My Double Play: Old Movies and Baseball



She Said What???

The quote from this early scene in the 1935 movie, “Biography of a Bachelor Girl”, is what some unspecified members of the old movie industry censorship code group (1930-68) thought they heard when they happened to hear them spoken by beautiful lead actress Ann Harding to her old earlier times boy friend, actor Edward Everett Horton.

What Ms. Harding actually said, according to the script, and my numerous replays of that spot on the DVR copy from the movie’s broadcast this past weekend on the Turner Classic Movies channel were exactly these: ““OH BUNNY, WHAT ON EARTH HAS HAPPENED TO YOU? YOU USED TO BE QUITE A NICE BOY – EVEN FUN OCCASIONALLY.”

Close, but no cigar!

Thank you TCM movie host Ben Mankiewicz for alerting us to look and listen for this issue early on in the playing of the film. In a way that is similar to baseball, or in all passions for any area of history, there is always something new to learn. At any rate, it turned out to be a ripple in the stream issue and the movie went forward without editing, but that wasn’t all the case. The movie’s “Hays Code” was named for Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945.

The Code had been in effect since 1930, but serious enforcement of it didn’t go into effect until 1934. It wasn’t surprising that a 1935 movie would get this kind of close attention.

It also brings home how much the advent of “talkies” in the 1920’s increased the fear that some Hollywood producers would now run morally amuck and bring down the wrath of government regulation upon the entire industry. So, in self-defense, the film industry created their own code of righteousness – regulating that criminals had to pay for their film crimes, and that sex had to be kept out of sight and even restrained from suggestion or plays on words by film characters. An actor and actress could not sit down together on a bed unless they each kept one foot on the floor for as long as they remained there.

Of course, the nation was operating under a different moral compass in those days. It was not one I admire, nor one I’d ever like to see us repeat.

Most movies were all white; people never had mixed race relationships; it was OK for major white stars to don themselves in minstrel show make up and act like buffoons; and to present minorities, mostly blacks, but sometimes Native Americans, Asians, and Hispanics as smiling stereotypical servants and sidekicks; and everybody smoked heavily and drank themselves into stupors with no long-term side effects; and if you were non-white, you had earned the right to fight for your country too, as long as you understood that you still couldn’t break bread, live next door, or attend church with whites once you came home, if you came home.

Let’s hope that most of our younger people shall live to see the day in which each of them only has to show up as a decent human being to earn their places at the table of life. Statues cannot put you there – or keep you away – once that day comes.

Watch a few really old movies from the 1930’s, for example, and you will get to see all the reasons we still aren’t there today as the brothers and sisters we all really are. And you really won’t have to work hard to see these missed opportunities. You’ll simply need to be old enough to get them. It’s all there in what they say. And what they don’t say. In what the characters do. And what they don’t do.

At least the old movies work from a dynamic narrative script. And the same cannot be said for The Fast and The Furious efforts of this day and time.

My Guilty Pleasure

Some nights I will double play a DVR movie from TCM with an ongoing DVR of the Astros game. depending upon how much the game grips my early inning attention span. It works best when Keuchel pitches. In a typical Keuchel game, I will watch the whole first inning of a home game. Then watch the movie for however long it takes “K” to retire the side and switch back to watch the Astros hit. I never miss anything because of the replay capacity. And my mind “sometimes” seems to crave the multi-tasking. The other night I got to watch Harold Lloyd as a 1928 New York taxi driver whose job it was to get a late Babe Ruth (the real Babe) to Yankee Stadium on time for his game. What a hoot! I thought the Babe was going to have to change his pants as a result of that little hop over the bridge from Harlem.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle





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