Over the next few weeks -- perhaps months -- many of us may feel cooped up, isolated, as a result of a word few knew on New Year's Day, but now unfortunately has become the word of 2020: coronavirus. This infection has ground society to a virtual halt, with perhaps the worst yet to come. In just several days, we've made ourselves semi-hermits, not by our own choosing.
If we choose to go outside, there's suddenly little to do -- sporting events wiped out, concerts and stage plays canceled. It's much easier to find a table at a restaurant, which could probably use your patronage. You can go grocery shopping (don't forget the hand sanitizer, if any is available) and make some of your meals at home.
Another option: Reading, assuming your local library hasn't shut down temporarily, or you can shop for books online. My Facebook friend Mark A. Vieira has two coffee-table volumes, perfect for Carole Lombard and classic Hollywood buffs...and as fate would have it, both were the subjects of a piece today in the Los Angeles Review of Books, although neither title is brand new (https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/sin-glamour-and-photography-in-hollywoods-golden-age-on-two-books-by-mark-a-vieira/).
The pre-Code era, more or less defined as the period between 1930 and mid-1934, was a time when Hollywood filmmakers, growing technically adept at this new form of talking pictures, used to tell stories that reflected a time when the culturally and sexually liberating 1920s made way for Depression challenges and organized crime.
"The Public Enemy" (1931), James Cagney's breakout hit, encapsulated the new mode, just as Cagney and Clark Gable represented a new, tougher form of leading man.
While studios had faced trouble from censors as far back as the 1910s, they played bigger roles in the early 1930s. One example came in Lombard's 1933 film "The Eagle And The Hawk" with Fredric March:
This comment on Pennsylvania censorship ran in the Lebanon Daily News on June 1:
Anyone ever seen the note?
Things reached crescendo level in 1934 when the Legion of Decency, run by bluenose Joseph Breen, persuaded Philadelphia Catholics to boycott Warners over its racier releases, such as "Gold Diggers Of 1933" with pre-Code goddess Joan Blondell:
Breen's ploy worked, Hollywood was coerced into strictly enforcing the Production Code, and during the second half of 1934, audiences began to see this on the screen, much to the dismay of many:
Vieira's book on George Hurrell comes from personal experience; he assisted the master photographer for many years. With hundreds of photos, he explains what made Hurrell such a revolutionary figure in Hollywood glamour portraits, from his groundbreaking efforts with Norma Shearer that elicited a sensual side even husband Irving Thalberg had never seen on screen...
...to iconic shots of Harlow, Lombard and Myrna Loy (Hurrell also took the reflective image of Carole at the top of this entry)...
...to later stars seeking old-school glamour such as Farrah Fawcett and Sharon Stone (one of Hurrell's final subjects before his death in 1992, and author of the book's foreword):
Chris Yogerst, who wrote the LA Review of Books piece, said of Hurrell, "That perfect gloss we associate with Hollywood's golden years had much to do with Hurrell's ability to capture stars' beauty in a way few photographers could," adding "one of [his] defining characteristics was his ability to get his subjects to emote sultriness through their facial expression."
As for the books and their availability, amazon.com has "Forbidden Hollywood" for $22.10 in hardcover (https://www.amazon.com/Forbidden-Hollywood-Pre-Code-1930-1934-Classic-ebook/dp/B07G75C7J7/ref=sr_1_1?crid=AEOGXP38VSZO&keywords=forbidden+hollywood+the+pre-code+era+1930-1934&qid=1584239207&sprefix=forbidden+ho%2Caps%2C211&sr=8-1) and "George Hurrell's Hollywood" for $43.68 (https://www.amazon.com/George-Hurrells-Hollywood-Portraits-1925-1992/dp/0762450398/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=george+hurrell%27s+hollywood&qid=1584239330&sr=8-1).