There are a good number of resources for any bookworm to read and learn about Pre-Code Hollywood. Below I’ve listed all of the books specifically available about pre-Code Hollywood, as well as any other books I’ve reviewed for the site.

Books About Pre-Code Hollywood Specifically

These books are the best resources for studying and learning about pre-Code Hollywood. These are my bibles, books I go to whenever I’m curious or want to learn more about a trend, film or subject.

Pre-Code Hollywood by Thomas Doherty Complicated Women by Mick LaSalle

Pre-Code Hollywood:
Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934

by Thomas Doherty


Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood

by Mick LaSalle


Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of the Modern Man

by Mick LaSalle

Amazon | My Review

11 Pre-Code Hollywood Movie Histories by Cliff Aliperti

Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood

by Mark A. Vieira


11 Pre-Code Hollywood Movies and Their Histories

by Cliff Aliperti


Film and Film History Books

Books about specific film trends, background, and censorship, not necessarily centered on the pre-Code era but still good information.

Dawn Of Technicolor review The Genius of the System Showmen

The Dawn of Technicolor:
1915 – 1935

by James Layton
and David Pierce

Amazon | My Review

The Genius
of the System

by Thomas Schatz


Showman, Sell It Hot!

by John McElwee


Books about Pre-Code Stars and Filmmakers

If you’re looking to find if a certain star has a biography written or available about them, check out their Actor or Actress page. This page only links the biographies I’ve reviewed.

The Bennetts: An Acting Family by Kellow Featured Player Mae Clarke James Curtis Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel Christina Rice book review pre-code hollywood

The Bennetts:
An Acting Family

by Brian Kellow

Amazon | My Review

Featured Player:
An Oral Autobiography of Mae Clarke

by James Curtis

Amazon | My Review

Ann Dvorak:
Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel

by Christina Rice

Amazon | My Review

The Inseparables by Christina Rice Todd2

The Inseperables

by Christina Rice


The Ice Cream Blonde

by Michelle Morgan

Amazon | My Review

Books I’ve Been Involved In

I can’t really review these since I was involved with them in one capacity or another, but you may also be interested in these titles.

Thoughts On The Thin Man Murder on Celluloid

 Thoughts on
The Thin Man

Edited by Danny Reid


Murder on Celluloid: The Cinematic Puzzles of Hildegarde Withers

Written by Danny Reid


This page updated whenever I add a new book review.

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Caren · April 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I’m reading the book THE DAME IN THE KIMONO: HOLLYWOOD, CENSORSHIP AND THE PRODUCTION CODE, FROM THE 1920’s TO THE 1960’s by Leonard J. Leff and Jerold L. Simmons. I’m using it as a resource for pre-Code film.

    Danny · April 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I haven’t heard of that one! I’ll definitely check it out and add it to my reading list. Thanks!

Ben · August 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Here’s a fantastic book about the Code from the inside. “See No Evil” by Jack Vizzard, published 1970. Vizzard came to work in the Production Code office, I believe in the early 1940’s, working directly under Joe Breen. He came in expecting to help save Hollywood from itself but ended up seeing the futility of such a mission. Told with a great deal of humor and irony. Gives some history of the early Code days, relates many wonderful anecdotes about the work he did as well as stories of the other censors. Used copies available on Amazon.

    Danny · August 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I ordered it. Thanks for the rec! I’ll add it here soon!

JennyG · January 14, 2016 at 3:02 am

Any recs for documentaries on pre-Code Hollywood? I teach a college-level “Novel into Film” course, and I’m looking for a film on pre-Code Hollywood, heavy with clips, to show my class as an introduction to the subject.

Cristiane · July 27, 2016 at 5:39 am

There’s a great book about early musicals – “A Song in the Dark” by Richard Barrios. Well-written, and utterly fascinating.

Bruce Brocka · October 22, 2016 at 9:10 am

Thanks for your site – I love it! I just bought the Doherty book above. I’ve recently become obsessed with these gems from my grandmother’s day, after watching the Mummy (1932) and wondering – wait could they do that back then!? and then discovering the wonders of pre-code movies. It really makes me question the conventional wisdom of the progression of the sexual revolution – it seems to have started with the 1900’s babies, not the boomers!

It’s also fascinating to experience a culture very directly, without modern filters – even more so than comic books and strips (avid nerd in that area)

    Viktor Zavadsky · January 1, 2020 at 11:18 am

    – yes! – the first “sexual revolution” was halted by the Great Depression & WW2 – post-war dreary 50’s conformity & oppression – rock & roll teen-age rebellion shook things up a bit but the real revolution was quietly initiated by the Beatniks – Baby Boomer 60’s hippies were like beatniks on LSD – college educated spawn of the hideous bourgeois suburban wastelands who rebelled against the racist right-wing oppressive conservative mainstream culture – they took up where the Flaming Youth of the 20’s left off – the Sexual Revolution was intended not only to liberate the sexually repressed populace of America – it was also intended to liberate sexuality itself from the stupid childish immaturity of the backward 1950’s – but it was too late – although censorship was ended, the silly puerile attitudes regarding sex are still prevalent and just as immature as it was in the 1950’s…