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TopBilled

Should offensive dialogue be removed to satisfy political correctness?

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I watched THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE today. I had recorded it overnight (it aired as part of Molly Haskell's selections). There is an abrupt cut in an office scene where Joan Crawford says to Melvyn Douglas:

 

When I want a sneak, I'll hire the best and get a ****.

 

The cut in the print that TCM showed happens after the word 'best.' It is obvious that something has been edited out, because Crawford is in mid-sentence when we suddenly switch to the next scene.

 

This bothered me. More than I thought it would. I think this is part of our history. Why are we revising it? Perhaps Japanese Americans would like to know that there was hatred towards their culture in the 1940s. Or should the newer generations be clueless about this because something like a Hollywood movie no longer reflects this truth? In this case, I think political correctness may be promoting ignorance about past societal attitudes.

 

I do not blame TCM for this. But we know that somewhere along the way, the print that TCM aired was altered.

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Good point TopBilled, but maybe if we called it "cultural sensitivity" instead, we might no be so opposed to editing a film's language for the good of all.

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Here are my thoughts on this SPECIFIC matter, TB.

 

If this film were a WWII film, I'm not talking about a WWII ERA film, but a film with the plot involving the war itself, such as how US soldiers might have talked about our enemy at that time, or even a film about the home front and civilians talking in such a manner, THEN I say it would be shame to have that now considered epithet excised from the dialogue of those films because as you mentioned it would sort of be "re-writing history".

 

However, in the case of this particular film(which I might add, I thought was..well..pretty lame not only because of it's premise, but because many of the characters were too unbelievable and too broadly acted...but I digress) the idea of interjecting this word into the plot of this "Romantic Comedy" which has noting to do with the war effort of the time and was most likely ONLY added because it was made during the time of our conflict with the Japanese Empire AND as some sort of feeble attempt to sound "patriotic" to the audience during the time this movie was being made and first released, well, this would NOT allow it to fall into the same category as the one I outlined above.

 

And thus, I have absolutely no qualms at all about the word being cut out in THIS film specifically..

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Of course, the long-standing mantra of this station is to show all films "uncut and commercial-free". Sounds like this film was (I hope) unknowingly aired with a cut in it. I want to believe it was not the doing of someone at TCM, but that the snippet had already been removed from the print used. It's really nitpicking to be concerned about one second of film that sounds like it was completely inconsequential to the plot but merely there for jingoistic purposes, and it's hard to take an anti-censorship stand in this case without sounding like one is also pro-racist dialogue. Still, all things considered, I would prefer TCM continue to air films unaltered. I think a station that prides itself on its historical significance should continue to present the reality of the way it was then rather than try to conform to the way we think it should be now.

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The long and short answer to the question is that dialogue like Crawford's gives us a snapshot in time of the attitudes of the day, and for that reason alone should *NEVER* be cut.

 

And if it makes us squirm a bit, is that a bad thing? How many times have we heard William Powell, Clark Gable, or some other star from the 30's and 40's say *"That's mighty white of you"?* You could practically start a drinking game on that lovely little throwaway line, which in six short words reveals more about America's racial attitudes in that era than all the flowery 4th of July rhetoric. Cutting words like that out of a film is like giving us an undeserved mulligan.

 

Face it, with a handful of notable exceptions, our films are reflections of the mores and attitudes of whatever age they were made in, not only with regard to race, but to everything else. And IMO that's one of their biggest selling points. Beyond their intrinsic entertainment values, and taken as a whole, they're a history lesson all in themselves, even if it's a totally inadvertent one.

 

One dose of Al Jolson was enough to last me a lifetime, and you couldn't pay me enough money to watch The Jazz Singer again. But if TCM were ever to stop showing that movie, it would be depriving future generations of an education. So keep the "****" references, keep showing those pathetic Al Jolson performances, keep all those hundreds of "comic" Willie Best and Butterfly McQueen scenes, and think about what they meant about us. And if TCM throws in enough movies like Intruder in the Dust and Nothing But a Man, we might even begin to learn how those vile attitudes were gradually shed.

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> {quote:title=AndyM108 wrote:}{quote}The long and short answer to the question is that dialogue like Crawford's gives us a snapshot in time of the attitudes of the day, and for that reason alone should *NEVER* be cut.

>

> And if it makes us squirm a bit, is that a bad thing? How many times have we heard William Powell, Clark Gable, or some other star from the 30's and 40's say *"That's mighty white of you"?* You could practically start a drinking game on that lovely little throwaway line, which in six short words reveals more about America's racial attitudes in that era than all the flowery 4th of July rhetoric. Cutting words like that out of a film is like giving us an undeserved mulligan.

>

I couldn't say it better, so I won't attempt. ;)

 

The other oft-heard saying that jumps to my mind has to do with ladies being "free, white and 21". Yes, I cringe, but pretending something didn't exist serves no one. Ugliness has to be faced, acknowledged and (hopefully) learned from.

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There are anti-smoking advocates who'd like to cut any scenes with smoking in them, with the idea that anything that glamorizes smoking will encourage young people to pick up the habit. Imagine what we would be left with... Paul Henreid offering Bette Davis a lollypop?

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Well put, Andy! I can't add much to that either. ANY attempts to excise remarks that today seem apart from "political correctness" seems too obvious an attempt to make ourselves feel BETTER about ourselves, in complete contradiction to the concept that "the TRUTH will set you free...". It's better, I feel, to admit past errors and move on. Whenever you try to( PLEASE pardon the expression) whitewash the truth, you'll find someone who still knows what lies beneath the fresh coat.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Dargo,

 

Thanks for your comments. I don't think genre should have anything to do with it. A rom-com can show insights into cultural attitudes just like a war film might.

 

Someone else said the footage was inconsequential. Maybe, maybe not. I will admit that the scene where the cut occurred did not advance the plot, and the entire scene (about one minute of playing time) could have been dropped by the editing team at Columbia without affecting the story. But because the scene was included in the studio's initial release, it should be kept in-tact, and unaltered. The way it plays now, the cut occurs in the middle of Crawford's delivery of said objectionable line, and it is very noticeable. In fact, I would argue that this job with the scissors interrupts the flow and continuity of the whole picture-- that is how jarring it is (at least, to me).

 

I think it's a form of modern-day censorship. We have done away with the production code, but we now have the politically-correct police on the scene. Doesn't that seem ironic? The original dialogue did not meet with any problems from the Hays Office.

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>Of course, the long-standing mantra of this station is to show all films "uncut and commercial-free". Sounds like this film was (I hope) unknowingly aired with a cut in it. I want to believe it was not the doing of someone at TCM, but that the snippet had already been removed from the print used. It's really nitpicking to be concerned about one second of film that sounds like it was completely inconsequential to the plot but merely there for jingoistic purposes, and it's hard to take an anti-censorship stand in this case without sounding like one is also pro-racist dialogue. Still, all things considered, I would prefer TCM continue to air films unaltered. I think a station that prides itself on its historical significance should continue to present the reality of the way it was then rather than try to conform to the way we think it should be now.

 

Beautiful post. If TCM has aired this print before, then it should know that it contains the cut. The line where you say it's hard to take an anti-censorship stand without sounding pro-racist is a good one. At first, I thought that our more liberal readers would think I am a racist conservative wanting the line in there, because of my own agenda. Not at all! I think it is a part of our history, and an education can be gleaned from seeing these realities of the past.

 

In fact, the whole thing reminded me of my late grandfather, who served in World War II. He used the word '****' all the time-- sometimes in a derogatory sense, and sometimes not. I would certainly never have gone around trying to alter my grandfather's speech. He had his own life's experiences, and he was entitled to speak his mind freely. Of course, he may not have had as many friends in other racial groups as he could have, but that is not something for me to judge.

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> {quote:title=MaxvonMayerling wrote:}{quote}There are anti-smoking advocates who'd like to cut any scenes with smoking in them, with the idea that anything that glamorizes smoking will encourage young people to pick up the habit. Imagine what we would be left with... Paul Henreid offering Bette Davis a lollypop?

Which would make the audience feel like all-day suckers for licking on a scene like that. B-)

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> our films are reflections of the mores and attitudes of whatever age they were made in, not only with regard to race, but to everything else. And IMO that's one of their biggest selling points. Beyond their intrinsic entertainment values, and taken as a whole, they're a history lesson all in themselves, even if it's a totally inadvertent one.

 

I agree 100 percent. Good post.

 

Regarding characters/actors saying 'that's mighty white of you.' They also said, quite often in the movies back then, 'I am free, blonde and 21.' In fact, there is a B-film from 20th Century Fox with that very title, from the 1940s.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032492/

 

P.S. I just saw Nora's earlier post about this. Nora identified it as free, white and 21-- but it was usually spoken as free, blonde and 21. And of course, how many non-Caucasians have blonde hair...? LOL

 

Edited by: TopBilled on Jun 13, 2013 9:34 AM

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There are a lot of edited film copies circulating around out there. Sometimes for unfathomable reasons. I remember in network showings there was a short scene in Sabrina after she turns all the car engines on when she goes back to her room, she stops in her father's room to retrieve her suicide note. For some reason that scene is not in there when TCM shows the movie (which it hasnt in awhile). It cuts right to the Paris scenes. So we're supposed to believe her father read the note then? Makes no sense......

 

And NO I'm totally against censorship in any form............

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That's interesting about "Free, *blonde,* and 21". In all my years I think I've heard that particular expression used maybe once or twice in the outside world, whereas I've heard "Free, *white* and 21" many scores of times, and I probably heard *"That's white of you"* close to a hundred times a year back in my mid-1950's childhood days in Washington, DC.

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TopBilled asked, "How many non-Caucasians have blonde hair?"

 

 

Actually, TOO many these days to be FUNNY anymore.

 

 

Sepiatone PS: I ALSO always heard "Free, WHITE and 21".

 

 

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I believe that many are missing a key element in the phrase: "free, white and over 21".

 

The reason both: "free" and "white" must be included in that statement is because not all white people were free.

