Chris Hicks: A trio of early ‘talkies’ lead vintage titles on video this week

Movies that were made before the film industry’s censorship arm, the Production Code, went into effect in 1934, tend to have material that is much more adult than those produced later, as the first three titles here demonstrate. Of course, they are still in PG territory compared to what we see today.

“Broadway Babies” (Warner Archive, 1929, b/w, trailer).

“Playing Around” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w). “Vivacious” is a word that critics have often applied to Alice White, whose career peaked near the end of silent films and the early years of “talkies.” And that adjective certainly applies in these two early sound pictures, in which White plays characters named Delight and Sheba, respectively, two gold-diggers who learn the hard way that money isn’t everything.

In “Broadway Babies” White plays a chorus girl torn between her poor stage-manager boyfriend and a well-off gangster, whom she almost marries. In “Playing Around,” White is a stenographer pursued by the poor soda jerk in her father’s cigar store, but she instead runs off with a gangster who pretends to be rich but then robs and shoots her father. The films are routine B pictures, but White is true to her character’s name in the first film, a real delight. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-Rs available at

“Big Business Girl” (Warner Archive, 1931, trailer). An 18-year-old Loretta Young stars in this comedy about a wide-eyed innocent in a Manhattan secretarial pool with a boss who can’t keep his hands to himself. Meanwhile, her boyfriend’s band hits it big but forces him to go out on a tour. Will she succumb to her boss’ charms? Especially when he sics a femme fatale (Joan Blondell) on Loretta’s beau? Mild amusement ensues. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R available at

“The Legend of the Holy Drinker” (Arrow, 1988, not rated/probable PG-13, featurettes,…

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