Film Forum to salute 'Hollywood's Naughtiest Year'


“1933: Hollywood’s Naughiest, Bawdiest Year,” an 80th-anniversary look back at a seminal year in both movie and world history, will run at New York’s Film Forum from Feb. 8 through March 7.

The series, presented in association with the Library of Congress, includes over 60 features in 35mm, along with vintage newsreels, cartoons, trailers and short subjects—plus a live reading of a legendary lost "Pre-Code" movie of that year, the salacious Convention City (with “every innuendo intact,” the theatre promises).

Says Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum's director of repertory programming, who curated the series, "1933 was the year when the sound film came of age and the end of the 'Pre-Code' era—before the strict enforcement of Hollywood's self-censoring Production Code. It was the year Mae West saved Paramount from bankruptcy; the year King Kong debuted at Radio City Music Hall; the year Astaire and Rogers first teamed up; the year Katharine Hepburn won her first of four Oscars; the year of 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade, Busby Berkeley's greatest musicals; the year of The Three Little Pigs and 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?'; the year of Popeye the Sailor's movie debut; and it was the year of the raciest Pre-Code pictures, including The Story of Temple Drake, with Miriam Hopkins, and Baby Face, with Barbara Stanwyck."

Highlights of the festival include the aforementioned films plus The Invisible Man, Island of Lost Souls, Mae West in I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong, Dinner at Eight, Design for Living, The Emperor Jones, Duck Soup, Sons of the Desert, Queen Christina, Gabriel Over the White House, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing and William Wellman’s searing Wild Boys of the Road.

On Oscar weekend, Feb 22-24, Film Forum will present Morning Glory (Best Actress, Katharine Hepburn), The Private Life Of Henry VIII (Best Actor, Charles Laughton), Cavalcade (Best Picture of the Year), and other 1933 Oscar winners.

Non-Hollywood movies in the festival include Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (his last German film); Max Ophüls's Liebelei; Jean Vigo's Zero for Conduct; the avant-garde, gay-themed Lot in Sodom (filmed in Rochester, New York); Gustav Machaty's Ecstasy, with teenager Hedy Kiesler (who later became Hollywood's Lamarr) romping naked through the woods and featuring the screen's very first orgasm scene; and a special screening (co-presented by Japan Foundation) of Yasujiro Ozu's Passing Fancy, winner of the Kinema Jumpo "Best One" award, Japan's Best Picture Oscar equivalent.

In addition to the features, the festival will include "Metrotone" newsreels produced by William Randolph Hearst, cartoons (including Betty Boop in her very Pre-Code Snow White), two-reel comedies, travelogues and trailers, producing a vivid re-creation of the year's moviegoing. Animation director/historian Greg Ford served as cartoon consultant to the series. 

Roughly a third of the film prints to be shown are from the archive of the Library of Congress, which holds the original camera negatives to many classic Hollywood films, especially those produced by Warner Bros. in the early ’30s. The festival also draws on prints from the archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Museum of Modern Art, Harvard Film Archive, the British Film Institute, and of Hollywood studios Universal, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox.