History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes

(Illustrated)

1932



The History of Sex in Cinema
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description
Screenshots

Baby Burlesks Shorts: (1932-1933)

A prime example of child exploitation films were the eight Educational Pictures' Baby Burlesks shorts (15-minute one reelers with toddlers playing adult roles and wearing provocative clothing). All of them featured four-year-old Shirley Temple. Tasteless films such as these led to an outcry for more wholesome films that didn't eroticize children.

  • Runt Page (1932)
  • War Babies (1932)
  • The Pie-Covered Wagon (1932)
  • Glad Rags to Riches (1933)
  • Kid in Hollywood (1933)
  • The Kid's Last Fight (1933)
  • Polly Tix in Washington (1933)
  • Kid 'in' Africa (1933)

The young Temple's first film appearance was in Runt Page (1932) as Lulu Parsnips (a take-off on Louella Parsons). In the second film War Babies (1932), Temple (as Charmaine) accepted a large lollypop from doughboy little boys. In Kid in Hollywood (1933), Temple was cast with the titillating name Morelegs Sweettrick (a play on the name Marlene Dietrich).

In Polly Tix in Washington (1933), Temple took the part of Polly Tix, a high-priced call girl/prostitute (!) sent by corrupt officials to influence a backwoods politician.



Baby Burlesks Star
Shirley Temple

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle (1932)

The character of Betty Boop was one of the few animated characters that was portrayed sexually. The provocative, adult-oriented, cartoon vamp-character introduced 'sex' into animated films.

Unfortunately, the cute, titillating 'boop-oop-a-doop' Betty was destined to be censored with the advent of the enforceable, conservative and puritanical Hays Production Code in 1934 that required her to be more fully dressed. She would soon disappear from the screen altogether.

Normally, she wore a strapless, thigh-high gown (and visible garter) and was based on a combination of:

  • flapper icon Clara Bow's 'It' Girl
  • Mae West's curvaceous figure
  • popular Broadway star and 'Boop Boop A Doop Girl' Helen Kane

In the 1932 pre-Code animation, she displayed a bit of breast with her hula outfit (a simple grass skirt and floral lei) and performed a sexy hula.

She also had her dress blow up in another animated short.




Betty Boop

Bird of Paradise (1932)

This sexy, violent, and exotic South Seas romance from RKO and director King Vidor (with dances directed by Busby Berkeley) was unseen for years due to its pre-Code nudity.

It was producer David O. Selznick's biggest work to date and one of the most expensive pictures of its time. It was a reworking of F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty's adventure-documentary Tabu (1931) (see earlier). It was shot on location in Hawaii at a cost of over a million dollars.

The film was profitable due to beautiful Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio starring as Luana - an alluring native princess, the chief's alluring daughter. She was fated to be cast in the flaming, destructive volcano to appease the gods, in the film's conclusion.

The controversial scenes included:

  • her nude (but tame) courtship swimming scene (at nighttime and difficult to see) with Johnny (wearing shorts)
  • the scene of her wearing only two flower leis (firmly fixed) while doing a South Seas exotic dance
  • an extended sequence on a paradisical small isle where Luana was kidnapped to share domestic bliss with white yachtsman-sailor Johnny Baker (Joel McCrea), her tabu lover. She was usually topless (except for the flower leis) or wearing a skimpy bathing top




Luana
(Dolores Del Rio)

Blonde Venus (1932)

This film was the most outlandish of the Dietrich/von Sternberg pictures, and a prime example of a film's script that was forced to be revised three times before production because of its alleged 'ridicule' of the sanctity of marriage. It was one of the weakest Dietrich/von Sternberg movies with its less than credible plot - bouncing its star back and forth from hedonistic stardom to domesticity.

In the first scene, German nightclub entertainer Helen Faraday (Marlene Dietrich) skinny-dipped in a lake with other playful women. Her nudity was teasingly obscured by tree branches when spied upon by a group of nearby tourist hikers. She swam up to them and asked: "Will you please go away?...Would you mind telling me how long this is going to keep up? You ought to be ashamed of yourself." One of the men, an American chemist named Ned (Herbert Marshall) bargained with the "water nymph" that he would leave if she would agree to see him later that evening after her theatrical show.

Ned's glimpse of her immediately led to their marriage and a five year-old son named Johnny (Dickie Moore), who was seen in the next transitional scene bathing in a tub. They were living in New York.

To pay for expensive ($1,500) medical radium poisoning treatments for ailing Ned's cancer to be administered in Germany, Helen (taking the named Helen Jones) began a glamorous career as a cabaret singer on the stage. She was billed as the "Blonde Venus."

The film was highlighted by her bizarre gorilla-suited "Hot Voodoo" number, to the beat of an African drum, in which she first took off her gorilla head and suit to reveal herself. She then sang the throaty song wearing a blonde Afro wig while surrounded by archetypal 'black' dancers -- the song's lyrics included:

"...That African tempo has made me a slave, hot voodoo - dance of sin, hot voodoo, worse than gin, I'd follow a cave man right into his cave."

At the same time, she engaged in an adulterous affair with suave playboy millionaire Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) - but as the code required, she would have to suffer the consequences as a 'fallen woman.'

Returning to the US unexpectedly early from Germany, Ned discovered her infidelity and learned how she had financed his treatments. She fled on a train with young Johnny to the Southern US where she was pursued by a private detective (Sidney Toler) for much of the picture. Forced to surrender Johnny to authorities, she eventually became an impoverished and destitute prostitute.

However, she was able to return to Paris, and revived her stage career at a cabaret. When Nick fled to Europe to forget about Helen, he watched one of her shows and they rekindled their romance. Engaged to her, Nickoffered to bring her back to New York, so they could be closer together - and so she could be nearer to her son. And then in another about-face after her return, Helen was reconciled to her estranged husband Ned, who recognized Johnny's attachment to his mother.


Skinny-Dipping

"Hot Voodoo"



Helen Faraday
(Marlene Dietrich)

Call Her Savage (1932)

This was a pre-Code Clara Bow and 20th Century Fox melodramatic film by director John Francis Dillon. The story included extramarital promiscuous sex, attempted rape, out-of-wedlock pregnancy/birth, drug addiction, adultery, attempted child molestation, inter-racial liaisons, an S&M whipping, prostitution, and wrestling with a large Great Dane dog.

It was the first Hollywood film to offer a view of a gay bar, with a scene in which two gay Greenwich Village waiters (dressed in maid's uniforms and carrying feather-dusters) table-hopped while singing about sailors in pajamas. The bar was earlier described as catering to unusual individuals: "Only wild poets and anarchists eat there."

27 year-old Clara Bow (the sexy "It Girl" in her second-to-last film) starred as bra-less, fiery-tempered, wild "half-breed" Texas heiress Nasa "Dynamite" Springer. She was a free-spirited girl, not knowing that she was the offspring of an American-Indian father and Anglo-Saxon white mother.

"Half Breed" Nasa Springer (Clara Bow)

After whipping a threatening rattlesnake and also taking her whip to another "half-breed" ranch hand named Moonglow (Gilbert Roland), she impertinently quipped to her father: "I was practicing in case I ever get married."

In the final scene, she spoke to Moonglow about finally learning about her own mixed heritage - her dark and shameful secret. [Her mother Ruth (Estelle Taylor) had become pregnant by Ronasa (Weldon Heyburn), an Indian, not by her husband Pete Springer (Willard Robinson), Nasa's presumed father.] She told Moonglow that she was glad to be a half-breed like him, in the last line of the film:

"My mother was a beautiful white woman...It makes clear many things I never understood before. We're both alike. I'm half-breed too...Moonglow, I'm glad. (She touched his hand)"


Gay Bar Scene


"Dynamite" Springer
(Clara Bow)

The Dentist (1932)

This W.C. Fields short was the first of four 20-minute shorts the famed comedian made in the early 1930s, with Mack Sennett as producer. A provocative burlesque sequence was almost completely excised, and also cut from TV showings in the 1950s and 60s.

This censor-baiting segment was censored for its depiction of the tool-wielding dentist (Fields) violating and mounting his prone female patient (regular Fields foil Elise Cavanna) in his dentist's chair. As he assaulted her, she wrapped her long, stockinged legs around his back.


Dentist Chair Assault

Faithless (1932)

This realistic, pre-Code "weepie" drama/soap opera was an adaptation of Mildred Cram's novel Tinfoil. It was a tangled tale about an outspoken, intelligent, and spoiled woman who was about to learn how to struggle to survive. It featured many elements: the harshness of the Depression, class conflicts, premarital sex, unemployment, adultery, gambling, labor disputes, and prostitution.

Independent-minded, "superficial," calculating heiress/socialite Carol Morgan (Broadway star Tallulah Bankhead) was the daughter of a wealthy NY banker. She spurned handsome, optimistic advertising man Bill Wade (Robert Montgomery) when misunderstandings occurred during their engagement and their values clashed. He had wanted to support her while working at a job in Chicago earning 'only' $20,000, while she wanted a three month honeymoon in Monte Carlo, followed by a life of luxury in a Park Avenue mansion. She scoffed at him, and they broke their engagement. When the Depression era hit soon after, they both became impoverished - now equals.

Faced with the prospect of sharing a life of poverty with Bill, she still refused to marry him. Instead, she traveled to Florida to maintain her lifestyle by living off some of her rich friends as a "social panhandler." She prostituted herself as the sexual mistress of rich, atrocious and repulsive businessman Peter M. Blainey (Hugh Herbert). Her disgust for the married man was apparent even though he provided her with a swanky apartment, jewels and gowns. She eventually left because of her disgust for the nasty, lecherous benefactor, to make her own way. She was unable to find employment, and ended up in a breadline. To buy a meal and pay rent, she sold off her shoes to her landlady (Louise Closser Hale).

Her old flame, class-fallen Bill Wade, now a blue-collar worker, happened to meet her in a cheap diner, where she was eating a bowl of soup. They became reacquainted, and with her new perspective on life and his forgiveness, they were married. However, life was not easy in a drab apartment, and they were soon destitute.

During a labor dispute, he was injured in a new job as a trucker, and she was forced to beg for employment to earn money for medicine for her ailing husband: "I’ll do anything. I must have money. I can’t let him die. I’ll scrub floors. Wash dishes. Anything!" With no other choice, she became a sacrificial, desperate streetwalker to provide money for him. As a prostitute on the streets, one of her prospective clients - Tony Wade (Maurice Murphy) - her husband's pious and judgmental younger brother! - recognized her. He yelled that she was a tramp, convinced of how awful she was ("I always said you’d end in the gutter"). They attracted the attention of nearby Officer Clancy (Ben Taggart). The kindly, soft-hearted law officer cautioned her to return to her husband, if she promised to give up hustling, and he helped her procure employment as a diner waitress.

When Bill was recovering, he learned from Tony (who was unaware of their marriage) of Carol's indiscretion: "Say, who do you think I ran into the first night I got into town? That girl you almost married. I always said she’d end up in the streets, and she sure did." But Bill was more forgiving, knowing how she had sacrificed for him, and cooked, washed, and taken care of him to keep him alive: ("Yes, it is terrible. But it’s wonderful, Tony. I owe my life, I owe everything that life may mean to me, to Carol"). Carol returned home, found out what had happened, and was willing to leave, but Bill was insistent that she remain with him ("You can’t go. I couldn’t live without you").

In the unlikely, happy ending, she received a new advertising job for $60/week. [After 1934, the Code would have required that Carol was more severely 'punished' for her indiscretions.]



Carol Morgan
(Tallulah Bankhead)

Freaks (1932)

MGM's horror film by Tod Browning about a romance between a sideshow midget and a beautiful female trapeze performer was severely edited after initial preview screenings. Even after editing, there were significant sexual innuendoes in the film:

  • the character of half-man/half-woman hermaphrodite Josephine-Joseph (as Herself/Himself), introduced as "living, breathing monstrosities!" It was clear that one of the conjoined twins could feel the erotic sexual pleasure of the other twin
  • the character of sexually-aggressive Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) who was cooking eggs on her stove for strongman Hercules (Henry Victor) and asked as she thrust out her chest at him: "How do you like them?" - referring not to the eggs but to her breasts in his line of sight; he replied: "Not bad" and grabbed her for a passionate kiss
  • the unusual sexual pairing of two midgets Hans (Harry Earles) and devoted Frieda (Daisy Earles); in one scene, fiancee Frieda rebuked Hans for smoking a large cigar ("You must not smoke such a big cigar") - implying in Freudian terms that he was too small to be enjoying a more manly phallic symbol. He tried to silence her: "I want no orders from a woman."
  • later in the wedding banquet scene, after Hans had married Cleo, his new bride challenged him: "What are you? A man or a baby?" - and she was the one who carried him over the threshhold
  • in the film's most disturbing scene, the freaks sought revenge and retribution against strongman Hercules by crawling and slithering in the mud under the carnival wagons, with knives in their hands, as they pursued him
  • the transformation of the tall and sexy Cleopatra into a legless, feathered chicken with a scarred and bruised face, drooping mouth, and a squawking mouth - she was punished for her greed, cruelty and duplicity toward one of the freaks

MGM pulled the film from distribution a month after its release, and in 1947, exhibition rights were sold to exploitation filmmaker/distributor Dwain Esper for the next 25 years. Inevitably, it was toured for an adults-only roadshow with alternative titles:

  • Forbidden Love
  • The Monster Show
  • Nature's Mistakes

It also sported exploitative taglines, such as: "Do Siamese Twins Make Love?", "Can a Full Grown Woman Truly Love a Midget?", and "What Sex is the Half Man Half Woman?"

The alarming film's most "offensive" segments (approximately 26 minutes) were excised including the original closing scene of an emasculated (not murdered) Hercules singing in a tenor voice (after castration) in "Tetrallini's Freaks and Music Hall."

In its place, a reconciling ending was tagged on - of the estranged midget lovers Hans and Frieda finding domestic happiness.


Josephine-Joseph

Cleopatra with Hercules

Hans and Frieda

Cleopatra with Hans


Revenge on Cleopatra

Frisco Jenny (1932)

This gritty, tear-jerking pre-Code WB "women's picture," a crime-melodrama from director William A. Wellman, was another tale of maternal sacrifice, similar to the earlier film Madame X (1929). The title character was advertised in trailers as "a girl who was too beautiful to be good and too good to be forgotten."

Following the 1906 quake (a spectacular sequence), Jenny Sandoval (Ruth Chatterton), the daughter of corrupt, bawdy saloon owner Jim Sandoval (Robert Emmett O'Connor), lost everything she owned - including her father and the father of her yet-to-be-born child, piano player Dan McAllister (James Murray).

The cataclysmic event forced the desperate single unwed mom to become involved with vice activities to survive - shady pursuits that wouldn't be allowed due to Code restrictions soon after. She vowed: "It may be the wrong way, but it’s going to be my way." During one of the parties where she helped to procure females, crooked lawyer-friend Steve Dutton (Louis Calhern) who had given Jenny financial help, murdered cheating gambler Ed Harris (J. Carroll Naish). Involved in the case as the only eyewitness, Jenny was forced to give up her out-of-wedlock, four year-old child to a wealthy judge (Berton Churchill) and his wife.

Eventually, she became the Number One "Madame" of San Francisco (in Chinatown), nicknamed "Frisco Jenny." In the meantime, in the film's major plot twist, her son had grown up within the high-society family and had became a crusading and prosecuting District Attorney, named Dan Reynolds (Donald Cook). He didn't know that when he ran for the office of DA, Jenny had aided him by framing his opponent. The moralistic lawyer was determined to shut down his own mother's business.

After engaging in many illicit activities (including bootlegging) during the era of Prohibition, she became involved in an altercation with Steve, who was fearing arrest. When he threatened to expose that she was Dan's real mother, she shot and killed him at Dan's office.

She was prosecuted during the trial as having no redeeming qualities - she refused to defend herself to protect her son's reputation. She took the fall for the "deliberate, cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder," and faced the death penalty by hanging. She remained silent when her son came to speak to her on death-row and learn her motivations.






Jenny Sandoval
(Ruth Chatterton)

Grand Hotel (1932)

The classic, all-star MGM epic masterpiece Grand Hotel (1932) was filled with high-powered stars of the early 1930s.

It showed the intertwined lives of five guests in Berlin's ritzy, opulent art-deco Grand Hotel over a two-day period:

  • ambitious, young, sparkingly beautiful, on-the-make, coquettish stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) - she aspired to be a movie star and live the good life
  • aging, suicidal, isolated, fragile, and lonely-for-love Russian ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) - she briefly fell in love with the noble, elegant, dashing, and financially-ruined Baron Felix von Gaigern (John Barrymore) with whom she shared sensuous kisses

Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) with Baron Felix (John Barrymore)

Grusinskaya
(Greta Garbo) with
Baron Felix

Night After Night (1932)

The early 30s film Night After Night (1932) was known for the debut of the inimitable, wise-cracking sex symbol Mae West in her first talking film (in a supporting role).

