Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baby Face (1933)

Baby Face
Director: Alfred E. Green
USA 1933
76 min

Goodness, my oh me - this is a simply amazing film experience! I just got the "Forbidden Hollywood Collection volume 1" on the mail today, and after having manipulated my boyfriend to watch it with me (Oh, it's a dirty, dirty picture! It was locked away in a bank vault for 70 years!), here I am, totally excited.
(This film convinced be that it's okay to alter the trith a bit to get your way, so I won't feel bad for using people around me to make me feel better. Thanks, Ruby Stevens.)

Barbara Stanwyck and Nat Pendleton in the beginning of the film. (Was there one 1930's film made in America that didn't include Nat Pendleton? No offence, I like him. But Jeez...)

The plot is quite simple. Lily (played by a lethal pre-code Barbara Stanwyck) runs a speakeasy with her father who sells her body to slimy business men to get the business running. After some inspiration from a wicked old man of a mentor, Lily realizes that a beautiful young woman can go a long way in her career if she just "crushes all sentiment" (way to go, Nietzsche!) and uses everyone for her own purposes.
In a previously cut-out scene, Lily offers a train inspector sexual favours (accompanied by the lovely singing voice of her maid Chico) to be able to get to New York. Wandering the streets with Chico (Theresa Harris), she stops in front of a skyscraper building. She understands that there must be a lot of money in that building, seducing an innocent young man at the employment office and starts her womanizing way of climbing the career ladder - literally from floor to floor. Along the way she seduces a young John Wayne (hey, he could actually be handsome!) and George Brent among others, and soon is covered with furs and diamonds.

One of the cut-out scenes, where the douchebag gropes Stanwyck's breasts and she knocks him over with a beer bottle.

I won't reveal more of the plot, if any of my precious readers haven't seen this marvellous film yet. But for any classic film devotee, this is a must-see - it was one of the main films resulting in a much more strict film cencorship called the Hay's Code. (Hail, Satan.)
The cencors at the time ran amuck about the story of a female sexual predator and her friendly relationship to her black maid Chico. And I must admit, even today one is quite shocked while viewing the film - even though I don't feel to ban it as much as I want to worship it. But the cencors weren't even a little bit thankful to this masterpiece (I mean, just see how tastefully done all the seductions are - obvious, but far from vulgar), and took out the scissors.

But did they stop with only the scissor treatment? Oh no, they had to add a new ending, totally destroying the feeling of the film as a masterpiece. I thought that the original ending was relatively happy and realistic, so that cencored one was... Crap! Total crap! Insulting! Meaningless! A piece of re-used dog shit, to be frank. Why, oh why, did they feel that they had to insult the audience's intelligence that way?
The restored version didn't exist until 2004 (poor people), and when the original, five minutes longer, version finally was discovered in a film vault by Library of Congress curator Mike Mashon (George Willeman is the man credited on Wikipedia), we knew that we would no longer have to suffer.

Trailer for Baby Face.

To sum this up: This is an incredibly innovative, clever and amusing film with as many laughs as chins dropped. I will report back on the other Forbidden Hollywood films, Red-Headed Woman (1932) and Waterloo Bridge (1931). (And when the tax re-payment arrives the next week: watch out, volume 2 and 3!)

A John Wayne youngster and some Baby Face posters, for ya!


Matthew Coniam said...

"Lethal Barbara Stanwyck"... I'll say! This has to be one of the sexiest films ever made - that sequence when she works her way up the building floor by floor! Quite the minx!
Hurry up and report back on Red-Headed Woman, too - another scorcher!

Lolita said...

Matthew Coniam:
And isn't the camera work just admirable? When it, in the mentioned sequence, really films her way up the building, or when the train inspector puts his gloves aside and turn out the light - it doesn't have to be more obvious! Films today think that the audience can't imagine anything, we have to show them banging each other. No, this is tasteful!
I'll do it, as soon as I have the time!

Samuel Wilson said...

Stanwyck projected pure power in a way none of her peers of the era could match, and this is an archetypical world-conquering role for her. Baby Face is glittering sleaze. Enjoy the rest of Forbidden Hollywood 1, with two more to go.

Lolita said...

Samuel Wilson:
I agree. Those seducing smiles and looks she gives is hard to beat. I will enjoy them, I plan on seeing Red-Headed Woman tomorrow! Since it's region 1 there's some difficulties in viewing them in Sweden, but they work on my boyfriend's computer. I simply have to push him away from is online games with force!

MissMatilda said...

well written my dear, adore your blog.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting about the trailer is the usual round of upbeat music that is played alongside the interstitial placards. The music is truly a wrong choice after the brief scene with the man who claims to commit suicide if she does not marry him, and then proceeds to kill himself. Suicide and upbeat music do not mix unless it is intentional comedy.

Kate Gabrielle said...

I love this film! I can't believe you just saw it for the first time :) All Barbara Stanwyck pre-codes (well this one is like borderline pre-code right?) are fantastic!!

Meredith said...

i basically worship this film, so much so that i used it as the centerpiece for the final paper in my film censorship and american culture class. the funny thing about precodes is that as much as the censorship committees were appalled by sex and violence, they knew that they needed titillating sex and violence to survive the depression. what i find even more interesting about the cuts (or not surprising, actually) is the fact that the sexual shots that are taken out are only the ones that in some way damn the men and the social influences that may have led her down the wrong path. her father pimping her out 'ever since she was 14,' the first man fondling her breasts, the man leaving the ladies restroom, but a shot of stanwyck refreshing her lipstick, looking wantonly into a mirror remained intact.

Lolita said...

Miss Matilda:
Thank you!

DJ Heinlein:
That's quite true. But these old movie trailers usually are no good, and often very corny!

Kate Gabrielle:
Borderline pre-code, haha! Well put. Yes, it was quite an experience! I have some trouble getting ahold of films like these, they're not released in Sweden that often!

Thank you for that information, really interesting! Yes, they had no problem with blaming a woman for using men, but if men used women... Oh no, cut that away - men don't act that way in America! (At least not in open!)

Rachel said...

I love this movie!! And Red-Headed Woman is very good too. Jean Harlow is soooooo good!

Lolita said...

I have to see it as soon as possible!

Robby Cress said...

I just picked up the Forbidden Hollywood collection earlier today and set it back down. After reading your review of Baby Face I feel I need to go back and get the collection at least for this film! I look forward to hearing what you think about the other films in the collection.

Lolita said...

Robby Cress:
I will sure report back with the other two films when I have seen them! And until then - get the collection and see Baby Face!

Raquelle said...

I love this movie. And it's cool how you convinced your boyfriend to watch it. That's how I convince people to watch Red-Headed Woman! (It's naughty! You'll like it!).

Lolita said...

Haha, a woman gets it her way - just like in the film! (But I guess we don't go just THAT far for just having some company watching films...?) As soon as I can use my boyfriends computer I will see Red-Headed Woman!