“Yeah, I’m a tramp, and who’s to blame?”: Baby Face (Green, 1933)

Hi all! Since one of our sister groups, the Melodrama Research Group at the University of Kent, is screening Baby Face (Green, 1933) tomorrow, we here at NoRMMA thought we’d have a look at the magazine coverage on the movie at the time of its release.

Baby Face was released in July of 1933 and was a controversial movie at the time. Because of its frank depiction of female sexuality (for gain!), it is often regarded as one of the catalysts leading to the enforcement of the Production Code in July 1934, as some of the magazine reviews below will demonstrate.

 

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This one is from Photoplay, June 1933, and illustrates the way in which young women in particular were seen as in danger from sexually explicit movies.

 

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Picture Play (September 1933) agreed that the film was rather “lurid” – but criticises especially the censors’ attempts at letting the film end with a happy (and redeeming) ending!

 

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Motion Picture (June 1933) agrees with the criticism of the ending, but also makes a rather interesting comparison between this film and films of “the early Theda Bara” period, about two decades previously.

Finally, here’s a review from Motion Picture Herald, 1 April 1933. As opposed to the above magazines, MPH was a trade magazine, aimed at exhibitors, and was thus primarily interested in how to “sell” the film to patrons.

 

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The review interestingly categorises the film as “sophisticated” – the go-to word for sexy pictures at this time – and highlights the “controversy” it will likely cause among patrons. Nonetheless, it also claims the film might well be very successful, and advises exhibitors not to attempt to “white-wash” it.

Finally, it states that the liberated central character of Lily might be harder to sell to women than to men, which is perhaps not what we might believe to be the case today.

We hope those who attend Melodrama Research Group tomorrow enjoy the film!

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