In her part as uncouth Maudie Triplett, West made a memorable first entrance on the screen, with what may be considered the single greatest opening bit in any film actress's career.

She swaggered into a nightclub, well-dressed and covered with jewels, where the wide-eyed cloakroom hat-check girl (Patricia Farley), overwhelmed by her, admired her diamonds:

Hatcheck girl: "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!"
Maudie (suggestively): "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie."


Maudie Triplett
(Mae West)

Rain (1932)

W. Somerset Maugham's steamy 'short-story' Miss Thompson had earlier been filmed in the silent era as Sadie Thompson (1928) starring Gloria Swanson. Since it was regarded as an 'unfilmable' play by Will Hays (responsible for the enforcement of the Hays Code, although stricter rules would come by 1934), the title was changed, while Crawford personally assured Hays that not one line of the original would turn up in the title cards.

Director Lewis Milestone's newest South Seas melodrama, a flop at the time, was regarded as sensationalist in its story of religious hypocrisy. It featured two major opposing archetypes: a fallen woman and a missionary figure.

Prostitute Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) found herself stranded on the South Pacific tropical island of Samoa in Pago Pago during a cholera epidemic quarantine, with self-righteous and zealous reformer Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston) and his wife (Beulah Bondi). Sadie was, as the tagline asserted: "A Woman Without Shame. A Woman Without Soul." She was about to be deported back to San Francisco to serve a three year sentence for past sins (she claimed that she was framed). After a religious redemption or conversion experience, she had agreed to return.

However, in the predictable climactic finale of the tale, Davidson succumbed to his repressed lust for the wild Sadie and raped her (off-screen), and then committed suicide (his body was found in a fishing net next to the ocean), due to his resultant guilt and shame. Grieving Mrs. Davidson told Sadie: "I'm sorry for him, and I'm sorry for you," as Sadie returned to her former profligate ways, with the film's final line:

"I'm sorry for everybody in the world, I guess."




Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) with Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston)

Red Dust (1932)

MGM's adventure romance/melodrama Red Dust (1932) told of a heated love triangle in the hot atmosphere of a Malaysian rubber plantation during the rainy season. The film was remade as Mogambo (1953), starring Clark Gable (21 years older), Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly.

Jean Harlow starred as a flirtatious, glib, and earthy platinum blonde Saigon hooker on the run named Vantine, who was stranded on macho Dennis Carson's (Clark Gable) Indo-chinese rubber plantation.

In the film's most notorious scene, she bathed naked in a rain barrel and requested two things:

"Gee, can't a girl take a bath in privacy?"
"Denny, scrub my back."

She also expressed how she wasn't modest: "Afraid I'll shock the Duchess? Don't you suppose she's ever seen a French postcard?"

Denny became involved in a love triangle with upper-class, refined adulteress Barbara "Babs" Willis (Mary Astor), newly-married to one of his engineers, Gary Willis (Gene Raymond). Denny rescued "Babs" in his arms from a rain-drenching jungle rainstorm and took a kiss from her after reaching shelter.

The film ended with Denny wounded by a shot-gun blast from a jealous "Babs." Vantine was reading to Denny from a newspaper story about a rabbit that goes hippity-hop, hippity-hop, while he made little walking motions with his fingers up her thigh - with her vulgar wisecrack:

"Hey, I wonder how this comes out?"



Vantine (Jean Harlow) with Dennis (Clark Gable)

"Babs" (Mary Astor)
with Dennis


Film Ending

Red Headed Woman (1932)

This huge pre-Hays Code box-office hit was considered lurid and sensational for its content that included marital infidelity, lots of implicit sex and promiscuity, violence, and sadism.

It starred sexy Jean Harlow as unrepentant, promiscuous, red-headed golddigger Lil "Red" Andrews. She challenged with the line:

"So gentlemen prefer blondes, do they?"

She was a calculating, man-baiting, morally-questionable, flirtatious, shameless 'bad girl,' bed-hopper and "dirty little home-wrecker" who traded her physical charms to climb up the business and social ladders.

In the opening scene, she asked about her dress: "Can you see through this?" - and after being told yes, she replied: "I'll wear it." Soon after, she bragged: "When I kiss 'em, they stay kissed for a long time."

In another scene, after she had been face-smacked by married lover William 'Bill'/'Willie' Legendre Jr. (Chester Morris), she snapped back:

"Ah, do it again, I like it, do it again!"

