July 31st, 2018

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Know the (pre-)Code today on TCM



"Virtue," Carole Lombard's first film for Columbia in 1932, probably is the closest she came to a movie that fits the classical definition of "pre-Code." She portrays Mae, a woman of suspect morals who disregards New York City officials and stays in town after her conviction for prostitution.

However, she does not return to whoring, but instead falls for a cabdriver (Pat O'Brien) and marries him...though he isn't aware of her past. When he finds out, the couple has some rocky moments before they reunite.

"Virtue" is a good little film, with one of Carole's best early performances. But she still hadn't quite found herself as an actress, so it rarely gets mentioned among the great movies of pre-Code. Some that do will be shown today by Turner Classic Movies in the U.S., in its final day of "regular" programming before its annual August treat, "Summer Under The Stars" (https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/924079.html). Chances are by the time most of you see this, the channel's programming will have begun -- it will run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET).

Without further ado, the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6 a.m. -- "Downstairs" (1932): John Gilbert (who came up with the story) stars as a sleazy chauffeur who becomes intimately involved with matters in the upscale household where he works. A fine cast includes Paul Lukas, Virginia Bruce, Olga Baclanova and Hedda Hopper.



* 7:30 a.m. -- "Loose Ankles" 1930): Can Loretta Young (who turned 17 during production of this comedy) remain scandal-free and inherit a fortune? She'll try, while advertising for a gigolo (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Forget Prohibition -- there's plenty of drinking in this farce. (The cast includes another person from Lombard's past, Daphne Pollard.)
* 8:45 a.m. -- "She Had To Say Yes" (1933): Loretta again, now all of 20, as a stenographer who helps her struggling company by dating clients, including Lyle Talbot. Racy, if inconsistent, fun. Busby Berkeley was a co-director.
* 10 a.m. -- "Faithless" (1932): The Depression is all over this drama, as Tallulah Bankhead is suddenly impoverished. Robert Montgomery co-stars in this MGM programmer.
* 11:30 a.m. -- "Hell's Highway" (1932): Richard Dix stars in this RKO film, sort of a poor man's "I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang." Tom Brown plays his younger brother, who joins his prison camp.



12:45 p.m. -- "Safe In Hell" (1931): A tough gem from director William Wellman, starring Dorothy Mackaill (above) as a New Orleans prostitute on the lam for an apparent murder; she winds up on a tropical island where she can't be extradited, but must consort with a motley crew. Also in the cast are Donald Cook, Nina Mae McKinney and Charles Middleton.



* 2 p.m. -- "Jewel Robbery" (1932): William Powell, the most debonair jewel thief you'll ever meet, wins the heart of a countess (Kay Francis) in this outrageous spin on Lubitsch elegance, courtesy of director William Dieterle. Powell dispatches his foes with marijuana cigarettes!



* 3:15 p.m. -- "Three On A Match" (1932): Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak play childhood friends who reunite, with all sorts of consequences. This drama's superb supporting cast includes Warren William, Lyle Talbot, Glenda Farrell and Humphrey Bogart.



* 4:30 p.m. -- "Footlight Parade" (1933): The programming concludes with two films starring James Cagney and Joan Blondell. This Busby Berkeley-choreographed musical features "By A Waterfall" and many Warners cast favorites, including Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Frank McHugh.



* 6:30 p.m. -- "Blonde Crazy" (1931): The second Cagney-Blondell teaming is quintessential pre-Code fun, as con man/bellhop Cagney and chambermaid Blondell fleece hotel guests...and we're with them each step of the way.

It's a day of classic movies well worth watching.
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