Tag Archives: Censorship

Classic Hollywood #47

Harold Lloyd Between Takes On The Set of Professor Beware! – 1938

Harold Lloyd on set 1939Noted fun-maker rests during an idle moment on location. Harold Lloyd , now in production on his current comedy “Professor Beware!” is seen here taking it easy between “takes”. This is the first Lloyd picture in almost two years. – photo: Harold Lloyd Productions

In the 1920s Harold Lloyd was one of the top box office stars. By the 1930s he was reduced to making a film every two years. With the completion of Professor Beware!, LLoyd said he was now planning on getting ramped up and start making two films per year.

Instead, Professor Beware! turned out to be Harold Lloyd’s next to last film.

The story for Professor Beware! was written by Colonel Crampton Harris, the former law partner of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Lloyd plays an egyptologist who sees parallels between ancient happenings and his own life that seem like reincarnation and may spell doom for him. Lloyd’s co-star was the unknown Phyllis Welch, but Lloyd had originally offered the female lead to Jean Arthur, who turned it down.

A strange story connected with the film concerns the usually inoffensive Lloyd almost being censored. The Hays office called Lloyd and his staff in for a meeting and wanted a scene cut in which Lloyd’s character is driving in the street, bumps into a fire engine and tells the firemen there is a fire at the pier and yells “fire!” Lloyd was flabbergasted and asked what was wrong with saying “fire”.

Lloyd insisted to the censor that removing the scene would ruin the plot. The Hays office censor said that no actor should ever say the word “fire” on screen. The censor explained that two times previously it had led to  trouble  when a person out on the street buying a ticket at the box office heard the word fire and went to call the fire department.

Lloyd asked the overzealous censor if he had seen the film in a projection booth with no audience and if he had laughed, to which which replied that is where he viewed the movie and  he had not laughed. In a real theater situation, Lloyd explained, the audience would be laughing so hard at that point, that when the word fire was uttered no one would be able to hear it. Believe it or not, the censor agreed with this argument and left the scene intact.

The movie itself did not catch fire and was greeted lukewarmly by the critics and the public. Lloyd then made up his mind to give up acting until “he found the right story.”

After a career appearing in over 200 films, it took another seven years for the highly popular Lloyd to make another film, which ended up being his final movie The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (released 1947).

In 1945 producer-director Preston Sturges convinced Lloyd that he should play the lead character in his new film which was originally slated to star Eddie Bracken as Harold Diddlebock. Considering Sturges’ reputation as a comedic genius, Lloyd agreed.

In an interview with the New York Times after the filming was completed, LLoyd said, “Basically, Preston and I think alike even when our approach is different. I like to go out on the set with a scene mapped out and work from my head; Preston comes on with a blueprint he’s sweated over beforehand to the last detail. He can do his cutting a reel at a time, and stay with it indefinitely; it’s an effort for me to stay in a projection room with an uncut story. After I’ve seen three good ideas go through the chopper, I have to come up for air.”

The strained creative relationship Continue reading

Censored! What The Movies Couldn’t Show In 1921

An Incredible List of Things That Movies Were Not Allowed To Portray In 1921

Annette Kellerman the first "star" to do a nude scene 1916 "A Daughter of the Gods"

Famous swimmer, Annette Kellerman was the first “star” to do a nude scene 1916 “A Daughter of the Gods”

Looking at what was prohibited in the state of Maryland from being shown on movie screens in 1921 is overwhelming in its restrictiveness. It includes, but is not limited to: indecorous dancing; over passionate love scenes; exhibition of feminine underwear; gruesome murders; birth control; disrespect for the law; use of opium or other habit forming drugs; executions; profanity; excessive drunkeness especially in women; and maternity scenes.

The complete Maryland censorship rules is a laundry list of vice and of how people really behaved. Basically real life was prohibited in the movies.

Because there was no film industry set of standards, individual states set up their own board of censors to either insist on cuts to movies or block films from being exhibited entirely within that state.

In 1921 there were only six state censorship boards, and that number would greatly expand throughout the 1920’s. What was okay in one state, may not be playable in another. This set off a quagmire of problems for producers of films who needed to be able to show their films to the widest possible audience without having to make special edits to satisfy each state’s censorship board.

Rather than risk the creation of a national censorship board, the film industry eventually self monitored and created its own censorship code and a board to enforce the rules.

One of the last pre-code films. 1933 Roman Scandals with a young Lucille Ball in the chorus as a slave girl

One of the last pre-code films. 1933’s Roman Scandals with a young Lucille Ball in the chorus as a slave girl

The Hays Code (1930) and Joseph Breen, head of the Production Code Administration  standardized censorship rules and staved off an official national censorship board.

But even after the Production Code went into full effect (1934), local authorities or the Legion of Decency could still condemn a film and keep it from being exhibited. The city of Boston was a prime example of banning films with objectionable content.

Below is the complete list of Maryland’s censorship restrictions. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #23

Censorship and Brigitte Bardot 1965 

Brigitte Bardot Viva Maria 1965

Brigitte Bardot co- starred in Viva Maria! (1965) with Jeanne Moreau. The Louis Malle film was partially responsible for the development of the MPAA ratings system for films.

Viva Maria! is set in an unnamed Central American country in 1907. Bardot plays an Irish revolutionary named Maria, who is a fugitive after blowing up a bridge in a British colony. Bardot meets up with a Parisian actress, also named Maria played by Jeanne Moreau, performing with a traveling circus touring the area. They cross the border into a neighboring country where they invent striptease, and get caught up in a popular uprising against the country’s dictator.

The stripping was what caught the attention of censors.

The movie board of Dallas, Texas banned the film from exhibition in the city for being “too racy.” The U.S. distributor, Interstate Circuit, Inc. sued and in 1968 the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. This case and another case heard the same day where a copy of Playboy was sold to a 16-year-old in New York, were more or less combined to make a decision that censorship for minors was okay, but not for adults. The age of 17 was set as the dividing line between minor and adult for the motion picture industry.

The objectionable content in the film of Bardot and Moreau stripping would be considered tame by today’s standards.