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Five more Warner Bros. features produced before the Hollywood Production Code await viewers on the third volume of TCM’s consistently impressive Forbidden Hollywood series. While suggestive content (and by 21st century standards, extremely mild in its suggestiveness) is the overall binding factor of the films in the series, Volume 3 centers around the work of director William Wellman (Wings, The Public Enemy, The Ox-Bow Incident), who helmed each of the pictures in the set. The strongest feature of the set, both in terms of content and message, is perhaps 1933’s Wild Boys of the Road, with pint-sized Frankie Darro as a can-do kid searching for work amidst the urban jungle of Depression-era New York. It, along with Heroes for Sale (1933), with Richard Barthelmess as a World War I hero who battles drug addiction and corporate shenanigans, only to end up among the jobless, paint a fairly dark picture of the American middle class that may resonate in the modern economic landscape. The remaining pictures offer a brighter outlook, inspired, no doubt, by the arrival of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the White House. Midnight Mary (1933), the only picture in the collection from MGM, sees the eternally charming Loretta Young plunging headlong into a life of crime, only to be rescued by wealthy Franchot Tone. Then it’s Barbara Stanwyck in need of salvation in 1932’s The Purchase Price; her unlikely knight in shining armor is farmer George Brent, who offers her stability in the form of hard rural living (all the better to support the agricultural industry, one supposes). Frisco Jenny (1932) and Other Men’s Women (1931) are lighter-weight drama-romances; the former concerns a love triangle between Mary Astor, Grant Withers and Regis Toomey (with James Cagney and Joan Blondell stealing the scene in minor roles) against the backdrop of the Southern Pacific railways in Los Angeles, while the latter is high melodrama about bootlegger (Ruth Chatterton) who comes up against the district attorney, only to discover that he is the son she gave up for adoption. All six features offer an entertaining and intriguing glimpse of how Hollywood managed to address mature themes under its own rigid production code, as well as a reminder of Wellman’s versatility and skill at producing exciting fare in a wide variety of genres.

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As with previous Forbidden Hollywood releases, Volume 3 includes a wealth of extras; chief among these are two TCM documentaries on Wellman--1995’s Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, which features interviews with Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck; and 2007’s The Men Who Made the Movies by critic Richard Schickel. There are also several two-reeler mysteries, Bosko cartoons, and a Pete Smith short, as well as commentary on Midnight Mary, Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road, with the latter including Wellman’s son, actor/author William Wellman Jr.

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WA37290 Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 3 DVD (Other Men's Women / The Purchase Price / Frisco Jenny / Midnight Mary / Heroes for Sale / Wild Boys of the Road) $34.99