Proof That It’s Pre-Code:
- Prostitutes galore.
- “He wants me to ‘help him check up on his groceries'” said in highly suggestive manner.
- Women having sex for money. Sometimes as previously mentioned prostitutes, but on the side as well.
- Booze. “I could do some thinking on gin, if I had some.”
- Making light of prohibition. “The Eighteenth Amendment is a law, and as a law should be enforced until it stops being a law”
- One woman offers the porter something that is so suggestive that it’s covered up by a fog horn.
- One scene of a wanton tossing of prostitutes into a river.
On a personal note, I sometimes wonder about how many I films I watch in a given year center on or simply contain prostitutes. I saw Twelve Monkeys last night which contained the ‘crazy gross’ prostitute archetype, Django from Monday night had the ‘old looney’ version covered, and the series finale/TV movie of “Pulling” I watched back on Sunday had one character pretending to be an ‘classy escort’ to get drinks and food. That’s three films with three different kind of prostitutes in three days.
I suppose the preoccupation with prostitutes in film making is an understandable one: women are complex and unknowable, but if they will take off their clothes for money, then you at least have a starting point. To restructure an old joke, now that you know that they’ll do it, you just have to figure out the price.
I doubt I’m going to find many revelations about prostitutes in my exploration of Pre-Code cinema, besides that they’re plentiful, pretty, and audacious. One of the strange things about these movies is that, after the code until the end of the studio system, prostitution was forced into a coded, double life. Girls who sold themselves went from being vivacious to becoming disreputable, ornery, and rarely good lookers.
But, for now, prostitutes! They’re scheming and conniving. In Bed of Roses, a pair of wise crackers get out of the county clink. After telling a priest off, they jump on the riverboat to make their way to the city to try and find some sugar daddies.
Our main girl trick flipper goes by the name of Lorry, and is played by an actress named Constance Bennett who possesses what would come to be identified as Lucille Ball mannerisms about two decades later.
Wouldn’t it weird to have your personality identified with that of someone who wasn’t even born when you possessed said personality? That’s like saying that Elvis had a lot of Kurt Russell in him or something. Weird.
Okay, apparently I’m easily distracted tonight. So Lorry, while on the boat, makes a play at seducing some cotton tycoons with her friend by plying them with drinks and dancing, which the people who run the boat aren’t too fond of. After her offer to the porter, which is apparently so suggestive this film doesn’t even let us hear it, Lorry decides to escape another prison sentence by jumping overboard.
She ends up on a work ship that’s going the opposite way on the river, and she ends up getting rescued by a hunky Joel McCrea in one of his earlier roles. He’s rough and tumble and the two instantly don’t hit it off but then suddenly do. Lorry runs away anyway, still determined to mine a rich man than stand by a poor one.
Luckily, Lorry’s scheme of seduction which involves dressing like a reporter, giving an interview and getting the man drunk enough when he wakes up next to her the next morning and they’re both a bit undressed– well, hush money time at the very least. Unfortunately, this is not entirely morally fulfilling, so we meet with the film’s dilemma of what Lorry should go with, the easy life or the hard one, money or love, eggs or bacon.
Well, Hollywood was always Hollywood, and they’ve definitely been selling that ‘love conquers all bit’ a long time even before this picture was made. Bed of Roses is an old story, and it’s uninspired direction doesn’t help it very much. Tepid, unsurprising fluff is the best I can say for it.
But prostitutes. I finally watched a movie tonight without any prostitutes whatsoever, and that was the magnificently sublime Cairo Time, which I will hopefully have a review of up next week. It’s good to get a break from sex workers I think– it’s such a depressing field, and no one who ever makes movies really seems to notice. I think that’s because the similarities between what prostitutes do and what working in the film industry is like are similar in a lot of ways, but I’ll save that particular crude insight for another day.