Monday, March 23, 2009

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 3

If you're a fan of TCM, you've probably seen the promos for the new Forbidden Hollywood DVD set, which is the third volume in the collection. I mentioned Volume 2 last year, since I generally enjoy pre-Code movies. Volume 3 looks to be somewhat less of what one would traditionally think of as being "pre-Code", but is very interesting thanks to the fact that all of the movies were directed by the great William Wellman. TCM's promotion reaches its climax tonight, as they air several of the movies in the DVD set.

I've briefly mentioned Heroes for Sale in the past; that's airing overnight at 2:00 AM ET. Richard Barthelmess stars as a World War I soldier who gets addicted to morphine, and then leads workers on a riot when the industrial laundry machine he and his business partner market is used by businesses to cut their labor force during the Great Depression. The movie is interesting until the last few mintues, which contain a scene very strongly propagandizing in favor of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Not to get into a debate over the appropriate level of government involvement in the economy, but Wellman didn't need to be so heavy-handed about it.

Just as interesting is the movie that kicks off the night at 8:00 PM ET, Wild Boys of the Road. Frankie Darro stars as an adolescent whose father (character actor Grant Mitchell) loses his job and is no longer able to support him. The same thing is happening to teens all over the country, so Darro and his friends take to the rails, living like hoboes. They meet a girl (Wellman's future wife) and travel from town to town together, as the various cities' civic fathers don't want the shantytowns these teens set up. There's certainly material here that wouldn't have made it past the censors after 1934, as it's very strongly implied that the girl gets raped on a boxcar. The only bad thing about the movie is that the ending is a bit too pat. The characters are brought before a judge, who is reminiscent of Lewis Stone's Judge Hardy. But, the ending isn't nearly as bad as in Heroes for Sale.

The "Forbidden Hollywood" set doesn't seem to be listed at Amazon yet, although it is available courtesy of TCM's web-site, partnering with Movies Unlimited. It might even be better to buy from there, as it helps TCM and gives them the impetus to bring us more classic movies.

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