Baby Face (1933)
I’ve been watching too many movies these past 2 months but I love it!!! Baby Face stars one of my favorite actresses ever!!! Barbara Stanwyck. I love her in Ball of Fire and Double Indemnity not to mention I watched too many episodes of The Big Valley as a kid.
Baby Face is a pre-Hays code film. Before the Hays code Hollywood films pushed the envelope a bit eg. single motherhood, passing (racial), sex, nudity. The Hays code was created in part because if Hollywood didn’t censor, the government could or would have intervened. While censorship was inevitable, at least Hollywood would have more control.
Baby Face is basically about a woman who sleeps her way up the NYC corporate ladder after her father dies. Before his death, the film explicity states he had been pimping her since she was 14. Before heading to NYC, Stanwyck’s character has a black female friend/maid played by the beautiful actress Theresa Harris nicknamed “The Beautiful Maid .” It’s amazing that early 30s Hollywood showcased them as loyal friends. Stanwyck always includes Harris in her decisions. She never betrays her even though she uses everyone else. Of course Harris is stuck in a maid’s uniform waiting on Stanwyck even trying to get used to calling her Ma’am instead of “honey.” She played maids but always sexy and glamorous not a mammy-type. Harris even gets to sport fur. A sexy black maid is unique for the time period because the sexy and beautiful stars were white actresses along with the occasional off-white exotic Latina.
I highly recommend this movie. It’s a guilty pleasure but Stanwyck gives a great early performance. Harris is memorable and a joy with what little screen time she has. It shows a friendship between two sexy women, one white , the other black. This is something that would be rare to find, if ever, until decades later. Lastly you can even catch a glimpse of a young John Wayne in an early role.
Available on Netflix.
ah cool, will check this out. yeah, i liked that a lot of the films of this period were more edgy.. and i like stanwyck too. when did the hays code begin? cuz it seems like many films in the early 40’s covered somewhat risque subject matter as well.
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The Hay’s Code was enforced in 1934 but had been created years earlier.
All eras of film have covered risque or somewhat risque subject matter IMO but the early 30s compared to early 40s didn’t sugar coat as much eg. a real black actress in the early 30s played a woman passing, Claudette Colbert played a single mother who obviously never married, or topless scenes in late 20s. There was also a grittiness in earlier talkies. Picture quality and sound was obviously better by the 40s.
IMO films started getting more daring after World War 2 and of course television would start to grow.