Along with featuring stronger female characters, films examined female subject matters that would not be revisited until decades later in American films. Nefarious characters were seen to profit from their deeds, in some cases without significant repercussions, and drug use was a topic of several films. Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars such as Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell and Edward G. Robinson got their start in the era. Other stars who excelled during this period, however, like Ruth Chatterton (who decamped to England) and Warren William (the so-called “king of Pre-Code”, who died in 1948), would wind up essentially forgotten by the general public within a generation.
Beginning in late 1933 and escalating throughout the first half of 1934, American Roman Catholics launched a campaign against what they deemed the immorality of American cinema. This, plus a potential government takeover of film censorship and social research seeming to indicate that movies which were seen to be immoral could promote bad behavior, was enough pressure to force the studios to capitulate to greater oversight.