Hat Check Girl (1932)

Not all pre-Code films are as rampantly sexual as Baby Face (1933) or The Story of Temple Drake (1933). Yet the casual inclusion of sexual situations and criminal activities contributed to an overall impression of steaminess that generated ill feeling toward Hollywood at the time. Actress Sally Eilers’ heroine in this fast-moving romance is all virtue, working at a nightclub to support her family while refusing to sell liquor or trade in sexual favors like her co-worker, the young Ginger Rogers. Even when Eilers is forced to sell bootleg hooch to avoid a prison sentence, and gets caught up in the murder of a blackmailing gossip columnist, there’s no question of her inner purity. Nonetheless, a few elements—her boss’s depiction as a mobster and a brief scene in which Eilers and Rogers undress—were enough to make the film unreleasable after Production Code enforcement arrived in 1934, leaving it unseen for decades. The same could be said of Eilers. Once dubbed “the most beautiful girl in movies,” her career had faded by the mid-’30s.

World premiere restoration

Dir. Sidney Lanfield

In attendance: Anne Morra, Katie Trainor