Complicated Women (2003)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary


Complicated Women (2003) Poster

A look at actresses who starred in films with thought-provoking subjects made between 1929-1934 - before the Hollywood Production Code was enforced.


7.9/10
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Director:

Hugh Munro Neely

Writers:

Mick LaSalle (based on the book by), Hugh Munro Neely, Andie Hicks

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24 May 2013 | dougdoepke
Revealing
So, there was a period in Hollywood when the lid was pretty much off, when not all girls were virgins or dependents like those of the 1950's. That, of course, was the now legendary pre- Code period from 1929 to 1934. This independently produced documentary does a good job of profiling the different independent girl types from that freewheeling time. From prostitutes to femme-fatales to executive types, the array is colorful and challenging, with illustrating snippets from the films themselves, plus cameo commentary from a few of the surviving actresses (Karen Morley, Frances Dee, et al.).

Glimpsed among actresses of the time are such independent types as Kay Francis, Joan Blondell, Greta Garbo, and Norma Shearer, plus many others. Men are strictly marginal, though a few are recognizable in the longer shots. Of course, the emphasis is on sex and seduction, subjects that became taboo once the Code kicked in. So it's fascinating to view the explicitness from a time long before the twin bed and closed mouth kissing of the next 30- years. Most of all, however, it's the notion of liberated, independent women that comes across, as commentator Molly Haskell points out. In short, these are movie images that come much closer to real female sexuality than the censored Hollywood period that followed. For years these pre-Code films were not shown on TV because of their content. Thus, their existence may come as a surprise to many viewers, making this a revealing little documentary in more ways than one.

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Soundtracks

Shadow Waltz
Music by
Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Used by permission of Warner/Chappell Music

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Documentary

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