Plot: Warner Archive’s remarkable Forbidden Hollywood Collection series continues with this third installment, which offers up six pre-code productions from maverick director William Wellman, also known as Wild Bill. These movies cover a wide scope of themes and topics, but share a common trait of pushing social boundaries and making use of the pre-code creative freedom. As with previous volumes, this one features a number of strong female leads in memorable roles, but there’s also more variety in this third collection than the others. Joan Blondell, Mary Astor, Barbara Stanwyck, and Loretta Young are all in lead roles here to ensure fans of classic Hollywood’s iconic women will be pleased, but we also have Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road, which offer up more male driven narratives. But regardless of who plays the leads in these movies, the performances are terrific and the exploration of social issues is handled in a frank, direct fashion. Wellman serves as director on all six as well, so you know that aspect is handled with great skill.

I’ve written full reviews for each of the movies in this collection, which you can find below, but the quick overview is that this is once again a rock solid selection of pre-code cinema. Perhaps not as strong as the previous volumes, but those collections cast a huge shadow, so that is no knock on these pictures. I appreciated Heroes for Sale a lot, as it deals with addiction, the tolls of war, and personal foibles in interesting ways, but I think Other Men’s Women would be my personal favorite of the lot. Joan Blondell is radiant in her role and despite having only a few scenes, she absolutely steals the show. I also loved Barbara Stanwyck in The Purchase Price, though she is the main reason to see that one, while Wild Boys of the Road is a stark, grounded look inside the lives of young people trying to navigate a bleak world. Frisco Jenny and Midnight Mary have slightly similar “good girls gone bad” narratives, but with much different approaches taken by leads Ruth Chatterton and Loretta Young. The six movies been given very impressive visual transfers and this set also includes audio commentaries on several films, shorts & cartoons, and two feature length documentaries on the life and career of William Wellman.

1. Other Men’s Women–

2. The Purchase Price–

3. Frisco Jenny–

4. Midnight Mary–

5. Heroes for Sale–

6. Wild Boys of the Road–

Final Thoughts: This is an unbelievable collection for fans of pre-code cinema, with six worthwhile movies, two insightful documentaries, all of the shorts & cartoons, and more, all for one low price. You can see some of Hollywood’s legends in memorable roles, watch Joan Blondell in one of the best drunk performances ever, and see how pre-code movies handled some important, often still relevant social issues. While a couple of the movies might not be as good as the others, all six are worth a look and overall, the film quality here is impressive. An easy recommendation to fans of classic cinema or bold filmmakers.

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