Hollywood Before the Code

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The Roxie returns with another sizzling week of sensational, sin-soaked cinema from the uninhibited pre-production code era -- a time when films crackled with unbridled sexual energy and pulsated to the forbidden rhythms of larceny and lust. Over the course of seven days and nights you will have a rare opportunity to see FIFTEEN incredible Hollywood Pre-Code classics and curios on the big Roxie screen -- many presented in beautiful 35mm studio archive prints and most not readily available on DVD! Programmed exclusively for the Roxie by Elliot Lavine.


Friday, March 1

Desperate for more readers, a sensation hungry newspaper editor dredges up a twenty year scandal bringing in its wake untold tragedy and doom. Bristling with Depression-era cynicism, this is one of period's most shattering dramas. Starring Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, Boris Karloff, Ona Munson, George E. Stone. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. In B&W. Digital. 89 mins. 1931. Friday at 8:00 only.

Free-wheeling bail bondsman Bill Bailey has lots of friends in the criminal underworld and even more enemies in the D.A.'s office. But most of Bailey's friends are of the unreliable type--his only true friend is the alluring Ruby Darling, a sassy little hip-shaker who delights in thumbing her nose at society's elite. Lots of fireworks on the way in this rare pre-code crime drama! Starring George Bancroft, Judith Anderson, Frances Dee, Chick Chandler. Directed by Rowland Brown. In B&W. 16mm film print. 65 mins. 1933. Friday at 6:30 and 9:45.

Saturday, March 2
Horrorific Triple Feature!!!

"If you do one thing I don't approve of while I'm gone, the LEAST little thing, mind you….I'll show you what horror means!" Without a doubt the most shockingly sensational of the numerous incarnations of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic horror story, a stunning and startling tour de force on every front--with enough visual pyrotechnics to fill a dozen films. Starring Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. In B&W. Digital. 98 mins. 1931. SATURDAY at 3:00 and 8:00.

In 19th century Paris, the maniacal Dr. Mirakle abducts young women and injects them with the blood of apes in a demented attempt at cross-breeding! Exceptionally lurid in the extreme, this pre-code horror shocker amps up Poe's original tale with more sizzling pre-code sexual erotica than you could possibly imaginable. Starring Bela Lugosi, Sidney Fox, Leon Ames and, in a notorious bit part, Arlene Francis as a prostitute who meets a grisly fate. Directed by Robert Florey. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print! 61 mins. 1932. SATURDAY at 1:30 and 6:30.

A mysterious force draws a beautiful young American woman to the forbidden realm of a jungle world where voodoo rites threaten to undermine the safety and security of her life. A startling secret is revealed about her own past that will shock even the most jaded member of the audience! A flamboyantly macabre pre-code chiller! Starring Fay Wray, Jack Holt, Dorothy Burgess. Directed by Roy William Neill. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print! 68 mins. 1934. SATURDAY at 5:00 and 9:50.

Sunday, March 3

Set almost entirely aboard the thundering Shanghai Express, a world of romantic intrigue erupts when the notorious Shanghai Lili, "a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast," is thrust into the role of saving the life of a famed British surgeon---a man who was her lover five years earlier! A dazzling visual spectacle, exploding with undeniable eroticism, this essential pre-code masterpiece is not to be missed on the big Roxie screen! Starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland. Directed by Joseph von Sternberg. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print. 80 mins. 1932. SUNDAY at 3:30 and 7:30.

During the dark days of the first World War an out-of-work London chorus girl is forced into a life of prostitution in order to survive. A floridly vivid love story that has the capacity to tear your heart out. The first of three filmed versions of Robert E. Sherwood's play and unarguably the best, certainly the most frank, with its daringly open depiction (even by pre-code standards) of sex in the city. Starring Mae Clarke, Douglass Montgomery, Doris Lloyd and, in a small role, Bette Davis. Directed by James Whale. In B&W. Digital. 81 mins. 1931. SUNDAY at 1:45, 5:30 and 9:30.

Monday, March 4

A young unwed mother, unable to support her illegitimate baby, decides to give the child up for adoption in order to pursue a career as a torch singer. Her progress becomes thwarted as she succumbs to a life of heavy drinking and even heavier philandering. Her downward spiral sets loose an unexpected chain of circumstances. Starring Claudette Colbert, Ricardo Cortez, David Manners, Baby LeRoy. Directed by Alexander Hall & George Somnes. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print. 71 mins. 1933. MONDAY at 8:00 only!