And then she forced a kiss on the outraged suitor. After gaining his sympathy by sobbing (with her breasts heaving) and being put on her bed in her locked apartment, she hid the key in her blouse - as he approached and the film faded to black.

The film outraged moral purists and sped the enforcement of the Production Code only a few years later for at least two reasons:

  • she wrecked her rich boss' marriage by marrying him, and then shot him during a quarrel
  • "Red" was at it again a few years later (in the final sequence) fleecing another rich old sugar daddy at the race track -- complete with a chauffeured limo driven by her lover Albert (Charles Boyer) - without any recrimination or punishment for her open sexuality



Lil with "Willie"
(Chester Morris)


Lil "Red" Andrews
(Jean Harlow)


Albert (Charles Boyer)

Scarface (1932)

In the early 1930s, Scarface (1932) was one of the boldest, most potent, raw and violently-brutal gangster-crime films ever made. One of its subtexts, incestuous attachment, was also portrayed by muted hints of an unnatural bond between the two main characters:

  • Scarface (Paul Muni)
  • his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak)

Throughout the film, Scarface expressed extreme jealousy over her dating of other fellas. During the film's final shootout scene, Cesca expressed her oneness with her brother:

"...you're me and I'm you. It's always been that way."

The film was heralded as an example of the kind of protection the Hollywood Production Code of Ethics could provide to the movie-going public when implemented in 1934. This film's sub-themes supposedly went uncontested - possibly, because some the most obvious references to incest were removed by Hawks himself.

Its release was delayed for two years due to director Howard Hawks' and co-producer Howard Hughes' squabbles with industry censors over its sensationalism and glorification of the gangster menace.



Scarface (Paul Muni) with Cesca (Ann Dvorak)

Shanghai Express (1932)

The fourth of the seven Dietrich/von Sternberg films in which they collaborated together was Shanghai Express (1932). Its main character was:

  • "coaster" Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich)

The mysterious woman of easy virtue was on a train hurtling through war-torn China, caught in political espionage.

She was known for saying to ex-lover army surgeon, Captain Donald "Doc" Harvey (Clive Brook), after she changed her name from Magdalen:

"It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily."




Shanghai Lily
(Marlene Dietrich)

The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Cecil B. DeMille's spectacular, pre-censorship epic was an excuse to display Rome's sins and depravities (homosexuality, orgies, nudity, and murder) in multiple ways and scenes. Using a religious plot line, DeMille was able to film erotic scenes without fear of censorship. The film's most decadent and debauched moments were cut by censoring boards, and deleted for the film's re-release in 1944, but then reinstated in the mid-90s video version.

The wicked Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert), mistress of debauched Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton in his first American film), bathed unabashedly in asses' milk - with her breasts bobbing on the surface.

There was an attempted corruptive seduction scene of virginal, blonde Christian Mercia (Elissa Landi) by temptress Ancaria (Joyzelle Joyner) during a lesbian-tinged dance of the "Naked Moon" that visibly aroused its audience.

In other scenes, semi-naked women were condemned to slaughter in the Roman Arena:

  • one rope-stretched female victim (Sally Rand) awaited hissing crocodiles
  • another flower-garlanded-tied nude female Christian martyr awaited a devouring death from a menacing silverback gorilla

 


Empress Poppaea
(Claudette Colbert)


Seduction of Christian
(Elissa Landi) by Ancaria
(Joyzelle Joyner)


Martyr Victim

Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932)

The first Tarzan talkie, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932), based upon the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, featured two very popular stars:

  • the 'ape man' Tarzan (Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller)
  • lovely English girl Jane Parker (Maureen O'Sullivan)

Jane arrived in Africa for a dangerous expedition with her father James Parker (C. Aubrey Smith) searching for the fabled elephant graveyard.

In one of her earliest scenes before meeting Tarzan, she changed down to a revealing slip, and cleansed her face while looking in a mirror with cold cream to "preserve that schoolgirl complexion."

After being abducted by Tarzan and sleeping overnight in a tree (and supposedly enjoying sex with him), she got to know him (with their famous "Tarzan...Jane" dialogue).

She also joined Tarzan for a swim in very brief attire. She flirted with him as he swam with her, dunked her again and again, and tried to coax him to return her to the bank.

She also engaged him in a suggestively intimate and flirtatious scene, in which she caught herself:

"I don't think you'd better look at me like that?...Far too attractive...I love saying things to a man who can't understand, who doesn't even know what kisses are?"

