I Cover the Waterfront (May 19, 1933)
Released May 19, 1933: The daughter of a San Diego fisherman who smuggles Chinese people into the U.S. falls in love with the newspaper reporter who is determined to expose her father's smuggling operation.
Produced by Edward Small
Directed by James Cruze
Written by Wells Root and Jack Jevne from a novel by Max Miller.
The Actors: Claudette Colbert (Julie Kirk), Ben Lyon (H. Joseph 'Joe' Miller), Ernest Torrence (Eli Kirk), Hobart Cavanaugh (One Punch McCoy), Maurice Black (Ortegus the First Mate), Purnell Pratt (John Phelps, newspaper city editor), Harry Beresford (Old Chris the salvage man), Wilfred Lucas (Randall Coast Guard Officer), Claudia Coleman (Mother Morgan), Lillian Harmer (the gossip with the telescope), Al Hill (sailor), George Humbert (Tony Silva), Rosita Marstini (Mrs. Silva), Lee Phelps (reporter)
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Life, Love and Death for the Fisherman's Daughter
The story told in this movie is a good one, if a bit controversial, but the two stars stand out, for different reasons. This is a ‘pre-code’ movie – that is the code word for ‘before censorship’ by the Hayes office. Before 1934, when every movie produced in the U.S. was censored, movie studios could show and depict anything they wanted. In 1934 the Hays Office censors would have the power to tell movie studios what they could and could not show to the American public. For instance, kisses must never be longer than three seconds . . . . Ever . . . Murder must not be shown explicitly, especially the killing of 'good guy's . . . . death and dead bodies must be left up to the off-screen imagination.
In this pre-code story you will see a nude calendar girl in the graphic death scene of a sailor attacked by a shark, and indeed, the story opens with the scene about a naked female swimmer on the San Diego waterfront . . . . Claudette Colbert. You will also see the dead body of a smuggled Chinese man who was brutally sent to his death by the father of the female leading actress. You will experience possibly the first sexy bondage scene recorded on motion picture film. This is indeed a love story wrapped around a tale of smuggling, death and deceit, but the crime part of the story completely overwhelms the love story in my old mind. But first, the actors.
If you are a fan of old Hollywood movies, I don’t need to say much about French born actress Claudette Colbert. You will see her magnificent beauty in this story and know instantly why she became such a star. She was 30 years old when she filmed this story and her bubbly, innocent sexuality explodes on the screen as she falls in love with the leading man. What man wouldn't fall for the fatal beauty of Claudet Colbert? Not this fellow. If you are a guy and you don't fall in lust with this girl, you'd better check your pulse.
The leading man is Ben Lyon, a star as big as Claudette Colbert, but you probably don’t know his face or his name if you are not a Brit. Why? Because famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s child was kidnapped and murdered in 1932.
For the first time in known memory, the child of a famous person was kidnapped for ransom. The story swept around the world and many famous people re-thought their fame in regards to their family. Ben Lyon, the star of this movie, was a rising star that was perhaps in more demand than even Claudette Colbert in 1933. Ben Lyon discovered a young new actress and created her stage name - Marilyn Monroe. He was married to movie star and singer Bebe Daniels, a knock-out beauty and rising movie star, and they were eagerly starting their family. Because of the concern over the safety of their children, they did something amazing. After a failed attempt to kidnap their baby girl Barbara, they made the difficult decision to leave Hollywood, and to leave the United States . . . . They moved to England and started careers in Britain. Ben Lyon, his wife Bebe Daniels and their two children became famous as radio, television and motion picture stars in a situation comedy series called “Life with the Lyons”. Ben Lyon was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, gaining the title of Sir Benjamin Lyon, a very rare thing for an American to achieve.
In 1933 San Diego this pre-code love story is fraught with danger and disaster, as the rough side of life pushes against our lovers in a battle of life and death over love and lust. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Ben Lyon and Claudette Colbert
Ben Lyon and Purnell Pratt
Ben Lyon kisses Claudette Colbert
Ernest Torrence and Claudette Colbert
Ernest Torrence and Maurice Black
Maurice Black and Ernest Torrence
Purnell Pratt and Ben Lyon