Elliot Lavine and I Wake Up Dreaming present HOLLYWOOD BEFORE THE CODE



FOR SIX CONSECUTIVE THRILL-PACKED WEDNESDAY NIGHTS beginning February 24 (running through March 30), the palatial CASTRO THEATRE in San Francisco will play host to one of the most perennially popular locally grown film festivals: HOLLYWOOD BEFORE THE CODE! These pre-code fests originated at the Roxie back in the early 1990s under the programming guidance of Elliot Lavine and immediately became one of the City’s most hotly anticipated film events of the year. This year Lavine is back with his most astonishing line-up of pre-code gems ever: SEX! CRIME!! HORROR!!! And most in glorious 35mm! And ONLY at the CASTRO THEATRE in San Francisco!



SCARFACE at 7:45pm only!
This blistering pre-code gangster saga towers over all the others — an unnerving portrait of a brutally evil and sinfully immoral man (patterned loosely after Al Capone) obsessed with the power that crime and other sordid perversions have carved out for him. Blissfully violent and sexually profane, SCARFACE sears itself on your unsuspecting brain like few other films can. Starring Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, George Raft, Boris Karloff, Karen Morley. Forcefully directed by Howard Hawks. Photographed by Lee Garmes. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 93 mins. 1932.

TWO SECONDS at 6:15 and 9:35pm
In the final seconds before he is executed, convict John Allen relives the final fateful days that led up to the tragic circumstances that brought him to the death house. A film of enormous power and scope, featuring a bravura performance from its charismatic star, Edward G. Robinson. Also in the cast are Vivienne Osborne, Guy Kibbee, Preston Foster, J. Carrol Naish. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Photographed by Sol Polito. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 68 mins. 1932

WED MARCH 2: Sinsational Triple Feature!

TORCH SINGER at 6:15 only!
A young unwed mother, unable to support her illegitimate baby, decides to give the child up for adoption in order to pursue a career as a nightclub torch singer. Her progress is thwarted as she quickly succumbs to a life of heavy drinking and even heavier sexual adventure! Her downward spiral sets loose an unexpected chain of startling events! Starring Claudette Colbert, Ricardo Cortez, David Manners, Baby LeRoy. Directed by Alexander Hall. Photographed by Karl Struss. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 71 mins. 1933.

THREE ON A MATCH at 7:45 only!
Three young women, friends since childhood, reunite after years of separation. But the random hand of fate has determined that at least one of them will descend to the depths of drugs, depravity and death before the breathless pace of this tragically exciting sixty-threeee minute pre-code melodrama has exhausted itself. Starring Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Lyle Talbot, and Humphrey Bogart. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Photographed by Sid Polito. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 63 mins. 1932.

THE CHEAT at 9:00 only!

The beautiful but hopelessly spoiled wife of a wealthy businessman becomes ensnared in a vicious circle of deception and debauchery when her uncontrollable gambling addiction makes her the vulnerable target of a sadistic, sex-obsessed madman! Will the love of her man save her from an ignominious doom? Not necessarily: this is Pre-Code America! Starring Talulah Bankhead, Irving Pichel, Harvey Stephens. Directed by George Abbott. Photographed by George Folsey. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 74 mins. 1931.


SHANGHAI EXPRESS at 7:45 only!
A world of romantic intrigue erupts when the notorious Shanghai Lili, a woman who lives by her wits along the China Coast, is thrust into the role of saving the life of a famed British doctor — a man she passionately loved five years before! A dazzling visual spectacle, exploding with undeniable eroticism, this essential Pre-code masterpiece is not to be missed on the huge Castro screen! Starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland. Directed by Joseph von Sternberg. Photographed by Lee Garmes. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 80 mins. 1932.

SAFE IN HELL at 6:15 and 9:30.
In a squalid New Orleans hotel room, a young prostitute kills her rapist ex-lover. Hastily fleeing the scene she winds up on a remote Caribbean island where she waits for her sailor boyfriend to arrive. But she attracts the attention of a vicious local cop who hounds her into taking up with him. Circumstances lead to only one, tragic way out. Starring Dorothy Mackaill, Donald Cook, Ralf Harrolde. Directed by William Wellman. Photographed by Sid Hickox. In B&W. Digital Projection. 73 mins. 1931.


