17 Pre-Code Valentines for All You Dizzy Dames and Sugar Daddies

blondellheartemojiI love pre-Code movies with the passion of a thousand heart emojis. There’s a good reason why the banner of this blog comes from a poster for Baby Face and why I chose the the famous “Thou Shalt Not” censorship picture for my Twitter avatar.

When I discovered pre-Code cinema through a college course in 2010 (and they say you don’t learn anything useful in schools these days), I fell hard. Movies made roughly between 1929 and 1934 regularly make me swoon with their witty irreverence, their flamboyant style, their exquisitely hardboiled female protagonists, and their slick, snappily-dressed bad boys. (Plus, the lingerie. Can’t forget the lingerie.) These movies were intended to deliver large doses of risqué pleasure during some pretty dark days in American history—and they still bring the joy, more than 80 years after they were made.

Last year I created film noir valentines and pre-Code candy hearts, so I decided to follow that up with a batch of naughty, bawdy, gaudy pre-Code valentines. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: These valentines (for the most part) reflect the spirit of the films and characters they’re alluding to, not necessarily my views or opinions. If any of these valentines offend your delicate sensibilities, feel free to call the Legion of Decency on me. What can I say? I’m a bad influence.

Clara Bow plays rough in Call Her Savage (1932).

callhersavage

Herbert Marshall may be a crook, but he’s the crook that Miriam Hopkins adores in Trouble in Paradise (1932).

troubleinparadise

Clark Gable would bankrupt the undershirt industry to impress Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934).

ithappenedonenight

Mae West knows that Cary Grant is only playing hard to get in She Done Him Wrong (1933).

Just gals being pals in Queen Christina (1933).

queenchristina_valentine

Pre-Code poster children Joan Blondell and Warren William feel the (cheap and vulgar) love in Gold-Diggers of 1933.

golddiggersof1933

Count Dracula’s love for Mina will never die. Because it’s already dead.

dracula1931_valentine

Cagney and Harlow get cozy in The Public Enemy (1931).

publicenemy_valentine

Garbo wants some “me time,” but she’ll settle for some “me and you time” in Grand Hotel (1932).

grandhotel_valentine

Miriam Hopkins can’t choose between Fredric March and Gary Cooper in Design for Living (1933). Who can blame her?

designforliving

Barbara Stanwyck is feelin’ frisky in Night Nurse (1931).

nightnurse

Warren William is the Big Bad Wolf in Employees’ Entrance (1933).

Employees' Entrance (1933) Directed by Roy Del Ruth Shown: Warr

Looks like Little Caesar just can’t quit his friend Joe Massara. (I can relate. I think about Douglas Fairbanks Jr. a lot too.)

littlecaesar_valentine

Barbara Stanwyck knows what men are good for in Baby Face (1933).

babyface

Carole Lombard gives John Barrymore some tough love in 20th Century (1934).

20thcentury

Watch classic movies and get busy, like Bob Montgomery and Anita Page in Free and Easy (1931).

freeandeasy

Yes, I even got a tad sentimental over Whitey Schafer’s famous “Thou Shalt Not” photograph, showing all the things you couldn’t do in post-Code films.

thoushaltnot

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5 thoughts on “17 Pre-Code Valentines for All You Dizzy Dames and Sugar Daddies

  1. Dropped in here looking for background on “The Divorcee”, which I saw on Turner Classic some weeks ago. I was struck by Shearer’s performance.

    It’s interesting how the demise of the Code worked out. Now we’re a lot more forgiving of sex on screen, but woe betide any director who lets a cigarette (or cigar) show up.

    • Yes, Shearer is excellent in THE DIVORCEE. The pre-Code years were her best, in my opinion. The pre-Code years might not seem so shocking in terms of what they showed, but I think one would be hard pressed to find stronger female characters or more biting social commentary in today’s movies. Or as much smoking, as you mention!

      • A slight pre-Code reference: we saw “Desk Set” on the big screen yesterday. At the point where Richard and Bunny (Tracy & Hepburn) go up to Bunny’s apartment, after getting in from a hard rain, Bunny says to Richard, “Let’s get you out of those wet things” (usually said from a him to a her). I think between Bunny and her two admirers, there was only one slight viewable kiss. The final scene, where Richard and Bunny realize that they’re “meant for each other”, the kiss is completely turned away from the camera.

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