Citation: Butters, Gerald. "An Age of Maturity." Banned in Kansas : Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966. By Gerald R. Butters and Gerald R. Butters. New York: University of Missouri P, 2007. 236-36
This book talks about how The Outlaw received a C for condemned rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency and its affect on the receipt of the film. Because the film was labeled as condemned, many theaters in the Midwest, including Kansas, did not want to risk showing it in theaters. In Kansas, the film was only allowed to show with significant cuts to Rio’s character. However, the controversy over why the film was banned created huge public interest and those theaters that chose to show the film generate huge revenue from it.
Again, the negative feedback from The Outlaw in the press added to public curiosity. It is interesting that the more censors tried to stop people from seeing the film for fear of corruption, the more audiences were drawn to it. In Kansas, many films that were considered too risqué were butchered to the point of unrecognizable. Many states in the Midwest held this same sentiment; however the ones that decided to show The Outlaw uncut reaped the rewards of their decision.
Citation: Schatz, Thomas. Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s. Published by University of California Press, 1999 pg. 36
This book discusses the impact on the movie industry that Howard Hughes fight with Breen and Hays had on Hollywood. It talks about how Hughes stood up to the censors relentlessly and his example was followed by others. His uprising began the resistance of other independent production companies to the restraints of the production code. It also showed that those who would resist would come from independent studios geared towards urban audiences.
While Hughes fought for the rights of The Outlaw to receive a seal of approval uncensored, he also led by example to undermine the moral restrictions of the production code. After the litigation with The Outlaw was over, other production companies began to fight against the code and release movies without a seal of approval. This is yet another way that Howard Hughes found a way to fight against the higher powers to make sure his movie was made.
Citation: Dart, Peter. "Breaking the Code: A Historical Footnote." Cinema journal 8 (1968): 39-41.
This article talks about how Howard Hughes used the controversy over his advertising of The Outlaw to create public interest for the movie. Hughes redid the posters and other advertising for the film after it released to mediocre reviews in San Francisco. However, he did not resubmit his new advertising to Hays and Breen, and they were not pleased with the explicit nature of some of his posters. Due to the bickering back and forth, it generated positive publicity for the film and it made more money at the box office.
In this case, the production code helped The Outlaw achieve the fame that it has today. When Hughes first released the movie, audiences and critics alike thought the movie was average bordering on bad. However, when Hughes began to argue with the P.C.A about his overly sexualized advertising, audiences took another look at the film. Without the moral harshness of the code, The Outlaw may have remained a second-rate film forever.
Citation: Klinger, Barbara. Melodrama and Meaning : History, Culture and the Films of Douglas Sirk. New York: Indiana University, Folklore Institute, 1994. 39-39.
This book describes how the Howard Hughes/MPAA case over The Outlaw began to open the floodgates for more films to challenge the censorship laws. After Hughes’ case in 1946, more studios and directors began to release films with little to no regard for the coveted MPAA seal of approval. This reaction began to loosen the hold that Hays and Breen had over film production in Hollywood, and later on would lead to the abolishment of the Hays code.
In the fight between the MPAA and Hughes, much more than Jane Russell’s breasts were at stake. A win for Hughes by allowing the film to go largely uncut showed that the production code could be manipulated or even broken. In addition, the large movie turnout generated by this controversy was attractive to many other studios, and they too began releasing movies with our without the seal of approval. This uprising showed that the creativity of people in Hollywood would not be snuffed out.
According to Stephen Prince, Bonnie and Clyde was a landmark film because it presented graphic violence in an unprecedented way and changed the future of cinema. Prince even calls Bonnie and Clyde’s ultimate death “ferocious” (127). While at the time the film was very controversial, it set a precedent for violence that is consistently surpassed in contemporary films. Prince identifies two important factors that made this extremely violent film possible. First, he says that the social unrest of the period and the extremely bloody Vietnam War put violence on the cultural agenda, and influenced the graphic scenes in Penn’s film. Furthermore, even though the movie is set in the 1930s, Penn wanted to metaphorically relate to the 1960s by presenting the idea of resisting the Establishment. Secondly, Hollywood institutions were changing and directors were gaining more creative freedom, especially because of changes to the Production Code. Bonnie and Clyde used new and cutting edge cinema techniques to enhance the action. For example, Penn used multi-camera filming, slow motion, and intercutting slow-and-normal speed action to heighten the effects of screen violence. He also drew inspiration from unique sources, and Prince identifies Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa as an essential inspiration. The final (and goriest) scene in the movie draws heavily from techniques used in The Seven Samurai (1954), particularly the use of intercutting and multiple cameras to capture the action.
