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Films That Were Controversial For Their Time


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I was watching The Moon is Blue last night and it gave me an idea for a thread that I think would be interesting.  Apparently, The Moon is Blue was very controversial when it was made in 1953.  Director Otto Preminger tried to get a seal of approval from Breen and the other Production Code people, but they refused, citing the frank discussion of sexuality in the film.  Breen didn't like that words like "seduce," "virgin," and "mistress," were being thrown around so freely.  In addition to refusal by Breen, the Legion of Decency also refused to endorse the film.  Preminger and his studio, United Artists, did something unprecedented--they released their film without approval by Breen or the Legion.  Word got out about how scandalous this film was and it was a box office smash in 1953. 

 

The actions of Preminger and United Artists was the beginning of the end of The Production Code.  From then on, other filmmakers followed suit and slowly pushed the boundaries and out right defied the Production Code standards.  By 1961, movies had changed so much that when The Moon is Blue was re-released, it instantly won approval without any question. 

 

What other films can you think of that pushed the boundaries and made an impact on the film industry?

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By definition ALL movies are controversial. Can you mention even one movie that received unanimous approval at its premiere? For ex., right from its opening day THE SOUND OF MUSIC was criticized as being saccharine and sloppily sentimental, sentiments still shared by many people.

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The Ontario Censor Board came under a lot of fire when it severely cut Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum (1979).  The outcry from the critics and the public over that was really what started the movement in that province at least to start to classify films more instead of just ruthlessly censoring them.

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By definition ALL movies are controversial. Can you mention even one movie that received unanimous approval at its premiere? For ex., right from its opening day THE SOUND OF MUSIC was criticized as being saccharine and sloppily sentimental, sentiments still shared by many people.

 

I assume the OP meant that what is controversial is more along the lines of politically or socially;  e.g. it takes on a topic that was taboo and \ or has scenes that push the envelope of what was considered decent at the time,  etc...   and therefore the example provided for The Sound of Music doesn't apply.

 

E.g. To Each His Own - 1946;   a movie dealing with an unmarried women's pregnancy and having to hide that fact. 

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By definition ALL movies are controversial. Can you mention even one movie that received unanimous approval at its premiere? For ex., right from its opening day THE SOUND OF MUSIC was criticized as being saccharine and sloppily sentimental, sentiments still shared by many people.

 

Strange how you just never seem to get it. Such thickness almost seems deliberate.

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By definition ALL movies are controversial. Can you mention even one movie that received unanimous approval at its premiere? For ex., right from its opening day THE SOUND OF MUSIC was criticized as being saccharine and sloppily sentimental, sentiments still shared by many people.

 

I would say "lot of films are controversial", but not "all".

 

Also, we need to recognize those that are "controversial" to both conservatives AND liberals. Such as blackface films that are controversial to liberals and black audiences, but not to conservatives, THE MOON IS BLUE is controversial to conservatives but not to liberals.

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I would say "lot of films are controversial", but not "all".

 

Also, we need to recognize those that are "controversial" to both conservatives AND liberals. Such as blackface films that are controversial to liberals and black audiences, but not to conservatives, THE MOON IS BLUE is controversial to conservatives but not to liberals.

 

But Palmerin apparently doesn't understand what "controversial" even means in this discussion. He (she?) thinks it has something to do with how much one person likes the movie compared to another.

 

Naturally, the topic is about the social implications that were concerning to certain bodies of people at the time of the movie's release. Words heard, scenes shown, ideas expressed - thought by some to not be suitable for a movie. I know by what you've exampled above that you understand what "controversial" means. But, Palmerin? I think there's a pretense going on there.

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Jean-Luc Godard's film Hail Mary (1985) was very controversial. It's a retelling, in contemporary setting, of the story of the Virgin birth. I remember when it played at a NYC film festival, there were demonstrations, mostly Catholics who came in from the suburbs (and other boroughs) by special buses. I remember seeing them outside the theater, praying on their knees with their rosaries. I found a rosary in the street after the demonstration.

 

The film received mediocre reviews for artistic, rather than theological reasons.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail_Mary_(film)

 

 

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TCM has aired Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun ('71) that was pretty controversial....

 

"Trumbo has taken the most difficult sort of material -- the story of a soldier who lost his arms, his legs, and most of his face in a World War I shell burst -- and handled it, strange to say, in a way that's not so much anti-war as pro-life. Perhaps that's why I admire it."

 

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/johnny-got-his-gun-1971

 

johnnygun.jpg

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Jean-Luc Godard's film Hail Mary (1985) was very controversial. It's a retelling, in contemporary setting, of the story of the Virgin birth. I remember when it played at a NYC film festival, there were demonstrations, mostly Catholics who came in from the suburbs (and other boroughs) by special buses. I remember seeing them outside the theater, praying on their knees with their rosaries. I found a rosary in the street after the demonstration.

