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.
This article shows the sequence of events, as well as the pressure groups involved, leading up to the Hays Production Code. The article begins by explaining the strong influence the Catholic Church and the Legion of Decency began developing during the 1930's, taking formal shape in 1933. It explains the "Legion pledge," which was a prayer-like oath that every Catholic Church, school, or other group was made to recite. It went as follows: "I condemn absolutely those debauching motion pictures which, with other degrading agencies, are corrupting public morals and promoting a sex mania in our land" affirmed the pledger. "Considering these evils, I hereby promise to remain away from all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency and Christian morality." This illustrates just one of the incredibly drastic tactics that the church used to bring down Pre-Code Hollywood. He then goes into detail of a study performed by the Motion Picture Research Council that claimed strong evidence of negative influence that film has on children. Doherty then goes into detail about the tug-of-war battles that occurred between the NRA divisional administrator and the MPAA. He then goes on to put Joseph Breen's power over the PCA into its true context. The reality was that under his authority as supreme sentinel and inspector general of American cinema, no Hollywood film received a visa for exhibition without meeting Code specifications as interpreted by Joseph I. Breen. It was he who vetted story lines, blue-penciled dialogue, and exercised the moral equivalent of final cut over hundreds of motion pictures per year. "More than any single individual, he shaped the moral stature of the American motion picture."