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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.
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, known as the "it girl" in one of her final films before scandal magazines, and legal problems forced her to leave Hollywood. She was also insecure about the sound of her voice and her Brooklyn accent after the transition from silent to sound movies.

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 (considered a "savage" in those racist times) who is most likely 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 in the movie is in a scene involving a rattlesnake, a scene that introduces us to her savagery.

Call Her Savage Call Her Savage Call Her Savage
Call Her Savage Call Her Savage Call Her Savage
Call Her Savage Call Her Savage Call Her Savage

The Snake Scene

The first time we see the adult Nasa she is wildly riding a horse, whipping it repeatedly and screaming yipee! until the horse is spooked by a rattlesnake sitting on a log and throws her to the ground. (The horse was probably so upset with her violent whipping that it would have thrown her to the ground for any reason.) When she gets up she sees the rattlesnake as it strikes out 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 friend of hers on horseback laughing at her. She pulls him off his horse, calls him a halfbreed, and whips him over and over as much as she whipped the snake. When she stops whipping, 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, but that could just be movie trickery. Something was making it move around, so it's possible Clara Bow was in the scene with the snake and actually whipping it but it's more likely 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. Call Her Savage is known for being the first film to show the brand new Empire State building and the first time a gay cabaret was shown in a sound film. It might just be the first film to use the over-exaggerated rattling sounds, too. It's the earliest use of them that I've seen. It could also just be the only film with rattling effects to survive since many films of the early sound era are lost.

Watch it on YouTube.