Mandalay (1934) Review

Proof That It’s Pre-Code

  • The first thing we’re introduced to is Ricardo Cortez playing a gun smuggler, on the run from the law and living on a beautiful yacht.
  • The second thing we’re introduced to is Kay Francis, and one of her first scenes is Cortez spying on her changing her clothes. Before her towel falls to the ground, we get this bit of dialogue:

“Get away from there! I’ll never get dressed, never!”
“I can think of worse things than that…”

Imagine, above this shot is her naked butt. Awesome.
  • ¬†Francis snaps at one point, “I’ll show you, you lying coolie!”. ‘Coolie’ is considered not a nice thing to say nowadays.
  • The old Pre-Code plot of a woman using her charms to seduce and take men for all they’re worth, though this round has her being forced into it. Her career is even more blatant than usual, as we see a montage as Francis descends into her life as a club hostess. The transition is subtly book ended by a shot of a ceiling fan, a not-so-subtle hint of what Francis is seeing as she acquires her money and infamy. Very nasty.
  • Someone gets away with murder again, though the murderess’ future isn’t exactly going to be rosy.
  • Our main character hides out under a pseudonym, which leads to this telling and sad exchange:

“Why go by Ms. Lang?”
“Under that name, I have no market value.”

  • Rejected for release in 1936 (yes, two years later) because of all of the Code violations, with the Breen Office noting that Mandalay was an especially egregious case since it’s “presenting the heroine as an immoral woman.”

The Particulars of the Picture

Tanya/Spot White …
Kay Francis
Dr. Gregory Burton …
Lyle Talbot
Tony Evans …
Ricardo Cortez
Nick …
Warner Oland
Mrs. Peters …
Ruth Donnelly
Directed by
Michael Curtiz

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