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Name Something That Got Past the Production Code Censors


TomJH
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In 1947's much esteemed noiri classic NIGHTMARE ALLEY Helen Walker plays a psychiatrist who uses her medical records to assist corrupt con artist Tyrone Power in taking advantage of rich clients. He later hands her a small fortune in funds for "safe keeping." She turns the tables on him, sends the cops after him and he is on the run. The rest of the film deals with Power and what happens to him.

 

But Helen Walker's character is never referred to again. She keeps the money and her practise, even though she is as much a crook as Power, is never charged with a crime. At the time when the production code demanded that "crime doesn't pay" in the movies, Helen Walker gets away with everything! How did this slip past the censors?

 

Can anyone think of anything else in the movies, a plot detail, an incident, a piece of dialogue, whatever, that you are surprised the Production Code censors let remain in place once the code was being more strictly enforced, starting in 1934?

 

Hey, can anyone think of another crook that got away with it during the production code period of 1934 until its death (somewhere in the '60s)? Helen Walker is one of the most blatant illustrations of it in this film.

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My dirty mind always finds several off beat innuendos.

 

At a screening of a Charlie Chan movie, I believe "At The Wax Museum" one, a gangster says "I'm not gonna let no little Chinese d i c k ruin MY racket" to which his lackey responds, "Want me to rub him out?"

 

Our table erupted in uncontrollable laughter.

 

Another lol moment was an old Bob Hope (road?) film where he is sitting balancing a lovely girl on each knee and quips, "Gee I wish I had a third leg!" 

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The implication Peter Lorre's character is gay in "The Maltese Falcon":

 

Secretary comes into  Spades' office, tosses flower Lorre was wearing on desk:

 

Spade--"perfumed?" (Looks at secretary quizzically)

 

Secretary--:"Gardenia" (said disapprovingly)

 

Spade--(Raises eyebrows as she exits)

 

Point made.

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"I just went gay all of a sudden!"

 

 

Yes, Richard,except that the word "gay" had not been adopted by the homosexual community when the film was released in 1938.

 

Today the scene seems quite surprising and outragious, but was there anything that the censors might have objected to then?

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Yes, Richard,except that the word "gay" had not been adopted by the homosexual community when the film was released in 1938.

 

From what I understand, in the Roaring 20s the word "gay" referred to parties thrown by upper-class decadent-bohemian types -- the sort of gathering where homosexuals were more likely to be accepted (you can hear it in this sense as late as 1952 in Five Fingers, when Michael Rennie mentions the parties thrown by the Countess).

 

Somehow, the word eventually made the transition from referring to the general event-milieu-lifestyle to homosexuals specifically. How far along this process was in 1938 I can't say for certain -- but I do think the very existence of the BUB scene proves it was already taking place.

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The movie "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"  (1944)--girl goes to a party for men being drafted overseas, gets drunk, has sex but doesn't remember who with or how many--rest of movie is about her frantic efforts to find the answers to these questions.  Betty Hutton is excellent in this Preston Sturges movie--Diana Lynn is even funnier as the sarcastic little sister.  Censors were asleep or dead to let this gem through.

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The movie "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"  (1944)--girl goes to a party for men being drafted overseas, gets drunk, has sex but doesn't remember who with or how many--rest of movie is about her frantic efforts to find the answers to these questions.  Betty Hutton is excellent in this Preston Sturges movie--Diana Lynn is even funnier as the sarcastic little sister.  Censors were asleep or dead to let this gem through.

I think the deal with MORGAN'S CREEK is that the censors did not feel audiences would take Sturges' plot twists seriously since it was a broad farce. So sometimes comedies, this film as well as THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, got away with a few things. But if it had been told as a straight drama with her cavorting around with all those soldiers and getting pregnant, they would have objected.

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My dirty mind always finds several off beat innuendos.

 

At a screening of a Charlie Chan movie, I believe "At The Wax Museum" one, a gangster says "I'm not gonna let no little Chinese d i c k ruin MY racket" to which his lackey responds, "Want me to rub him out?"

 

Our table erupted in uncontrollable laughter.

 

Another lol moment was an old Bob Hope (road?) film where he is sitting balancing a lovely girl on each knee and quips, "Gee I wish I had a third leg!" 

 

I asked my dad about this once, like, "How did it come about that cops were referred to as "d i c k s" back in the '30's and '40's?"  He replied that he didn't know why the name was adopted, but believed it wasn't because of the same reason they'd be called that today.  But that HAS been an old term for police for YEARS, and often used in movies before and AFTER the code.

 

I don't believe the code prohibited ethnic slurs, or else we may have never heard the referrence to "P i c k a n i n n i e s" in HIS GIRL FRIDAY.  But the exchange that followed, though amusing DID surprise me as to how they let it go.  It was after said  "p i c k a n i n n y" was born, the police quickly examined it claiming, "They knew Williams had to be hiding SOMEWHERE!" 

 

 

Sepiatone

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I asked my dad about this once, like, "How did it come about that cops were referred to as "d i c k s" back in the '30's and '40's?"  He replied that he didn't know why the name was adopted, but believed it wasn't because of the same reason they'd be called that today.  But that HAS been an old term for police for YEARS, and often used in movies before and AFTER the code.

 

I'm pretty sure it comes from "detective"

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You have to look really fast, but in China Seas in the scene where Wallace Beery grabs Jean Harlow and swings her around in his room towards his dresser, her dress strap falls down and reveals her breast.  She very quickly pulls her strap back up and continues.  I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I noticed that because it happens so fast, but it does happen.

