forgotten movies in a refreshing style that's not just a series of rehashed plots, but a witty, insightful joyride without an ounce of pomposity or patronizing, while at the same time providing the unsuspecting viewer with a fun guide on how to 'read' pre-Code movies."Bruce Goldstein, Director of Repertory Programming, Film Forum, New York

"Mick LaSalle's Complicated Women is a revelation: He takes us back, with wit, passion, and intelligence, to those brief shining years of the early 1930s when Hollywood women movie stars like Norma Shearer could be erotic, funny, and independentwith no hell to pay."Kate Buford, author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life

"Sophisticated and provocative."Entertainment Weekly

"An overdue examination of a historic conflict between Hollywood and would-be monitors of morality."New York Times Book Review

"In prose as snappy and sassy as the movies he describes, LaSalle restores to their rightful stature smart, sexy actresses like Ann Dvorak . . . and especially Norma Shearer."Elle

Synopsis:

Between 1929 and 1934, women in American cinema took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, and led unapologetic careers. Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties — sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along and blasted away those stereotypes. Greta Garbo turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale. Meanwhile, Norma Shearer succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom.

These complicated women paved the way for a deluge of indelible stars — Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, and Mae West, to name a few. Then, in 1934, the draconian Production Code became law in Hollywood, and these women were banished, not to be seen again for three decades.

Synopsis:

In the pre-Code Hollywood era, between 1929 and 1934, women in American cinema took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, led unapologetic careers, and, in general, acted the way many think women only acted after 1968.

Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties-sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along: Greta Garbo, who turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale; and Norma Shearer, who succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom. In their wake came a deluge of other complicated women-Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, and Mae West, to name a few. Then, in July 1934, the draconian Production Code became the law in Hollywood and these modern women of the screen were banished, not to be seen again until the code was repealed three decades later.

A thorough survey and a tribute to these films, Complicated Women reveals how this was the true Golden Age of women's films.

About the Author

Mick LaSalle is the film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and teaches a class at University of California at Berkeley on pre-Code film. He lives in San Francisco.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312284312
Author:
Lasalle, Mick
Publisher:
Thomas Dunne Books
Subject:
Film - Reference
Subject:
Film - History & Criticism
Subject:
Women's Studies - History
Subject:
Women in motion pictures
Subject:
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Subject:
Film - General
Subject:
Film
Subject:
Video - Reference
Subject:
Film and Television-History and Criticism
Subject:
Film & Video - Reference
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20000931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Plus one 32-page bandw photo insert
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.3 x 6.23 x 0.785 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Ethnicity and Gender
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Hollywood
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Reference
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies

Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood New Trade Paper
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Product details 304 pages Thomas Dunne Books - English 9780312284312 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Between 1929 and 1934, women in American cinema took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, and led unapologetic careers. Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties — sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along and blasted away those stereotypes. Greta Garbo turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale. Meanwhile, Norma Shearer succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom.

These complicated women paved the way for a deluge of indelible stars — Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, and Mae West, to name a few. Then, in 1934, the draconian Production Code became law in Hollywood, and these women were banished, not to be seen again for three decades.

"Synopsis" by ,
In the pre-Code Hollywood era, between 1929 and 1934, women in American cinema took lovers, had babies out of wedlock, got rid of cheating husbands, enjoyed their sexuality, led unapologetic careers, and, in general, acted the way many think women only acted after 1968.

Before then, women on screen had come in two varieties-sweet ingenue or vamp. Then two stars came along: Greta Garbo, who turned the femme fatale into a woman whose capacity for love and sacrifice made all other human emotions seem pale; and Norma Shearer, who succeeded in taking the ingenue to a place she'd never been: the bedroom. In their wake came a deluge of other complicated women-Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, and Mae West, to name a few. Then, in July 1934, the draconian Production Code became the law in Hollywood and these modern women of the screen were banished, not to be seen again until the code was repealed three decades later.

A thorough survey and a tribute to these films, Complicated Women reveals how this was the true Golden Age of women's films.

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