HARLEM SEXBOMBS: CENSORED STUFF FROM 1938 (Or 37?)
"Vogues Of 1938" (also known as "Walter Wanger's Vogues Of 1938", after the eponymous producer whose name not only didn't mean much of anything to the moviegoing public but may well have been a factor in the film having the rare distinction of being a depression-era musical that actually lost money according to this Wikipedia entry--STOP ME!!)...
Anyway, where was I? "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938" was actually made in 1937, which may have been another contributing factor to its financial failure. After all, who wants to see a movie that doesn't even know what year it was made in? Perhaps the fact that it was named after the following year caused people to stay away from the theaters, assuming that it would be there next year (which, after all, is understandable given that the movie was named after the following year. Jesus, how do I stop this rant?)
As musicals go, it would seem to have left no mark whatsoever on film history. Walter Wanger later produced some fine movies ("Stagecoach", "Foreign Correspondent", "I Want To Live" etc.) but the mark he left on film history was a rather dark one; he was married to the actress Joan Bennett, who purportedly had an extra-marital affair with the agent Jennings Lang. When Wanger found out, he got a gun and shot Lang in the testicles. (This later resulted in a little Hollywood Gothic humor, as people began referring to the unfortunate agent as Jenning Lang). (Get it? Jenning?)
Why the hell am I writing about this and what is that clip doing up there? Well, one of the songs from "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938 or 1937 or whatever" is a terrific jump tune called "Turn On That Red Hot Heat (and blow your blues away...)". It was staged as an all-black revue show-stopper and apparently contained an 'orgy' section so salacious that the Hays Office demanded it be cut. But the Gods of Cinema prevailed and the scene survived as an outtake that was finally discovered sometime in the recent past. The first few minutes of the clip are the 'clean' section and features some pretty incredible, now forgotten, dance performers. The orgy stuff happens in the last couple of minutes and, though the quality of the print is execrable, it actually does live up to the hype that the Youtube poster promises. Sex sells now but it scared the crap out of people in the 30s I guess--or at least the white/Christian/Puritan/Choirboys who ran the Hollywood decency committees. And while sex didn't seem to phase Walter Wanger (producer of "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938"--made in 1937), it certainly did piss him off when he found out his wife was having it with somebody else--an agent (no less) named Jenning Lane. Get it? Jenning?
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 1:32 PM