 

The film received mediocre reviews for artistic, rather than theological reasons.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail_Mary_(film)

 

 

I'd like to see the NYC Film Festival show MAMMY and all the other Al Jolson films.

 

360_dvd_jazz_singer_1016.jpg

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But Palmerin apparently doesn't understand what "controversial" even means in this discussion. He (she?) thinks it has something to do with how much one person likes the movie compared to another.

 

Naturally, the topic is about the social implications that were concerning to certain bodies of people at the time of the movie's release. Words heard, scenes shown, ideas expressed - thought by some to not be suitable for a movie. I know by what you've exampled above that you understand what "controversial" means. But, Palmerin? I think there's a pretense going on there.

It's too restrictive to limit the term controversial to political and social issues, as there are many movies that are controversial for other reasons. For ex., the Harry Potter books and movies were once criticized for promoting belief in witchcraft.

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It's too restrictive to limit the term controversial to political and social issues, as there are many movies that are controversial for other reasons. For ex., the Harry Potter books and movies were once criticized for promoting belief in witchcraft.

Criticized by some religious groups. But not all religious groups. Not criticized by Wiccan readers and movie-goers.

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It's too restrictive to limit the term controversial to political and social issues, as there are many movies that are controversial for other reasons. For ex., the Harry Potter books and movies were once criticized for promoting belief in witchcraft.

 

A couple of weirdo's criticizing does not a controversy make.

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Freaks, pretty much the definition of a controversial film, this MGM production (who would have thunk it, MGM!) was highly scorned by audiences and critics at the time of its 1932 release, losing $164,000 at the box office. The film used real freaks in its cast.

 

From Wiki:

 

Among the characters featured as "freaks" were Peter Robinson ("The Human Skeleton"); Olga Roderick ("The Bearded Lady"); Frances O'Connor and Martha Morris ("armless wonders"); and the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Among the microcephalics who appear in the film (and are referred to as "pinheads") were Zip and Pip (Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow) and Schlitzie, a male named Simon Metz who wore a dress mainly due to incontinence, a disputed claim. Also featured were the intersex Josephine Joseph, with her left-right divided gender; Johnny Eck, the legless man; the completely limbless Prince Randian (also known as The Human Torso, and mis-credited as "Rardion"); Elizabeth Green the Stork Woman; and Koo-Koo the Bird Girl, who had Virchow-**** syndrome or bird-headed dwarfism, and is most remembered for the scene wherein she dances on the table.

 

While not all the reviews were totally scathing, those that were said such things as "Any one who considers this entertainment should be placed in the pathological ward in some hospital" or  "There is no excuse for this picture. It took a weak mind to produce it and it takes a strong stomach to look at it."

 

The film was chopped in the editing room (those edits now lost in the existing print of the film) but it made no difference at the box office. The United Kingdom would not allow the film to be shown on its shores until the 1960s.

 

Director Tod Browning, seen in the above photo with some of the cast, never got a major film opportunity again. Freaks's controversial nature, in essence, killed his career.

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I'm surprised that no one hasn't mentioned Howard Hughes' THE OUTLAW.    It took several years and court battles to get the film released. When the film  MONTY PYTHON'S  THE LIFE OF BRIAN was about to be released it raised a furious storm from many religious groups.  Ironic that criticism usually results in extra publicity which usually results in greater public demand and bigger box office. I remember one of the Python guys thanking the protesters for all of the added publicity, the film makers only had a small budget for promotion and the protests  made front page headlines.

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I was a very little girl when the film BABY DOLL was released. I do remember there was a huge billboard in Times Square promoting the film. The Catholic Church condemned the film. Cardinal Spellman spoke against the film in ST Patricks Cathedral in NY. Catholics all over the country boycotted the film.

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I was a very little girl when the film BABY DOLL was released. I do remember there was a huge billboard in Times Square promoting the film. The Catholic Church condemned the film. Cardinal Spellman spoke against the film in ST Patricks Cathedral in NY. Catholics all over the country boycotted the film.

 

I think liberals and black people all over the country boycotted GONE WITH THE WIND, BIRTH OF A NATION, MAMMY, THE JAZZ SINGER, and several other films.

 

Keep in mind that a lot of people have different opinions. There is not just "good" people and "bad" people, or "them" and "us".

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...people all over the country boycotted GONE WITH THE WIND, BIRTH OF A NATION, MAMMY, THE JAZZ SINGER, and several other films.

 

And don't forget SONG OF THE SOUTH, during its initial release and its many re-releases. 

 

As for MAMMY, we can probably lump most of Al Jolson's films into the same category, when it comes to the potentially offensive blackface issue.

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