There are three main documentaries on the pre-Code Hollywood era that are all worth checking out. And, luckily, as of this posting, all of them are available on YouTube!
Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship (2008)
Included in Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2, Thou Shalt Not is probably the best general look at the era. I have a full review and breakdown of it here.
Why Be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema (2007)
Produced by Hugh Hefner (yes), Why Be Good? covers the silent and early talkie era and how they dealt with sex before the spectre of censorship finally caught up to them. It’s a little more goofy and playful than the other two, but still worth checking out.
Complicated Women (2003)
Based on Mick LaSalle’s book of the same name, this one looks at the actresses of the pre-Code era and what they could get away with before censorship arrived. Also a lot of fun to watch and a nice cribbing of the book, though that’s definitely worth checking out too!
“Sex in Monochrome” (2015)
While not a documentary, The Secret History of Hollywood’s podcast about pre-Code Hollywood, “Sex in Monochrome”, is an extensive 3-hour look back at the twin demons of sin and celluloid. It’s a blast to listen to. It will make you a better human being.
If you know of any good podcasts, video essays, etc, about pre-Code Hollywood that I don’t have here, send me a link or leave a comment below. Cheers!