Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Sick with the flu today, I caught Week-End Marriage on TCM with the luminous Loretta Young.
I was sipping chicken soup and happened to notice Loretta swanning about in a negligee with her boobs falling out — a nipple showing through the fabric! And then, a scene with a husband in wife in a double bed, giving each other a kiss!
OMG! This was ‘pre-code’ — meaning pre-Hays code. The Hays Code (which became the Breen Office in 1934) was the system of American movie censorship from 1932 to 1968.
As in most cases of real institutional censorship, though it might seem to be all about cleaning up sex scenes — it’s really about protecting us from challenging ideas.
True to pre-Hays Code form, Week-End Marriage, filmed in 1932, would be radical, even for today.
The film deals with a question that just doesn’t seem to go away: are working women a good thing? I wish I could say this issue has been decided in the affirmative — and of course it has been if you live in a mega-city like Toronto or New York. But if you move even slightly outside the borders of urbanity, you will quickly come to understand that working wives are still controversial (especially in fundamentalist religious culture).
In Week-End Marriage, Loretta Young convinces her husband to allow her to continue working after they tie the knot. One night she comes home late. Lo and behold, her hubby is angry and goes out for a drunken night on the town. Later, he almost ends up dead. All of this is of course attributed to Loretta Young’s dedication to her career.
I’ve been going on in these blogs about the relationship between capitalism and heterosexuality; i.e. emphasizing why they need each other. I’m sure some of the many people who don’t read this blog — and even some who do — think I’m nuts. So please note that when I speak of capitalism’s dependence on heterosexuality, I am talking about traditional marriages — not ‘weekend’ ones.
What Loretta Young wants to do in Week-End Marriage is reject heterosexuality as we know it — as it has functioned and will continue to function for years to come. In other words she sees marriage as between two NON-co-dependent equals who have no children, and who have fulfilling lives outside from their relationship — and who even flirt with infidelity.
I suppose technically of course this is still heterosexuality; but this is not what our culture tells us that marriage is. Week-End Marriage reveals enormous possibilities for what a modern, open marriage might be.
At the end of the movie a doctor (significantly) sets Loretta Young straight (so to speak). I don’t think I have ever heard such an eloquent and passionate explication of why capitalism needs heterosexuality in order to function. I wanted to share it with you:
Doctor: Haven’t you brought enough unhappiness to your husband without jeopardizing his life?
Lola Davis: I...?!?
Doctor: Let me give you a little advice. One way or another, a man will find a woman to look out for him not only when he's sick but when he's well. That's something you so-called "modern girls" never seem to count on. You talk about freedom, because you think it's something men
have and cherish. But they don't. They hate it. They get along best when they're not free. It's human nature, that's all. They need old-fashioned women looking after their health, nagging them into caution, feeding them properly, and giving them families to live for. A great many of these women are just as well-fitted for business as you are, but they don't want it. They put their talents to work instead in what people today think of as a narrow sphere. Well, I don't think it's narrow. I think it's the most important sphere of all. Not much recognition in it, perhaps--no spectacular publicity--but it's built up nations before now, and it will build them again.
Mrs. Davis: You hear that, Lola?