1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934
All commentary, images and videos by Brainscan
In the years immediately before and after the
seminal year of 1932, Hollywood and European movie
studios did what they could to skirt the rules laid down
by the Hays Code.
1933, in particular, was another great year.
Perhaps the most famous of all early scenes, by Hedy
Lamar in Ecstasy, still gets a lot of attention.
The same is true for Myrna Loy’s
scene in The Barbarian ...
(actual scenes from the film)
... and Fay Wray’s in the original King Kong
- both followed the strategy of getting an
unclothed or barely clothed actress into some body of
Also in 1933, Barbara Stanwyck played a gal willing to
screw her way to the top in Baby Face and she does spend
some time a flimsy dressing gown.
But it was in 1931, in
Night Nurse, that she reveals the most she ever would
- which is to say, not much - when she strips down twice
to some under garments.
What Night Nurse also has is Joan
who also spiced up the screen
in 1934's Blonde Crazy
(the bathtub still is shot from a much more
revealing angle than the scene, itself).
and a 1934 film titled Murder at the Vanities nicely
illustrate another tactic used by Hollywood producers to
introduce some skin. Those three are essentially stage
musicals with the barest of plots, but with chorus gals
wearing as little as possible.
1934 gave us more than just Murder.
McKim stood in for Maureen O’Sullivan and swam
naked with Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan and His Mate.
Jeanette Loff stripped down to her
skivvies in Flirtation
and - this is the high point of the year - Russian
actress Illa Meery appeared topless
in both Zouzou
You just have to see that scene from Ladies Lake,
because it starts out as typical Pre-Code tease, with
Illa in a gossamer thin gown, but boy, does it evolve
into something else. This was not the first time Ms.
Meery had appeared topless, however. For that you
need to go back to 1929 in Cagliostro.
More typical of 1929 was the sort of clothes worn by
Gilda Gray in Piccadilly,
but the point of Illa Meery’s scenes during these years
is the rise of European cinema for Funhouse-worthy
material. That’s the way it would be for a long
Last things to consider with Pre-Code movies came out in
1931. In addition to Blonde Crazy
and Night Nurse, there was Greta Granstedt in Street
Scene (the stills show you what you need to know about
her performance, or at least her wardrobe, in that
Better than any other scene I watched, the one with Ms.
Clark as a chorus gal in a dressing room shows how
dearly producers wanted to reveal as much as possible
without going too far.
But my favorite movie of 1934 with my favorite actress
of that era was Normal Shearer in Free Soul. She
was luminous and the director put her in a satin gown
with nothing else and, my oh my, did she get close to
showing off more than just her wonderful face and
terrific acting talent. So close…