brotp: three on a match

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Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code (usually labeled, albeit inaccurately after 1934, as the “Hays Code”) censorship guidelines. Although the Code was adopted in 1930, oversight was poor and it did not become rigorously enforced until July 1, 1934. Before that date, movie content was restricted more by local laws, negotiations between the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) and the major studios, and popular opinion than strict adherence to the Hays Code, which was often ignored by Hollywood filmmakers.

As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence and homosexuality.

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For what we’ve done my love, I’m sorry.

Shit, I lost my lighter,” Frances said around her cigarette, already pinched on one side of her lips. She turned the little purse upside down, catching a wallet and chapstick and nothing else in her hand.

Sam patted his pockets, unearthing a Bic. He moved to light for Frances, but after flicking it twice, it was clear his light had died.

“I’ve got matches,” Ben said over the moody music.

“Such a boy scout,” Sam sniggered. Frances ignored him.

“Perfect, give them here,” Frances said, and Ben tossed the matchbook to her. She pulled one off the line and lit it on the back of the matchbook. She lit her cigarette first, and then held the match out the Sam, who inhaled to light his own. Ben took a step forward, but Frances shook the match to extinguished it. She tossed the pack back to Ben. “Light your own.”

“What?”

“Three on a match is bad luck,” Frances said plainly.

“You’re joking.”

“Of course she’s not,” Sam said, rolling his eyes and taking a drag. “In World War I or whatever, it was like a thing. If three guys lit up off one match, the enemy would know where to shoot.”

“That’s crap. Somebody probably made that up to sell more matches.”

“Frankie is big on luck,” Sam said, shrugging. “We try not to aggravate her superstitions.”

“So kind of you.”

“Yeah, I’m a real gentleman,” Sam said, his lips holding tight to the cigarette he’d lit on Frankie’s match. “C’mon, Ben. Light ‘em up.

—  Three On A Match, Tess Benser