Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 2

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 2
Joseph Breen put the kibosh on a lot of provocative subject matter, and this collection is devoted to five more early sound examples of what his production code would eventually repress. But while they mention the sexually-liberated women the code eliminated, the attitudes towards them would be right at home in the cleaned-up new Hollywood. Female starts off well, with Ruth Chatterton running a corporation and eating men alive, but then she has the bad form to find dominant male George Brent and starts to lose interest in both business and self-determination. It’s too bad; she pretty much shoots up the joint before meeting her "ideal” mate. Chatterton again decides against self-reliance in A Free Soul, where her father’s liberal parenting leads her to choose gangster Clark Gable as a mate. Rest assured she won’t be making decisions for herself after that little gaffe. Once again, intimations of feminism are floated only to be quashed. A variant on this is Three on a Match, where unhappily married Ann Dvorak covets the adventurous life of bad girl school chum Joan Blondell. They switch places, with Blondell taking Dvorak’s husband and Dvorak getting foolishly involved with another no-account gangster. It goes without saying that the married woman winds up happy and the would-be adventurer descends into squalor. Is wedded bliss the only answer? Initially, The Divorcee would say no, as it allows Norma Shearer to cheat on her straying spouse and show up the double-standards that govern male and female infidelity. But of course, she’s not happy after her break-up and it seems as though "no marriage is perfect.” Far less moralistic than the first three, this at least asks the right questions even if it forces an answer. The shining light amidst all this is Night Nurse, which unleashes Barbara Stanwyck on a corrupt medical system that turns a blind eye to abuse. When nursing school punishes her for thinking for herself, she perseveres. When a bad doctor fails to see a threat to two children, she swings into action herself. And when she has to ally herself with a bootlegger in order to circumnavigate medical "ethics,” the film becomes genuinely subversive rather than flirting with danger and pulling away. Trailers, a couple of scholarly commentaries and a documentary round out a fascinating, though by no means unproblematic, set of movies. (Warner)