Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (2 Disk Special Edition): Commentary by Mike Nichols. Dir. Mike Nichols. Perf. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2006. The commentary track on the special edition DVD provides perhaps the most insightful perspective of the film as far as the on-set culture and interactions that occurred daily during the production of the film. Nichols gives a very in depth explanation of each scene, which includes filming techniques, lighting issues, relationships between actors and cameramen, as well as script censorship issues. For instance, Nichols explains how the studio forced them to change the explicative used by Martha as George opens the front door to greet the arriving guests. It was Nichols first feature film and was much different than the documentary style he was used to working with. It was very interesting to hear about the different challenges that the crew faced depending on the scene. Nichols also explains some of the back and forth battle that occurred between himself and the playwright Edward Albee as they attempted to adopt the Broadway play to the big screen. It is a valuable resource for examining the mindset of the filmmakers as they challenged the PCA in order to present the film as the artist intended.
Lewis, John. Hollywood V. Hardcore: How the Struggle Over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry. New York and London: New York UP, 2000. 135-191.Chapter 4, titled Hollywood v. Soft Core, examines arguably the most influential year of film censorship to date. In this year, MPAA president Jack Valenti issued a press release to stating that a new production code/ move rating system would be put into place. The same system is still used today to rate films. The chapter does a good job of outlining the events of how this code came into place. The author explains how the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" was denied by the PCA but began production anyway, anticipating that change was to come. It talks about the controversy over the language such as "screw" and "hump the hostess" were debated and the issues Valenti faced with content regulation. In the end of the meeting, Warner Brothers appealed the PCA's preliminary ruling to deny Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the film was released. Because of the films amazing success, it marked a point in history where the industry was beginning to understand that the Production Code was a dated system. The film was released with a warning stating "for adults only" and ranked third in the box office list in 1966 behind two other mature-themed pictures. This chapter is very useful and entertaining in its explanation of the pressures and challenges that Valenti faced when negotiating the new rating system. It offers a very in depth perspective and takes the reader on a film by film journey of the controversy.
Gardner, Gerald. The Censorship Papers: Movie Censorship Letters From the Hays Office, 1934 to 7968. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1987. 198-200.This part of Chapter 17, Dramas From Broadway, offers a very informative look at the process of the PCA when reviewing the script of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It tells of the meeting between Jack L. Warner and chief censor Geoffrey Shurlock. After reading a copy of the play by Edward Albee the censor gave a list of all of the explicatives and phrases that would be considered unacceptable by the PCA, which the chapter lists completely. This is a great example of the strictness of the PCA and its discretion towards strong language and sexual themes. When the film was actually made, many of these phrases are omitted or altered. The chapter goes on to explain how the Warner Brother's film held faithful to the Albee play. It was denied by the PCA and was appealed to the MPAA board. The chapter then lists the reasons why the MPAA decided to release the film after all. The reasons were: The film was not designed to be prurient; Warner Brothers has taken the position that no person under eighteen will be admitted unless accompanied by a parent, and that the exemption does not mean that the floodgates are open for language or other material. This chapter is very useful for getting an inside look at the appeal process of the time and the drastic exceptions made on behalf of who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
This article covers the history of film censorship in the United States extensively. It begins by explaining the different factors that lead up the self-regulation of the motion picture industry. Then it goes over every detail of the MPAA rating system, fully explaining the G,M,R, and X ratings. The article takes a turn when Bates attacks the rating system for its unconstitutional implications. He argues that films should not be limited in content because that would violate the filmmakers' First Amendment rights. He then goes into detail the vast differences between government censorship and the MPAA system which "lacks procedural safeguards that would be required of a state classification scheme". He then proceeds to attack the MPAA for their claims of not being a censorship agency. Towards the end, Bates makes strong arguments for the implementation of state action concepts to MPAA film classification. He explains the governmental-function, government-enforced, and state-inaction theories as possible alternatives to the current problem. He also examines the theoretical scope of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bates overall perspectives are very insightful for delving into the controversy of the MPAA system and the solutions he offers are very interesting and intuitive. His words serve to challenge the MPAA and any other organization that has seemingly unlimited power over people with little to no government intervention.