[ Norma Shearer in Let Us Be Gay. ]
The pre-code period was a sweet time in cinematic history from 1930-July 1, 1934.
Technically any film made before July 1, 1934 is pre-code. However, some individual states required that films pass their code of approval before they would be shown, even before the Hays’ Code. In her book, Swanson on Swanson, Gloria Swanson spoke of the difficulty of getting the approval to make Sadie Thompson, which was a notorious play at the time. She slyly went to the head of the board that time, and asked for approval to adapt “an original short story by W. Somerset Maugham.” The film was then made and released in 1928. Gloria Swanson was nominated for an Academy Award for it.
However, starting with the advent of “talking pictures” in 1927 and continuing with the stock market crash in 1929, Hollywood became more brazen and defiant against anyone trying to tame them. The Catholic church would condemn certain films that Hollywood was counting on to make money. Finally, on July 1, 1934, the Hays Code was instituted.
Several movies that were released that year were just as raunchy and mischievous as anything from 1930-1933. As of July 1, 1934, calling it a “crackdown” would be putting it mildly. If you watch a film from 1934, it is always fun to play the pre-code game:
If the movie seems to be raunchy, but has a “tacked on” ending, you can bet it was released after July 1, 1934 and the studio had to film or add an appropriate ending to satisfy censors. If the whole film laughs in the face of justice and does not have a moral ending, you can bet your bottom dollar it was released before July 1, 1934.
For more info consult Wiki.
Films not in the Auteurs’ database:
-Nana (February 1, 1934)
-The Hard Guy (1930)
-Tess of the Storm Country (1932)
-Looking for Trouble (1934)
-Anybody’s Woman (1930)
-Lilly Turner (1933)
-White Woman (1933)
Lawyer Man (1932) features a shirtless William Powell.
Some people consider any film made before July 1, 1934 to be pre-code.