 

The phrase originated at a time when Caucasians were subject to several forms of what can be termed slavery. As late as the early part of the 20th Century a white person could be an indentured servant in United States with nearly no rights. Serfdom existed in some part of the world until approx. 1960. It is still held in some religions that a girl must marry whomsoever her parents chose for her. Some people consider the right of a government to conscript soldiers into an army is a form of slavery.

 

The "free" meant they were not under the authority of a master, debt-owner, legal decree, conscription or church restriction.

 

The "white" meant they were able to travel with no restrictions in most places. This was at a time when people in many parts of Asia, Africa, India and Europe could not leave their immediate home area unless they had permission from the authorities. It was noted by some world travelers as an inconvenience that in many places it was necessary to hire a succession of guides because no single one could take them through more than one province or locale unless the traveler could or would post a bond to ensure the guide would return home when the trip was done.

 

The "over 21" meant they were not under the authority of a parent or guardian and the law allowed them to perform any legal action with no supervision.

 

I do not know how the phrase became associated with racism.

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> P.S. I just saw Nora's earlier post about this. Nora identified it as free, white and 21-- but it was usually spoken as free, blonde and 21. And of course, how many non-Caucasians have blonde hair...? LOL

 

I've always heard it as "Free, white, and 21" myself. Inger Stevens says it to Harry Belafonte in *The World, The Flesh, and the Devil* causing a prolonged moment of tension.

 

As for offensive language, some pepole find Communist apologias offensive; other people find anti-Communist apologias offensive.

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I think we're starting to get a little off topic here. Whether it's free, white and over 21-- or free, blonde and 21-- the point is that these were expressions used more by folks in the past. So it is natural to hear them as part of characters' dialogue in a classic film. Just like it is natural to hear someone make a joke about a **** in 1942 (and probably other ethnic groups, too). If we start snipping every thing we fear may be offensive to today's audiences, then what do we have left?

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> {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}I believe that many are missing a key element in the phrase: "free, white and over 21".

>

> The reason both: "free" and "white" must be included in that statement is because not all white people were free.

>

> The phrase originated at a time when Caucasians were subject to several forms of what can be termed slavery. As late as the early part of the 20th Century a white person could be an indentured servant in United States with nearly no rights. Serfdom existed in some part of the world until approx. 1960. It is still held in some religions that a girl must marry whomsoever her parents chose for her. Some people consider the right of a government to conscript soldiers into an army is a form of slavery.

>

> The "free" meant they were not under the authority of a master, debt-owner, legal decree, conscription or church restriction.

>

> The "white" meant they were able to travel with no restrictions in most places. This was at a time when people in many parts of Asia, Africa, India and Europe could not leave their immediate home area unless they had permission from the authorities. It was noted by some world travelers as an inconvenience that in many places it was necessary to hire a succession of guides because no single one could take them through more than one province or locale unless the traveler could or would post a bond to ensure the guide would return home when the trip was done.

>

> The "over 21" meant they were not under the authority of a parent or guardian and the law allowed them to perform any legal action with no supervision.

>

> I do not know how the phrase became associated with racism.

Well, if the "white" part had to be included to complete the sentiment, isn't the answer to your question rather obvious? Though in an era (the 1930's) where there were about 5.5 million whites who were under some form of sharecropping debt, your point about the "free" isn't so easily dismissed, and it's one that's worth mentioning for historical purposes.

 

But while I doubt if anyone would hold Cary Grant or William Powell to a particular racial view merely because of their use of that then-widespread catchphrase, if there weren't a racial implication behind the expression, it would've been merely "free and 21".

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>As for offensive language, some pepole find Communist apologias offensive; other people find anti-Communist apologias offensive.

 

OH! Well ya see here Fedya, THIS is horse of a COMPLETELY different shade of magenta HERE!

 

Uh huh. Ya see while it seems I'm the ONLY one here who had no problem with them cuttin' out that "****" line in this ROMANTIC COMEDY, I hope that they NEVER cut out the part where Crawford says to Melvin in this ROMANTIC COMEDY, "Why you dirty freakin' COMMIE, YOU!!!"

 

(...I mean she DOES say that in this ROMANTIC COMEDY here, doesn't she???...why, it was during one of those times that Joan's KNEES BUCKLED at the very SIGHT of Melvin!!!)

 

**** here!!!!

 

Edited by: Dargo2 on Jun 13, 2013 1:00 PM

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Dargo,

 

I believe you are starting to cloud the issue with levity that does not stick to the actual dialogue.

 

I do not recall any lines about communism, but there was one line where Crawford mentions class distinction and calls Melvyn Douglas' buddy (who happens to be her employee) part of the proletariat class.

 

Also, you keep trying to dismiss the **** line by saying this is a romantic comedy. So what if it's a rom-com. It is still a film that contains cultural attitudes.

 

Why do comedies get a bad reputation? Is this why they seldom win Oscars for best picture, because people do not take them seriously? Charlie Chaplin took comedy very seriously and made some very strong points about social issues in his films.

 

Again, THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE, is a product of Columbia pictures in 1942 that contains dialogue that has been considered offensive to modern audiences, regardless of its genre.

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