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Snakes in Movies
Call Her Savage (1932)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is a good example of the kind of pre-code film that was so shocking that they decided to impose a strict censorship code on all Hollywood movies, forbidding them from showing violence, nudity, sex, homosexuality, romance between people of different races, and much more. The code was the reason why married couples in movies (and TV) always slept in twin beds. It  stars silent film star Clara Bow in one of her final films, after her waning popularity due to the advent of sound along with scandals, divorce, and lawsuits forced her to retire.

Bow plays Nasa Springer, the daughter of one of the richest men in Texas. We see her grandfather committing adultery and murder, then we repeatedly hear the message that the sins of the father are passed on to their children. 18 years later we see her mother, after her husband goes away on a business trip, fooling around with an Indian man who is certainly Nasa's real father. The sins of her grandfather and her mixed blood all explain her "savage" behavior. We see her doing lots of nasty things in the movie, including smashing a guitar over a man's head, getting into a bar fight, and fighting with a woman at a fancy party. The very first time we see Nasa is in a scene involving a rattlesnake, that introduces us to her savagery.

The Snake Scene

We see Nasa wildly riding a horse, whipping it repeatedly and screaming yipee! until the horse is spooked by a rattlesnake sitting on a log. The horse throws her to the ground and when she gets up she sees the snake striking in her direction. She grabs her horse whip and viciously whips at the snake again and again until it crawls off the log. Then she hears a man on horseback laughing at her. She pulls him off his horse and whips him over and over as much as she whipped the snake. (And he's her friend!) When she stops, she feels bad and tells him that she hates to get angry but can't help it. Her father just happens to drive up in his automobile then and he asks Nasa why she was whipping the man. She tells him "I was practicing in case I ever get married."

The snake we see in the scene is a live rattlesnake, but I can't tell what species. It looks like the snake is actually being hit with something when Nasa is whipping it. Something was making it move around, so it's possible Clara Bow was in the scene with the snake and actually whipping it. It's also possible that it was manipulated by someone off-camera and edited to look realistic. All the time we see the snake we hear non-stop rattling sound effects. This is the earliest use of such effects I know of. Call Her Savage is known for being the first film to show the just-built Empire State building and the first time a gay cabaret was shown in a sound film, and it might just be the first film to use the over-exaggerated rattling sounds, too. Or it could just be the only one to survive since many films of the early sound era are lost.

Watch it on YouTube.