Red Headed Woman

Irving Talberg tried, he really tried. But every effort he made to please the censors and tone down this tarty little tale of a scheming trollope that sleeps her way to the top only made things worse. The Legion of Decency was incensed. The film was

banned. Where it was not banned it was hacked to pieces prior to showing. Red-Headed Woman became one of the infamous “Pre-Code” films that led to the draconian Hays Production code of 1934.  The code would remain in effect until 1968 — and separate twin beds reigned on tv  and in films across America for the next 30 years.  But it’s star, the braless (and occasionally pantiless)  Jean Harlow, became an instant Superstar. Thalberg had a Hit.

Katherine Brush’s little book Red-Headed Woman did not mine new slatternly territory in 1931. “Bad Girl” stories were quite popular in the 1920’s and early 1930’s and formed the basis of quite a few films. What is interesting is the effort and the “tweaks” Thalberg made to the story that he thought would help sell it to the masses. The tweaks led to it’s scandalous notoriety and its reputation as a classic today.

When MGM procured the novel for film adaptation they first hired F. Scott Fitzgerald to work on the first draft. By all accounts, it was dreary crapola. Than Thalberg had a brainstorm. What if he made it a comedy, instead of a cynical satire like the book? He reasoned that if the audience could laugh at the home-wrecking hussy, they wouldn’t be so offensive. He then hired Anita Loos to do the rewrite. The result was one of the best comedic scripts of the 1930’s. The censors were persuaded to ok the script.


Avon (no number listed), published 1942, first edition.Scuff on front cover. Partially detached cover; lift off front part of spine. light browning of pages.

Very rare paperback.

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