Penn broke tradition and overturned decades of “polite violence (139)”. Prince’s argument supports the idea that Bonnie and Clyde was a watershed film in Hollywood history, and ignited intense levels of screen violence. In fact, Bonnie and Clyde would no longer even seem violent to modern viewers because of the infinitely increasing threshold for on-screen aggression, which Prince says this film sparked. Bonnie and Clyde transformed cinematic violence to an exciting, entertaining spectacle.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.62 .L4 2001
This book deals with Joseph Breen, head of the Production Code Administration, his interpretation and strict adherence to the Production Code, and the effect it had on the film industry at the time. The Production Code was a set of guidleines governing the production and content of motion pictures, spelling out what was and was not considered morally acceptable in film. Adopted in 1930, it began to be enforced in 1934 by Breen, and this changed the way film looked. Risque material, including toilet humor, sexual explicitness and gratuitous violence, was often cut from films. Breen’s approach to film directly conficted with that of screenwriters and directors. He “tended toward the literal…and he had a dollars-and-cents approach to the movies: they were more entertainment than art.”
Jeff and Simmons point out that it is for this reason that Wyler worried Breen, for Breen perceived him to be “a new kind of Hollywood filmmaker, independent, uncompromising and fiercly committed to cinema as an art form.” Wyler resented the Code and saw it as an impediment to making mature, realistic films that deal with examine adult themes. Wyler’s original ending to The Best Years of Our Lives as an ambiguous one, with Fred (Dana Andrews) frustrated and disillusioned, wandering alone among the old planes in the airfield. Due to Samuel Goldwyn’s, the producer, insistence, it was changed to a more positive ending, with Fred finding love and hope, and this change was heavily supported by Breen. Though the ending still has an ambiguous sense of openness (it leaves one feeling that though the protagonists have found momentary relief and happiness, but real life will continue), the information in this book demonstrates the limitations of the time period on creative expression. Even though the movie deals with adult themes such as alcoholism and adultery, it does so in a somewhat subtle manner, and even the message of the film conveyed by the film was altered due to standards of the the time. Depsite all this, however, the The Best Years of Our Lives is still a powerful and moving film, a testament to its expressiveness and timelessness.
Stanley Cavell’s essay provides an in-depth analysis of various aspects of Bringing Up Baby, ranging from the significance of the repetitive dialogue to the meaning of the embrace at the end of the film. The first part of Cavell’s work focuses mainly on this repetition of dialogue and action throughout the film. Cavell argues that the repetition of these two elements results in double entendres that remain unnoticed by the characters but are comedic for the audience. Citing such examples of the repetition of the word “bone,” for example, Cavell believes that the film’s events can be read as is or as a sexual allegory. This resulting ambiguity can seemingly be attributed to the strict standards of the Production Code of the time, which required the development of a new cinematic language to express sexuality or “inappropriateness.”
The second part of Cavell’s analysis focuses on the ending embrace between Dr. Huxley and Susan. Cavell argues that the embrace must symbolize something as it is noticeably awkward: “one cannot determine whether the pair’s lips are touching” (282), and it takes place in the museum where the film originally began. Interestingly, Cavell believes that this final embrace is a reenactment of Rodin’s The Kiss, and thus questions whether or not Huxley has really changed from the beginning scene. With this in mind, Cavell also discusses the validation of marriage within the context of the film, stating that the repetition of certain elements within the film seems to indicate that marriage cannot be validated from the “outside,” and thus, the characters work to “move directly to the state of reaffirmation” (288), which is ultimately a source of comedy.
The last part of Cavell’s essay examines Bringing Up Baby as a farce. Cavell argues that although the film exhibits many farcical elements such as allusions to other films and has its origins in vaudeville, it is still, oddly, a very self-conscious film.
This article, though full of great commentary on Bringing Up Baby is a bit difficult to read without first reading Cavell’s article titled “Pursuits of Happiness: A Reading of the Lady Eve,” found in Vol 10, No. 3 of New Literary History pp.581-601.
In Chapter 9 of Robert Sklar’s A World History of Film, Sklar discusses the emergence of “classic cinema.” The first part of the chapter focuses on the classical era and the genre developments that emerge.
However, what is most interesting in this chapter is the topic of the Production Code and its effects on filmmaking. Sklar delineates the formation of the National League of Decency, the rewritten and reemergence of the Production Code in 1934, the appointment of Joseph Breen and the PCA, and how it influenced the evolution of the depiction of romance. What is particularly relevant is the section on screwball comedy. Sklar suggests that the Production Code shifted the comedy genre away from vulgar, ethnic films which drew inspiration from vaudeville to a new type of romantic comedy. Sklar describes these films as having certain plot and character features, such as quirky families, most usually of the upper-classes. He further describes how it was these pictures that gave the upper-class “lessons in human values.”
My Man Godfrey is described in this chapter. There is a brief plot summary, describing the opening scene at the garbage dump—the people in formal attire taking part in a scavenger hunt and Godfrey pushing one woman into an ash heap. Sklar describes the love affair Godfrey had which led him to poverty. The chapter also highlights the film’s screwball-esque features, such as the quirky family from Fifth Avenue, the rich having an affair with one (Godfrey) from a (supposed) lower class, and the butler as a figure of wit, commonsense, and prudence.
This chapter is a useful and concise source of information for the topics of the Production Code’s history, enforcement, and its effects; screwball comedy and its derivation; and plot and character summaries of My Man Godfrey.
tagged my_man_godfrey production_code screwball by lande ...on 29-NOV-05