 

 

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In 1947's much esteemed noiri classic NIGHTMARE ALLEY Helen Walker plays a psychiatrist who uses her medical records to assist corrupt con artist Tyrone Power in taking advantage of rich clients. He later hands her a small fortune in funds for "safe keeping." She turns the tables on him, sends the cops after him and he is on the run. The rest of the film deals with Power and what happens to him.

 

But Helen Walker's character is never referred to again. She keeps the money and her practise, even though she is as much a crook as Power, is never charged with a crime. At the time when the production code demanded that "crime doesn't pay" in the movies, Helen Walker gets away with everything! How did this slip past the censors?

 

Can anyone think of anything else in the movies, a plot detail, an incident, a piece of dialogue, whatever, that you are surprised the Production Code censors let remain in place once the code was being more strictly enforced, starting in 1934?

 

Hey, can anyone think of another crook that got away with it during the production code period of 1934 until its death (somewhere in the '60s)? Helen Walker is one of the most blatant illustrations of it in this film.

To begin with, Walker's character, Lilith Ritter, was not a psychiatrist; she wasn't an M.D. She stole money from Power's character, who was himself a crook, but not as smart or as ruthless as Ritter. Maybe that's why they let her get away with it.

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The implication Peter Lorre's character is gay in "The Maltese Falcon":

 

Secretary comes into  Spades' office, tosses flower Lorre was wearing on desk:

 

Spade--"perfumed?" (Looks at secretary quizzically)

 

Secretary--:"Gardenia" (said disapprovingly)

 

Spade--(Raises eyebrows as she exits)

 

Point made.

The novel makes it explicit: Spade's secretary tells him, "This guy is qu--r." And Wilmer is called a "gunsel," which got by because it sounds like gunman, but is actually Yiddish slang for a punk (in the sexual sense), which, it is implied, is what he was to Gutman.

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I asked my dad about this once, like, "How did it come about that cops were referred to as "d i c k s" back in the '30's and '40's?"  He replied that he didn't know why the name was adopted, but believed it wasn't because of the same reason they'd be called that today.  But that HAS been an old term for police for YEARS, and often used in movies before and AFTER the code.

 

I don't believe the code prohibited ethnic slurs, or else we may have never heard the referrence to "P i c k a n i n n i e s" in HIS GIRL FRIDAY.  But the exchange that followed, though amusing DID surprise me as to how they let it go.  It was after said  "p i c k a n i n n y" was born, the police quickly examined it claiming, "They knew Williams had to be hiding SOMEWHERE!" 

 

 

Sepiatone

Which reminds me of the joke: "Why is a men's room like a police station? That's where the d i c k s hang out."

Ethnic slurs? Plenty. In THE BLUE DAHLIA and THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING we hear, "That's white of you." Today it seems unbelievable that this could have been said so casually.

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Groucho got a couple through (in some states), such as this one in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA:

 

GROUCHO: "You know what duplicates are?"

CHICO: "Sure, those 5 kids up in Canada"

GROUCHO: "I wouldn't know--I haven't been in Canada in years"

 

or, later, same movie, Margaret Dumont asks, "Are you sure you have everything?" and Groucho replies, "I haven't had any complaints yet!"

 

Yeah, Groucho was funnier pre-code :)

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In THE BLUE DAHLIA and THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING we hear, "That's white of you." Today it seems unbelievable that this could have been said so casually.

 

Clint Eastwood says it to a black character in one of the Dirty Harry movies, though in a clearly ironic, self-aware manner and context.

 

My absolutely favorite example of this line was in a Walter Huston film (Beast Of The City I think) where Huston lauds a friend of his by saying, "He's one of the swellest white men around".

 

I'm as anti-PC as they come, and I try to avoid judging films of the past by today's everything-offends-me standards, but that line fascinates me. Why was the word "white" deemed necessary? What did it add to the statement?  "One of the swellest men around" wasn't complimentary enough?

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later, same movie, Margaret Dumont asks, "Are you sure you have everything?" and Groucho replies, "I haven't had any complaints yet!"

 

According to Adamson's Groucho Harpo Chico & Sometimes Zeppo, this line was kept in the film with the understanding that every single censorship board in the country -- and there were many: Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Memphis being the most notorious -- would decide on an individual basis whether or not to cut it for their districts.

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To begin with, Walker's character, Lilith Ritter, was not a psychiatrist; she wasn't an M.D. She stole money from Power's character, who was himself a crook, but not as smart or as ruthless as Ritter. Maybe that's why they let her get away with it.

I don't think the code had an understanding that "only smarter or more ruthless crooks can get away with it."

 

And Ritter was a psychologist, rather than a psychiatrist. Point taken, but it has no bearing on the validity of my illustration.

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You have to look really fast, but in China Seas in the scene where Wallace Beery grabs Jean Harlow and swings her around in his room towards his dresser, her dress strap falls down and reveals her breast.  She very quickly pulls her strap back up and continues.  I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I noticed that because it happens so fast, but it does happen.

Same thing with Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits.

 

Again, you have to look quickly but her left a r e o l a is briefly exposed in a scene in which she is wearing a loose poka dot dress. It occurs at the moment in which a drunk Gable falls off the hood of a car and she bends over to him.

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Same thing with Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits.

 

Again, you have to look quickly but her left a r e o l a is briefly exposed in a scene in which she is wearing a loose poka dot dress. It occurs at the moment in which a drunk Gable falls off the hood of a car and she bends over to him.

 

Wow page 2 of this thread is identical to page 1. 

Doesn't anyone READ a thread before posting?

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