The Sin of Nora Moran (1932)
The Sin of Nora Moran is a Pre-Code film directed by Phil Goldstone & produced by Majestic Pictures in 1933. In the grand scheme of Pre-Code films (those made between 1930 through mid-1934), Nora Moran is a minor film. It wasn't made by one of the major Hollywood Studios. It didn't have a well known cast. And it's director, Goldstone, owned the company that released it. What makes the film special, however, is that it is well made, using an interesting combination of visual tricks (super imposing faces on the screen, for example) & non-lineal storytelling (told in narrated flashbacks) to elevate it above standard B movie fare. Nora Moran is a twice orphaned waif who joins to circus to make ends meet. When she is raped by the lion tamer she falls into the kind arms of a married man, who just happens to be running for governor. Without giving too much away, she is later accused of murder and sentenced to death.
The film stars Zita Johann as Nora & Paul Cavanagh as her lover. Johann was best known for her 2nd billing to Boris Karloff in the classic film The Mummy (1932), but she appeared in only 8 films in her career. Cavanagh went on to a long, but largely undistinguished career. In both cases their performances here are very good, with Johann's performance capturing the desperation, elation & resignation of the character's fate. I definitely recommend this film, but that's not why I bring it up this week.
As a minor film, released independent of the Hollywood system, films like The Sin of Nora Moran often disappear & are forgotten forever. Companies go bankrupt, copyrights expire and prints are lost or destroyed. It's the sad fate of thousands of films, most of them not very good, but some, like Nora Moran, are exceptional & worthy of preservation. That's where entities like the UCLA Film & Television Archive step in to rescue these films, often found in private collections, & bring them back into circulation (in the case of Nora Moran on a Blu-Ray released by thefilmdetective.com). The process is painstaking, time consuming & expensive, but it's akin to archeology or fine art restoration in its importance to preserve a 20th Century art form.
P.S.: The poster art below has little to do with the film itself, but is a reflection of the sensational efforts minor studios had to go to to draw attention to its films. As an aside, the image was drawn by Alberto Vargas, who would go on to fame as a creator of pin-up art for Esquire Magazine in the 1940's.