Pre-Code Gams and Dams(els).

Marlene Dietrich... they're alllll Dietrich.



A whole lotta tomato.

Pick your hyperbole, the fact is that 1930s cinema were full of that most suggestive of appendages in a way never quite paralleled since.

Sure, they’re still everywhere because they’re still sexy. They’ve always been sexy– ever since skirts first hiked heavenward in the late 20s straight through to today. But never quite this sexy. Perhaps for the fact that the definition of “sexy” is dependent upon the word “suggestive.” Today, sex on film is hardly suggestive. It is blatant, forthright, overpowering, and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.

These shots? They leave everything to the imagination.

Wherein the real power lies…

This post is not meant to spark any sort of debate on feminism v. femininity v. sexism … although I’m always game for it.

And since the fundamental core of feminism is the freedom of female CHOICE, I choose to see the following images, not as sexual exploitation, but rather as strong, working women, embracing their newly won sexuality.

And, largely unknown to them, so deeply changing the game in the process.

Chorus girl gams in 42nd STREET
Thelma Todd
Clara Bow, cinema's original IT girl, in 1927.
Joan Blondell
Carole Lombard
Our Dancing Daughters-- Joan Crawford and Anita Page
Eleanor Powell, 1935
Ruby Keeler
Ginger sur la plage.
Joan- Oh Joan - Blondell

Sexy Harlow
Anita Page... in charge, no holds bars.
Myrna Loy
Barbara Stanwyck in LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT, 1933
Toby Wing
Bette Davis, Santa Monica CA
Busby Berkeley's DAMES

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

7 thoughts on “Pre-Code Gams and Dams(els).

  1. Some great photos here! Sexy IS suggestive. Never blatant! A quote attributed to Sophia Loren: “Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got”.

  2. Oh my, legs galore, and aren’t they lovely. On this, the day of Marlene Dietrich’s “Summer Under the Stars” 24-hours on TCM, I thought a nod to her shapely pre-code legs would be timely – from “Morocco” (’30):

    Her legs seemed to become only more gorgeous with time…

  3. I cannot emphasise enough how much I love this post, and your prose about the sexiness of what is suggested, not shown in lurid detail. Fabulous blog, by the way!

  4. Watching a bunch of Pre-Codes, it’s quickly obvious how appreciated gams were. I’ve watched about 50 so far for my blog, and I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping track of how many times the camera pans up and down the legs of a shapely lady. The only thing stopping that is that just happens too often!

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