Based on a treatment by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, an early practitioner of the proverbial casting couch in Hollywood, Baby Face, is a provocative pre-Code film starring Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers. Pimped out to sleazy customers in her father’s speakeasy since the age of 14 and inspired by a passage from Nietzsche, she jumps a freight train with her African American coworker and friend Chico and heads to New York. She decides to “sleep her way to the top” climbing the social and financial ladder in a world of high-powered male executives. The film is also remarkable for Lily’s relationship with her African American female companion played by Theresa Harris and a cameo by a young John Wayne.
Marketed with the sensational tagline, “She had it and made it pay,” Baby Face led to the creation of the production code. The Censorship Board rejected the original version for its frank portrayal of sexual content and the uncensored version remained lost until 2004. The film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. Baby Face provokes questions about the relationship of female representation, of particular interest in the post-Weinstein era. –Lexi Leban
Alfred E. Green entered films in 1912 as an actor for the Selig Polyscope Co. He became an assistant to director Colin Campbell and started directing two-reelers, turning to features in 1917. His career lasted into the mid-1950s but his output was mostly routine, though there were some gems among them. A solid, dependable journeyman, not given to flashy directorial touches, he was picked by Mary Pickford to direct quite a few of her pictures in the 1920s, and he guided Wallace Reid and Colleen Moore in several of their bigger hits. He directed Bette Davis in her Oscar-winning performance in Dangerous (1935) and was responsible for the commercial and critical success of The Jolson Story (1946).