[Note: It was remade in a controversial nude version with Bo Derek in 1981.]





Jane Parker
(Maureen O'Sullivan)


Bo Derek (as Jane) in Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981)

Three on a Match (1932)

Director Mervyn LeRoy teamed with First National Pictures for this incisive melodrama, with themes of frigidity, adultery, alcoholism, child abuse, drug use, kidnapping, and violence. The film's title was based upon a superstition that it was unlucky to light cigarettes from a single match ("Three on a Match Means One Will Die Soon"), especially for one of the three main characters.

It told about three women who met as public school students (middle school) and reunited as adult friends ten years later ("to dish the dirt"):

  • ex-reform school attendee and blonde show entertainer Mary Keaton/Bernard (Joan Blondell)
  • smart business college grad and stenographer Ruth Wescott (Bette Davis)
  • beautiful wealthy mother Vivian Revere/Kirkwood (Ann Dvorak), married to lawyer Robert Kirkwood (Warren William)

Dissatisfied and unhappy with her rich married life (it was implied that she had turned frigid with her husband), Vivian told him:

"I just seem fed up with everything...Everything depresses me, even this house."

She proposed going away for a much-needed break on an ocean cruise with her young 3 year old son Robert, Junior. She quickly became acquainted with sweet-talking gambler Michael Loftus (Lyle Talbot) onboard before the ship sailed. He flattered her with attention:

"I can tell you're a real woman. Not one of those stuffed brassieres you see on Park Avenue. Why, you've got all the works that make a woman want to go and live and love...You don't know what life is...Don't turn your back on life. Take it. Take it while you can."

She was convinced to leave the ship, run away with him before the ship left the port for Europe, and desert her husband. The headlines read what happened:

"RICH MOTHER AND CHILD DISAPPEAR FROM LINER - Docking of Ship at Cherbourg Reveals Mystery."

She resorted to a life of boozing, partying and neglect of her child, while taking a phony name (Mrs. Killroy) and living in the ritzy Warwick Hotel in New York City. After her husband was told the whereabouts of Vivian and Junior by a concerned Mary, he took the boy home, sought a divorce from Vivian, and then married Mary.

Vivian turned up destitute and desperate (and was presumably using cocaine - she wiped her nose tellingly), having spent everything she had. An indebted Loftus found himself owing $2,000 to unscrupulous gangsters, so he attempted to blackmail Mr. Kirkwood over Mary's past (a conviction of grand larceny), but then decided to kidnap the young five and a half year-old boy with a ransom demand of $25,000.

Vivian and her kidnapped son were both being held prisoner by gangsters. The kidnapping criminals threatened to have Loftus kill the boy "in cold blood."

Drug-addicted Vivian ultimately redeemed herself through suicidal self-sacrifice, when she alerted the authorities to their whereabouts. She scrawled a message in lipstick on her nightgown ("KIRKWOOD BOY 4TH FLOOR") and jumped out of the locked fourth-floor apartment window to her death.


Vivian (Ann Dvorak)








Climactic Ending

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

The exquisitely produced/directed Ernst Lubitsch film Trouble in Paradise (1932) told about a pair of sophisticated Parisian thieves:

  • Gaston (Herbert Marshall)
  • Lily (Miriam Hopkins)

In the opening scene, the pair shared a romantic and erotic dinner, in which sex and success in robbery were equated. The pair's polite and quick-witted, but seductive game/duel of dinner-table pickpocketing and mutual theft stretched on further, as they declared their love for each other while returning precious purloined objects.

Their obviously unmarried association was fueled by illicitly-acquired possessions that served as an aphrodisiac during foreplay. The erotic attraction between the two criminal soul-mates heated up considerably - and led them to recline on the couch where he professed his love:

"I love you. I loved you the moment I saw you. I'm mad about you - my little shoplifter. My sweet little pickpocket, my darling."

The scene ended when the couple's images slowly dissolved, and magically vanished and disappeared, leaving an empty sofa in the twilight. The room's light was switched off, and a sign was hung on the door: "Do Not Disturb." This was something that wouldn't happen in films after 1934.


Lily (Miriam Hopkins) with Gaston (Herbert Marshall)

"Do Not Disturb"

Sex in Cinematic History
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

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1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Index to All Decades, Years and Features


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