Over at The Toast, Mallory Ortberg takes a tour through Hollywood's pre-Code era, recommending movies left and right—some of them because they're good, some of them because they're weird and interesting even if they aren't exactly "good" in any normal aesthetic sense. To give you the flavor, here's her list of "Less Well-Known Remakes":
The Letter, 1929—SLUTTIER THAN THE BETTE DAVIS REMAKE.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931—SLUTTIER THAN THE SPENCER TRACY REMAKE.
Mädchen in Uniform, 1931—LESBIANER THAN THE 1970S REMAKE.
The Maltese Falcon, 1931—GAYER AND SLUTTIER THAN THE HUMPHREY BOGART REMAKE (Obviously not as good, though. I mean, it doesn't ask us to believe that Mary Astor is a femme fatale who has had sex, so that gives it a leg up on the John Huston version, but still. Only worth watching as a comparison to the classic. And I don't think being as overt about sexual matters makes much of a difference—it's still incredibly clear that Bogart and Astor bone, that Joel Cairo is super-mega gay, and that Gutman is giving it to poor Wilmer in the 1941 remake.)
The Broadway Melody, 1929—Really, really bad production values, but a lot of fun if you're a Singin' in the Rain completist and want to hear the full version of "The Wedding of the Painted Doll."
The pre-Code era came to an end for a few reasons, the most underappreciated of which is the threat of federal censorship. Thomas Doherty described that process in this classic Reason article (and I've touched on the topic a time or two myself); it's a still-relevant lesson in the ways busybodies can clamp down on eccentric creativity.
For more on this chapter of Hollywood history, check out Doherty's book Pre-Code Hollywood, which is a great read. And since I was writing about the Army-McCarthy hearings yesterday, lemme add that one of the best discussions I've seen of that soap opera is in another Doherty book, Cold War, Cool Medium. Check that one out too.
[Via bOING bOING.]