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Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  190 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Showcasing the pre-Code Hollywood era, this is an account of the making of films between March 1930, when the film industry adopted the Production Code, and July 1934, when it became fully enforced. Mark Vieira documents the infamous power struggle between Hollywood producers and the censors, who sought to forbid profanity, excessive violence, illegal drugs, sexual pervers ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Harry N. Abrams (first published 1999)
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Jul 01, 2009 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: cinema
One of the best books on pre-code films; those movies made in Hollywood between 1930 and 1934, which broke the rules of self-censorship which were really only lightly enforced during that period. Lots of black and white photos in this book. A great reference work that has led me to a great number of pre-code films that I would never have heard of otherwise. A lot of fun to cross reference this films mentioned in this book with the monthly TCM broadcast schedule! Set the DVR to record!
Jun 18, 2007 Avalon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to learn about film
Ah, the Pre-Code days, where men could be effeminate, women could be promiscuous, and stories didn't always end happily.

From 1929-1934, movies reflected a very different image than the treacle most people associate with old films. They were raw, gritty, and most of all, realistic. Divorce, crime, prostitution, poverty...all these things were dealt with openly and with brutal honesty. So much was lost when the Hays Code was finally enforced with an iron fist - it took until the 1960s to see that
Good design. Well written. Chronicles of pop entertainment industry tribulations aren't really of interest to me but I considered buying this. The material is addressed so lovingly. Unabashed loyalty makes this work more credible, useful, informative than the "scholarly" accounts of the 1930 production code and the moral influence of film arts.
Another good book on pre-code movies. Oversized, with great pictures, it is arranged in chronological order and talks about negotiations and cuts in individual films. Lots of stuff on how the censorship office worked
Jim Dooley
I absolutely loved this book…one of the best “History of Hollywood” books it has been my pleasure to read.

The emphasis here is on a “no man’s land” period from 1930 to 1934 when sound added a new layer to the content that moviegoers might find objectionable in addition to the artistic visual displays from the silent era. With individual states setting up their own film censor boards (and enforcing cuts before a motion picture could be exhibited in their jurisdictions) and fears of the creation o
Firstly, the photo reproductions in this book are second-to-none. Just ravishing. The nitrate halo imagery of the film stills of that era can never be duplicated, but at least they're reproduced faithfully here.

Secondly, the text is pithy and to-the-point. This is a good basic primer on the relatively lax Hayes Code era of the early '20s up to 1934 when the strict Breen Office Production Code enforcement went into effect to severely curb sexual, violent and subversive content in Hollywood movies
A very satisfying survey of pre-code Hollywood, with glowing publicity photos and stills. The author does meander quite a bit - the narrative is supposed, I think, to be organized by epochs within the code but it jumps around and tries to address themes like abortion, gay people, etc at the same time - but the pictures make up for it. I did resolve to watch the movies cited in this book, and I watched exactly one, the thoroughly delightful A Free Soul, in which Norma Shearer learns society won't ...more
A really excellent look at the "pre-code" period from 1930 to July, 1934. The author gets into great detail about the games the studios and the "Hays Office" played during this time. The films of this period deal with themes and/or situations in a more frank manner. Some of these films were so notorious, that that were unable to get approval later from the "Breen Office" for re-release. Beautifully illustrated with some very rare production stills, this is a must for anyone wanting to know more ...more
Anna (Yoda Is My Spirit Animal)
This would get a four-star for the pictures alone, as it really is more of a coffee table book anyways (and I'm a sucker for old-Hollywood pics, especially Silent-Era or Pre-Code). That said, there was some good information in there as well, especially for those not really familiar with the concept of Pre-Code. Not much I hadn't already heard before, but once again, wasn't really in it for the words so much as the pictures. :D
Prior to 1934, when the Production Code started to be enforced, Hollywood indulged in an orgy of cinematic sex, sin and sleaze. This was the notorious pre-code era. The highlights of this book are the stills (gorgeously reproduced) that capture the flavour of this notorious era of movie wickedness. Highly recommended.
Samantha Glasser
Beautiful an informative, this coffee table book is the best of both worlds. It is filled with facts about specific films and censorship in general. The photographs are gorgeous and worth seeking out.
I actually skipped most of the text; just focused on the parts that caught my eye and loved the classic pics. Will be checking IMDb and the libraries for copies of the ones that interest me.
The text was very interesting and well-put together, but I kept getting distracted by all the pretty, pretty pictures.
Hubba-hubba! Now these are my kind of moving picture shows!
Coffee table book of great film stills.
Nancy L.
Great coffee-table book on pre-Code Hollywood.
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