In 1930, when the film industry was facing the censorious Production Code and its strictures against indecency, it did the same thing. The difference is that Hollywood got away with it for four years.
"It was a long list of dos and don'ts -- mostly don'ts -- for the production of major American films," says Michael Fabrizio, a professor at Rockhurst University and the curator of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art's Uncensored Cinema Series. The code was also an attempt to circumvent local censorship boards all over the country that would physically hack out parts of film reels that were deemed offensive. "Kansas, by the way, had one of the most severe," Fabrizio says. We're stunned.
But no one really paid attention until 1934, so the industry got away with, well, whatever the hell it wanted. The four films in the series are not readily available, Fabrizio says, so this is a rare opportunity to see these particular examples of pre-code Hollywood. Fabrizio thinks audiences will be taken aback.
"We tend to think we're so liberated today and that the stuff in the '30s was pretty chaste -- and in the larger sense, sure, it is. It probably won't be shocking by today's standards. But people will still be very surprised by what went on."
"At various times, these four films deal with drug addiction, venereal disease, prostitution, sadomasochism, homosexuality ... and they're loaded with innuendo," he says. There's even a whipping scene in Call Her Savage. Fabrizio says the film's star, Clara Bow, "was really a wild girl."
Kind of like we were for four days one summer.