Turner Classic Movies recently debuted a documentary entitled Thou Shalt Not Sin. The documentary examines pre-Code films and representations of bodies, sex, and sexuality and the changes in this representation in light of the Production Code. TCM offers this description:
Over seventy years later, they’ve lost none of their power to shock, entertain, and titillate. So-called “pre-Code” movies remain among the most vital films America has ever produced. But why were these films so much more sexually free and socially critical than what came before or after? Who created the Code, and what did it forbid? And why did it finally become a Hollywood commandment? The answer is a fascinating mix of scandal, big business and social history – a unique collision of events that resulted in one of the most dynamic – and delicious – periods in Hollywood history.
While a “popular history,” the outline that it offers is not terribly off base. The documentary is worth watching, not so much for the commentary, but for the film footage of scantily clad women and sexually explicit dialogue that still shocks, especially if one keeps films like Gone With the Wind or Casablanca in mind. The documentary, along with four pre-Code films that it discusses are available for purchase in a nice package entitled Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2 on TCM’s website or rental through Netflix. Anyone interested in religion and film will definitely not want to miss this.