Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932)While I may have just written an article criticising a certain Australian actor/director for his advocacy of cultural cringe, I must admit I’m susceptible to the same kind of cringe when talking about my city of residence: Brisbane. I’m pretty vocal about the perceived cultural black hole that is Queensland’s capital, a city that’s seemingly built itself in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s image, what with the consistent and widespread destruction of our historical heritage. Often it seems like we haven’t learnt from the clandestine demolition of Cloudland; beautiful, heritage-listed cinemas are (mostly) destroyed and international film festivals are eliminated.

But there’s a lot of great culture on display in Brisbane – cinematic and otherwise – and GOMA (Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art) is a commendable hub of such activity. In particular, the museum is host to the Australian Cinémathèque, which regularly screens wonderful , often obscure, classic films. This year alone they’ve presented retrospectives on the work of Orson Welles, Oskar Fischinger and Derek Jarman and they’ve given me the opportunity to see genre flicks like The Fly and even The Toxic Avenger on the big screen. Even better – the majority of these screenings are free and presented as gorgeous, restored 35 mm prints.

The latest GOMA retrospective, kicking off today, is titled Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of pre-Code Cinema. This program looks at a slender slice of Hollywood classics, from 1931 to 1933, in the heady days of risqué boundary-pushing. The stars of these films are undeniable icons, with names that suggest danger or illicit, enticing sexuality whether or not you’ve seen a single one of their films – Mae West, James Cagney, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, even a young Cary Grant in Blonde Venus.

Forbidden Hollywood opens today at GOMA with screenings of Alfred E Green’s Baby Face and Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise, and continues until early November 2014 (the full schedule can be seen at the link above). It’s a rare opportunity to see these classic films on the big screen, and one I’ll certainly be availing myself of. I might frequently complain about Brisbane’s cultural anaemia, but it’s certainly refreshing to see that we’re still capable of putting together fantastic events like this.

2 thoughts on “Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema

  1. Pingback: Baby Face (1933) | ccpopculture

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