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Dennis Nyback's Super Secret Pre-Code Musical Lallapalooza Big Magilla Thrilla Festival, Friday

Currently, at The Grand Illusion Cinema, Dennis Nyback is presenting a different program each night as Dennis Nyback's Super Secret Pre-Code Musical Lallapalooza Big Magilla Thrilla Festival and I was able to attend the first night. The films were not announced in advance, but on Friday, they were all from 1930 and presented as they would have been at that time, beginning with a newsreel, trailer, animated short, a short film and finally the feature.

I will just admit now that I am not knowledgeable of film history. Essentially, my film school has occurred in the cinemas at movies that are current, with the exception of an occasional archival screening, but thanks, in part, to The Celluloid Closet, I am a bit familiar with the Hollywood's history of self-censorship via the Hays Code and today, with the MPAA rating system. And it has been interesting to read about what had to be taken out of scripts, if a movie were to be produced post 1934. I was aware that homosexuality was strictly forbidden, but so was drug use, nudity, abortion, and it seems that just about any portrayal of sexuality that makes it seem like it could be a good time.

So it was instructive to see Dennis Nyback's program on Friday night. After the newsreel, were were treated to a preview for Gold Diggers of 1933, followed by an animated short, Wise Flies, where a fly uses her seductive prowess and spiderweb dancing abilities to avoid being taken home for supper. Apparently, the animated shorts of the time were typically set to popular jazz tunes of the time, so they aren't much different from an animated music video.

Then a musical short film, A Night in a Dormitory, with a 19 year old Ginger Rogers and some of the most awkward tap dancing ever. The dancers did not appear to have been hired for their dancing ability. Despite the showcasing of some questionable dancing abilities, the short was alone worth the price of admission. Ginger Rogers is completely charming in this tale of a school girl's nightclub adventure.

And on Friday, the feature was Oh, for a Man!, a romance between a bored opera singer, Jeanette MacDonald, and a cat burglar, Reginald Denny after he break in one night to steal her jewels and instead, she convinces him to train as a singer himself.

As none of these films were particularly shocking for their pre-code content, they were all quite enjoyable. One difference between these films and the movies that would follow are that the women depicted are sexual in a fashion that would be refreshing in today's films. So tonight, I'm about to go off and see another selection of Pre-code movies from 1930. I'll have to pay closer attention this time to see exactly what scandalous content they were getting away with, now that I have a better idea of what restrictions Hollywood would impose just a few years later.


This makes me all kinds of happy. I LOVE pre-Code movies. I hope you'll keep a running commentary going here. How was last night's movie?

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