Bringing (Retro) Sexy Back

The Hays Code, first imposed upon Hollywood in 1934, unwittingly created a smarter breed of filmmaker. Under its restrictive thumb, writers and directors such as Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock found their way around the system by weaving the salacious and the scandalous into their films as thinly veiled subtext, like bootleggers peddling bathtub gin in speakeasies. Thursdays in May, however, the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library (625 Minnesota Avenue, 913-551-3280) harks back to the almost-anything-goes years before the code, when filmmakers more freely explored the dark underbelly of human nature. The Pre-Code Hollywood Film Series kicks off tonight at 6, with Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable foiling a murder plot in 1931’s Night Nurse (which sounds just like a pulp novel you’d find in John Waters’ personal collection, doesn’t it?). Later offerings feature Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Randolph Scott and Cary Grant. For more information, see

Thu., May 7, 6 p.m., 2009