The Hollywood censorship code was not actually properly enforced until 1934. Up to that time promiscuity on screen was accepted for the most part. Drugs, marital affairs,gambling were just as rampant in society then as they are now. The sirens of the silver screen played vamps, vixens and even thieves with great flair. They weren’t afraid to speak their minds or reveal their flesh either. Probably leading the pack in the naughty corner was the scintillating and extremely daring Mae West who made a living out of selling sex appeal on stage only. All was temptation. No sex involved. Her one liners were a classic and are widely quoted even today. “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me”? was one of her most famous quips. Mae was a shrewd business woman and controlled all aspects of her productions. She also wrote the scripts. Unique in the 30s to be a woman in charge of the men she worked with. Jean Harlow was another. Tough on the outside but soft as marshmallow on the inside. She was always the gal from the wrong side of the tracks who somehow manages to make good. Like Mae West she played a good vamp and always glammed it up for the camera. She often starred with Clark Gable and the chemistry between them was sizzling. She was the temptress and he the masculine foil to her sarcasm. Trying so hard to resist her allure but finding it difficult to remain aloof for long. She would eventually win out with her lovely combination cunning and sweetness. What was a guy to do? Joan Crawford too could heat up the screen with raw sex appeal and she definitely did not suffer fools lightly. Joan was a leading lady alright. Men would literally follow her into the great abyss is she so wanted. Men found her irresistable probably because she was so like them in the ways her characters thought and acted. There were many others too too numerous to mention who pushed the sexy, sultry screen siren to the limits. The films in which they appeared dealt with issues which broke the moral codes of society and often shocked the sensibilities of the audience. Films like ‘Baby Face’ with Barbara Stanwyck where the character is molested by her father and goes on to seek revenge on all men or ‘Grand Hotel’ with Crawford playing a secretary who sleeps with her boss in order to get ahead. By the 1940s following the war characters were not allowed to share the same bed on film and women rarely sassed. For more info on individual stars and on scenes from their films see ‘GreatGaffes.com. with articles by Gabby Du Gaffe.
Hollywood Sex Appeal 1930s ( Pre Code )