An innocent man is implicated in a violent crime and sentenced to ten years on a brutal Southern chain gang. He escapes and creates a new life for himself in Chicago but Fate steps in when his identity is uncovered, sending him back to a grueling life of torturous imprisonment. One of Hollywood’s most scathing social dramas, its final harrowing moments have galvanized a generation of film-goers. Starring Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Preston Foster, Allen Jenkins, Edward Ellis. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Photographed by Sol Polito. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print. 92 mins. 1932.

WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD at 6:15 and 9:35
As the Great Depression ravages the hopes and dreams of American families, young kids forage for themselves on the open road. A chilling reminder of the devastating effects of poverty and oppression, this rare film presents a slice of life that can only be described as nightmarish. Starring Frankie Darro, Rochelle Hudson. Edwin Phillips, Sterling Holloway, Sally Coonan. Directed by William Wellman. Photographed by Arthur Todd. In B&W. 35mm Studio Print. 68 mins. 1933.


An exotically adventurous film from a most unexpected director! A beautiful American missionary is thrown into a romantic interlude with a charismatic Chinese warlord. Breaking many Hollywood taboos — mainly the issue of miscegenation and, in this case sprinkled liberally with simmering displays of passion, this is a primal slice of pre-code erotica, a film that will amaze you from start to finish. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Nils Asther, Toshia Mori, Walter Connolly. Directed by Frank Capra. Photographed by Joseph Walker. In B&W. Newly restored 4K DCP. 88 mins. 1933.

DOWNSTAIRS at 6:15 and 9:35.
Another insane pre-code re-discovery is this sordidly fascinating melodrama about a charming lothario who sleeps his way through a variety of wealthy households, bedding not only the upstairs mistresses, but the downstairs maids as well! One of the most audaciously adult films of its day (which says a lot!), this is the film that formally dispels the misguided notion that its star was left stranded with the advent of film sound. Starring John Gilbert, Paul Lukas, Virginia Bruce, Hedda Hopper. Directed by Monta Bell. Photographed by Harold Rosson. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 77 mins. 1932


ISLAND OF LOST SOULS at 6:15 only!
On a desolate uncharted island, a demented scientist conducts unholy experiments in evolution, leading to the creation of a race of human abominations! He sets himself up as the ruling god of these unearthly beings, bringing about a reign of agonizing terror! One of Hollywood’s strangest, most disturbing horror classics. Based on the novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells. Starring Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Leila Hyams, Richard Arlen. Directed by Erle C. Kenton. Photographed by Karl Struss. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 70 mins. 1932.

DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE at 7:45 only!
“If you do one thing I don’t approve of while I’m gone, the LEAST little thing, mind you…I’ll show you what horror means!” Without a doubt the most shockingly sensational of the numerous incarnations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror story, a stunning and startling tour de force on every front — with enough visual pyrotechnics to fill a dozen films. Starring Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Photographed by Karl Struss. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 98 mins.

FREAKS at 9:45 only!
One of the most shockingly bizarre pre-code films of all time! A group of sideshow freaks in a traveling circus rally together to exact a terrifying vengeance on those who have cruelly exploited one of their own. At once a uniquely perverse horror story as well as a beautifully and poetically rendered plea for tolerance. An unforgettable experience on the big screen! Starring Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles. Directed by Tod Browning. Photographed by Merritt Gerstad. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print. 64 mins. 1932.

5 Responses

  1. Oh man!! I would LOVE to be in the City for this series.
    I love the Pre-code Era.

  2. This sounds like your best line up yet. If I could be there on March 2….Heaven!!!
    Bitter Tea of General Yen and Shanghai Express are two favorites, I’m sure they will be well received. Maybe someday…😊

  3. Beverly Kalinin

    Questions about the exciting pre-code program upcoming: Will the tickets be sold for each movie individually rather than one admittance fee per evening? Will they we sold in advance? And finally, why aren’t any shows screened in the daytime, especially the ones I want to see, which are all of the March 2, 9, 23 films?

  4. Robert Nakatani

    A friend and I are interested in going to your films on the evening of Wednesday, March 23rd. Will you or the Castro Theater be selling advance tickets for these films? If so, where and when? And is it both movies for one admission or do you need separate tickets for each movie?

  5. Judith Williams

    Good idea to leave a stack of those big cards advertising
    current Castro films at Books Inc @ Opera Plaza. There’s
    a shelf inside bookstore front door. Lots of culture vultures
    in the vicinity. If it were me—I’d stack the cards front to
    back—since all of the info is on the reverse of the card.
    Anyone picking up a card would see the text on the card
    underneath. I know, I know—this is a great idea.

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