Friday, March 03, 2006

Film Baby Face (Alfred E. Green, 1933)

Tonight at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, I saw as part of the Winter 2006 Film Series the 1933 Baby Face. What was shown was a new 35mm print of the uncensored original, preserved and released on January 24, 2005 by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry.

This early "talkie" film addresses what must have been a risque subject for 1933, that of a strong woman (Lily Powers, played admirably by Barbara Stanwyck) who, rather than sitting back and becoming a victim of circumstances, uses her charm to gain wealth in New York City. It had a number of funny moments and features Barbara Stanwyck's acting, though most of the other characters are not deeply developed.

From the film series website:

Sultry Lily, pimped by her degenerate father, breaks free and sleeps her way to the top of an Art Deco skyscraper with no regrets. Baby Face was one of the most notorious films of the Pre-Code era, and is often cited as one of the causes of film censorship being imposed in mid-1934. The heroine, Lily, uses her sexuality both for empowerment and well as social mobility, and thrives with her sinful lifestyle. Certainly, there are plenty of men willing to participate in her horizontal negotiations. The censors felt the film was “glorifying vice” and ordered it edited to show “morally compensating values.” Library of Congress Film Curator Mike Mashon recently discovered an unedited negative from which this new 35mm print is restored. Plus the musical short, Don Redman and his Orchestra. New 35mm print.


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