Flying Under the Radar of Censorship

Back in the bad old days prior to the 60s, films in the U.S. were routinely, and heavily, censored. But some filmmakers found ways to get away with stuff ANYWAY. Back in the 30s it was King Vidor, whose Sign of the Cross was a Biblical epic that concentrated greatly on those scandalous things the bad old Romans used to do. In the 50s it was Howard Hawks, whose Son of Sinbad pushed the envelope pretty good for its day. And his earlier film The Outlaw was also an under the radar production.

So, anybody know of any other films that have scenes or themes that slid udner the radar of the censorship code that prevailed in the U.S. until the 60s? Enquiring minds want to know.

In the 50s it was Howard HUGHES. :smack: :smack: :smack:

This Sign of the Cross? - 'Twas Cecil B. DeMille’s. As far as I can tell, King Vidor never had anything to do with a production of ‘Sign of the Cross’.

the 1920’s DeMille BEN HUR also had titties

If it was the 20s, it was pre-Code, though.

May have had titties, but they weren’t De Milles, they were Fred Niblo’s. The Production Code actually went into effect in the early 1920s, though it wasn’t strictly enforced till 1934—also, there were lots of State and City censor boards as early as pre-1910.

Watch the documentary The Celluloid Closet for numerous examples of gay themes and characters being snuck in under the noses of the Production Code folk.

I read in the proverbial Somewhere that during the Days of Censorship, a producer or director could get away with more if the picture had a religious theme. Seems they could then make the claim that the nudity/smut/whatever was in the name of showing how decadent those evil sinners were.

Prior to the Hays code, films would show nudity. Orphans of the Storm, for instance, has a party scene where some of the women are topless and it isn’t a religious picture.

In more modern times, Zulu shows hundreds of topless women in one of the opening scenes. It was released a couple of years before the censorship apparatus was dismantled, but raised no protests. Since the women were African, it was allowed as the sort of nakedness that National Geographic was allowed to show.

Often, people slid past the censors by using double entendres. For instance, there’s the horse racing conversation between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep, where they’re not talking about horses. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is ultimately about a sexual fling (although Trudy Kockenlocker did marry Ratzkywastki or something first) and the screenplay uses the name “Kockenlocker” much more than it should.

Didn’t ‘Spartacus’ have some homosexual undertones? I haven’t seen it myself, only heard about it.

Whoops. Geez, I got BOTH directors wrong in my initial post. No more posting in the a.m. for me, then …

When I asked here a year or so ago about how Marilyn Monroe could get away with wearing a dress that made her look functionally topless in Some Like It Hot, a suggestion was made that the costumes may have been vetted by real people - in other words, a dress that looks fine in living color might be a bit more scandalous in black and white. (And everybody in the thread thought I was one hell of a prude because I coudln’t find screen shots of the dress I was talking about, so they kept coming up with the wrong dresses and saying “What’s wrong with that one?”)

Not a movie, but in the late '50’s Soupy Sales children’s show, Soupy loved sneaking stuff in. Once, he was showing alphabet flash cards to Fang, the talking dog. He held up the letter F. Fang said, “K.”

Soupy replied, “What’s wrong with you, Fang? Every time I show you F, you see K.”

Say the last part out loud if you don’t get it right away.

Soupy Sale’s reputation for sneaking dirty jokes into his shows seems to be an urban legend:

There is some fairly risque dialogue in I Was a Male War Bride. A big part of the plot involves Cary Grant’s character’s thwarted attempts to consummate his marriage. Hilarious! I love that movie.

As for *Spartacus * having homosexual undertones…“undertones” may be understating it a bit, though it was toned down for its initial release in 1960. In the past decade a scene was restored between Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier where the Olivier character is pretty blantantly coming on to Curtis, his slaveboy.

This one?

Well now I don’t remember - guess I’ll have to watch it again. :slight_smile: I would think no, I remember thinking that maybe it was pink in real life instead of “nekkid” colored.

Although the linked one is a bit scandalous, too.

Before the code, jazz concerts as depicted in movies had a rowdiness that puts Snoop Dogg and similarly-minded rappers to shame. Think of Brigette Helm’s nearly nude dance scene at the beginning of Metropolis. Now she does the same dance, similarly clad, this time over Louis Armstrong’s piano, while Louis is leering and playing at the same time. Now, ten women, also similarly clad, are fawning over Louis doing it while the men have a knockout brawl in front. pre-Code days, that scene was relatively tame.

Here are two interesting scenes from early episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies:”

In the series premier, Granny is complaining to Uncle Jed about how she keeps having to sew the buttons back onto Elly May’s shirt.

Uncle Jed says something like, “Yep, Elly May does walk real proud. . . with her shoulders back. . .”

Granny looks up over her glasses at him and says, “Jed, it ain’t her shoulders that’s poppin’ these buttons!”
Another ep has Granny and Elly May racing around the Clampett mansion. Granny is trying to show that she ain’t too old.

Well, she’s pretty good, but Elly May is just a little bit better.

After the race, Uncle Jed and out-of-breath Granny are talking about it.

One of them says, “It looked like Elly May was out in front.”

[cut to Elly May, standing sideways to camera]

The other says something like, “Elly May’s out in front when she’s standing still!

Although the Hayes Office was established in 1922, there was no written Production Code until 1930, and no effective enforcement mechanism until 1934, when all films released by member studios were required to have a certificate from the Production Code Administration before release.

It should be added that although the major studios were all members of the MPPDA (later MPAA), independent producers were not. Thus you have all those great exploitation pictures of the late 1930s dealing with child brides, marijuana-mad teenagers, the joys of nudism, oversexed gorillas, and the like.