Commencing this Friday (September 26) in the Australian Cinemateque at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is a fantastic season of classic films that celebrate the creative freedom afforded to Hollywood filmmakers immediately prior to the introduction of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema explores that time of transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’; a short period in history that produced a collection of movies that remained some of the most salacious stories seen on screen until the emergence of the counter-culture movement in the 1960’s.

Forbidden Hollywood

Desperate to attract audiences in the aftermath of the Great Depression, Hollywood studios began to push the boundaries of moral standards and social acceptability with a series of films that mixed gritty realism with glamour. Strong female characters that challenged prevailing moral standards dominated the screen; making household names of the stars who played them.

Whilst the Production Code – a set of censorship guidelines – was originally drafted in 1930 following the release of several risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, it wasn’t until 1934 that it became a mandatory requirement that all films obtain a certificate of approval before being released. The Production Code would continue to influence what audiences could see on cinema screens until the late 1960’s when it was replaced by the classification system that remains in place today.


All of the films featuring in Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema were made between 1930 and 1934, taking advantage of the creative freedom that existed before the strict enforcement of the Production Code. The likes of James Cagney, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich star for directors such as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Josef Von Sternberg in films bristling with social commentary that pushed the boundaries with regard to depictions of criminality and sexuality.

Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema features more than 20 films from the era, including Scarface, Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express and 42nd Street.

The season runs from September 26 until November 2 and all screenings are FREE. The full schedule of screenings at the Australian Cinemateque is available here.