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Hey! They got away with murder!


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Under the production code, crime always must be punished--especially murder.  But it doesn't always happen.  Sometimes murder slips through the cracks.  Most notably in Vertigo (1958).  While everyone is paying attention to Scottie and Madeleine's perverted dance, Gavin Elster quietly slips off to "Europe", so he says.  I think there is another Hitchcock movie where someone gets away with murder, but I can't recall it.  And in Out of the Past (1947), the Kid hooks a line into Fisher's coat sleeve and pulls him to a rocky death in a Sierra creek.  Now, you might say he was only defending someone from a bad guy, and maybe Fisher deserved it, and besides the Kid was deaf and dumb.  But good people aren't supposed to kill bad people no matter what.

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Wonder Bar, a 1934 pre Code musical comedy, has a murder which remains covered up at the end. Al Jolson likes the murderer and doesn't like the person killed so covers up the crime for a "happy" ending.

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The studio actually made Hitchcock tack on a scene at the very end where Stewart is back in his apartment with Barbara Bel Geddes, and they're listening to a radio broadcast that announces that the Elster character has been picked up in Europe and will be shipped back to America to stand trial. I saw it in the extras of a Vertigo DVD I used to own. I don't know if that was that version that got approved by the Hays Code, but somehow it had been removed again by the time of release.

As for Out of the Past, it was probably just one of those instances where the censors didn't even think about it, or maybe they were okay with the self-defense angle.

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THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE (1940) - EDWARD G. ROBINSON stands trial for murder and is found innocent by reason of insanity... the end is a chorus of arguing voices, but the good DR.'s fate remains unclear.  His victim became an even bigger star than ROBINSON within 4 years...

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I don't see how Out of the Past qualifies for this thread;   If I recall the hood had his gun out.   It is legal to prevent someone from murdering someone else, and that is clearly what the 'kid' was trying to do.   (and he would have told the police,,,  but,  well,,,,, ). 

Prime examples are in two E.G. Robinson films,   The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse - Eddie poisons Bogie but gets off with an insane,  comedic insanity defense  (as written by John Huston).   (I see that AllHolly beat me to the punch there).

  Scarlet-Street;  Here one can say Eddie gets away with TWO murders;    The Dan Duryea is convicted and sent to the gas chamber for a murder Eddie committed, and Eddie gets off.   His only punishment is a life of guilt,  instead of a life in prison!

 

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47 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

Oh, and didn't BERNARD HUGHES' character in THE HOSPITAL, with George C. Scott's help get away with all those murders?

Sepiatone

That was 1971, I think, and after the Hays  Code had been replaced by the ratings system, so the old rules no longer applied.

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Another example is Bogie in The Big Sleep when he shoots down  Lash Canino,  hired man of Eddie Mars.   

Bogie uses Bacall to get Canino to empty his gun,  then says 'over here Canino' and shoots Canino dead.    Director Howard Hawks had to meet with some of the censors and explain why this was moral justice for how Canino poisoned the little man Jones.     Clearly Hawks succeeded.  

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1 hour ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I don't see how Out of the Past qualifies for this thread;   If I recall the hood had his gun out.   It is legal to prevent someone from murdering someone else, and that is clearly what the 'kid' was trying to do.   (and he would have told the police,,,  but,  well,,,,, ). 

Prime examples are in two E.G. Robinson films,   The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse - Eddie poisons Bogie but gets off with an insane,  comedic insanity defense  (as written by John Huston).   (I see that AllHolly beat me to the punch there).

  Scarlet-Street;  Here one can say Eddie gets away with TWO murders;    The Dan Duryea is convicted and sent to the gas chamber for a murder Eddie committed, and Eddie gets off.   His only punishment is a life of guilt,  instead of a life in prison!

 

Eddie doesn't just have a life of guilt. It's what that  guilt does to him and his life. He tried to commit suicide and would have succeeded  hanging himself had a neighbor not found him. His guilt leads him to insanity,  hearing voices, he's become a broken man, a bum. can't work, no money.  He just wanders the street. A horrible existence. That was his punishment.

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Murder goes unpunished in The Informer. I would guess this was acceptable to Joseph Breen, the main censor, because he was a conservative Catholic who would have supported the IRA. Nonetheless, the IRA gunman gets away with murder.

 

 

 

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Hmmm....question:

Do either or both the two hitmen, Charles McGraw and William Conrad, ever get either caught by the police or themselves in turn killed and after they kill Burt Lancaster in The Killers?

(...I know I know...for a "bright boy" I should know this huh, but I can't remember)   ;)

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8 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Hmmm....question:

Do either or both the two hitmen, Charles McGraw and William Conrad, ever get either caught by the police or killed themselves and after they kill Burt Lancaster in The Killers?

(...I know I know...for a "bright boy" I should know this huh, but I can't remember)  ;)

They were terminated while trying to liquidate the life insurance investigator played by Edmond O'Brien. And they were the title characters, too.

See the source image

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10 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I don't know if that was that version that got approved by the Hays Code, but somehow it had been removed again by the time of release.

So it never showed in theaters?

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1 hour ago, slaytonf said:

So it never showed in theaters?

I don't think so, but I'm not 100 per cent sure of that. I'll do some online research. It's certainly not part of the "official release", as far as I know, certainly not the version that airs occasionally on TCM.

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Yeah, it's a very short scene. As I recall, the actors don't speak any dialogue. They're just listening to the radio broadcast. It is interesting to see Stewart and Bel Geddes hanging out like old times, though this very short scene gives us no indication if they've become lovers finally or are continuing their little dance.

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Don't the two main characters (Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly) get away with murder in Chicago? It's been awhile since I've seen any iteration of this musical.

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Is this thread about characters getting away with murder during the production code, or just characters getting away with murder in any Hollywood film?

Nobody's mentioned LETTY LYNTON (1932). The title character, played by Joan Crawford, poisons a blackmailer (Nils Asther) and watches him die. She feels triumphant and ultimately does not get punished for her actions. She ends up living happily ever after with the man she loves (Robert Montgomery). Though she has been suspected of committing murder, her mother (May Robson) provides the police with a false alibi for Letty.

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