In a squalid New Orleans hotel room, a young prostitute kills her rapist ex-boyfriend. Hastily fleeing the scene she winds up on a remote Caribbean island where she waits for her current sailor boyfriend to arrive. But she attracts the attention of a vicious local cop who, unaware of her past, hounds her into taking up with him. Circumstances lead her to only one way out. A rip-roaring pre-code melodrama with sizzle to spare! Starring Dorothy Mackaill, Donald Cook. Ralf Harolde. Directed by William Wellman. In B&W. Digital. 73 mins. 1931. MONDAY at 6:20 and 9:00.

Tuesday, March 5

At the height of the Great Depression, a beaten down but beautiful young woman is helped along by a garrulous bindlestiff. Desperate to avoid a life of prostitution she agrees to set up housekeeping with him at an indigent hobo camp and eventually they fall in love. But his freewheeling ways soon draw him back to the open road until he learns that his girl is carrying his baby! A tough and tender pre-code masterpiece! Starring Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young, Glenda Farrell, Walter Connolly. Directed by Frank Borzage. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print! 75 mins. 1933. TUESDAY at 8:00 only!

A gritty yet poignant example of life in the big city---pre-code style! A sassy young street-walker winds up in a difficult love relationship with a good natured cabbie. Their life together is one provocative challenge after another, from Depression-level poverty to the always looming possibility of a life of crime. Starring Carole Lombard, Pat O'Brien, Ward Bond, Mayo Methot, Jack La Rue. Directed by Edward Buzell. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print! 68 mins. 1932. TUESDAY at 6:30 and 9:40.

Wednesday, March 6

A brash young movie usher takes up with a bunch of crooks and before he knows it he's on the lam. Hiding out in Los Angeles, he inexplicably winds up as a bit actor in the movies and soon becomes a big Hollywood star! And even though he's gone straight, his old pals haven't! Lots of high octane star power in this alternately hilarious and exciting pre-code classic! Starring James Cagney, Mae Clarke, Margaret Lindsay, Douglass Dumbrille. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. In B&W. Digital. 76 mins. 1933. WEDNESDAY at 8:00 only!

The fast and furious world of the gangsters and guzzlers who inhabit a New York prohibition night club run by "Happy" MacDonald and his flagrantly unfaithful wife make up the crux of this breathlessly paced saga of pre-code crime and punishment. A totally rare and visually inventive film featuring choreography by Busby Berkeley! Not to be missed!! Starring Lew Ayers, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, Hedda Hopper, George Raft. Directed by Hobart Henley. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print! 58 mins. 1932. WEDNESDAY at 6:30 and 9:40.

Thursday, March 7

A Special Tribute to Screen Legend LYLE TALBOT!! Margaret Talbot in Person!!
Lyle Talbot appeared in scores of Hollywood films in a career that spanned nearly sixty years. He worked alongside such iconic stars as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and for directors like William Dieterle, Mervyn LeRoy, Michael Curtiz, William Wellman and yes, Edward D. Wood. His daughter, Margaret Talbot is a staff writer for the New Yorker and has just published a delightful new book about her father called The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century. We are thrilled to have Margaret as our guest on this very special night. She will introduce the films and regale the crowd with wonderful stories about her legendary dad.

A high-strung San Francisco society girl leads a dangerous life, consorting with unsavory underworld types and causing her uptight, straight-laced father no shortage of headaches. Her angelic sister is determined to set her on a smarter track, but is it too late? A thrilling pre-code classic and one of the fastest and friskiest films to ever come out of Hollywood; not to be missed! Starring Bette Davis, Donald Woods, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot. Directed by William Dieterle. In B&W. Digital. 68 mins. 1934. THURSDAY at 8:00 only!

Out on the Arizona desert along a lonely highway, two sisters (one world-weary, the other innocent) run an auto camp which plays host to an unusual assortment of characters. Among them are a pair of desperate gangsters on the lam--one of whom has a strange hold over one of the sisters. An unsung little gem of pre-code attitude! Starring Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot, Glenda Farrell. Directed by Mervyn Le Roy. In B&W. Digital. 63 mins. 1934. THURSDAY at 6:30 and 9:40.


Roxie Theater
3117 16th St
San Francisco, CA
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  1. Roxie Theater
    3117 16th St, San Francisco, CA