The Finger on "Up the River" 1930 film

Apparently the first and only film with Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart. I just watched it more for the historical aspect than anything else. In one scene an opposing (prison) baseball team gets out of the prison truck to the howls and boos of the home prison populace. It appears that as some of the players get out of the truck they make a hand gesture to the spectators. It happened too fast and caught me off guard. Can anyone confirm this for me? did these prisoners “flip off” the crowd?

here’s a link to the movie

I put this here instead of Cafe Society, since I think it is more factual and historic, than artsy fartsy.


must be too obscure; even for this crowd

Here is TCM’s article on the film. It has nothing regarding the scene, but it’s pretty thorough.

I was thinking of posting something similar! I was watching *The Whole Town’s Talking *(1935) with Edward G. Robinson yesterday and one character refers to another as a cokehead! I went to to look that up and, alas, nothing. There were no drug scenes or any reason to make me think he was using; as far as I remember, nobody in the film even took a drink. I’ve looked for an e-mail address for Jeff Stafford, who wrote the article, but all his work seems to be for TCM. So I’d try e-mailing them. It’s a long shot.

The Hayes code prohibited showing people doing drugs, or making very many references to it. The first film to push the code as far as things like drug use go, was (IIRC), The Man with the Golden Arm, starring Frank Sinatra, which was about a heroin addict. The censors actually tried to block production of the movie, unless the drug scenes were cut from the script. Eventually, it was realized that the film would be utterly incomprehensible without them, so they were kept.

Charlie Chaplin showed people using drugs – probably coke – in Modern Times (1936). One gag involved Chaplin inadvertantly putting the drug in his food (it had been stashed in a salt shaker) and getting hopped up on it.

The film also showed a person who was obviously supposed to be gay (according to what was believed about it at the time). Most of the portrayal was cut out of the recent TCM broadcast of the fim, probably because it would be considered anti-gay.

As for “cokehead,” it’s hard to say what the Hayes Office would have thought. Perhaps they didn’t know the term (like “gunsel” in The Maltese Falcon, or perhaps the context – with no actual drugs shown – allowed it).

The Hayes Code wasn’t strictly enforced in the early years, and a star like Chaplin probably wouldn’t have been hasseled by the censors, since he was one of the biggest stars of the era.

Foppish gays probably wouldn’t have run afoul of the Hayes Code so long as they were used for comedic relief.



Too bad Eve’s not still around, she could answer a lot of this.

Actually, Chaplin did have to make some significant changes to the script due to the Hayes code, so it’s clear that they didn’t mind the reference here.

In this case, you have to know when and where to look for him – you have to take your eye off Chaplin when they prisoners are marched to dinner. But TCM seems to have cut out the shots of the guy.

That’s the santized version, and the definition did not have that meaning when The Maltese Falcon was filmed:

First cite by the OED meaning “gunman” is from 1950:

The Maltese Falcon came out nine years earlier, and I believe the term was in the original novel, published in 1930.

Stunt pilot Robert Armstrong gives the finger to fellow pilot Richard Dix in The Lost Squadron (1932).

As I just finished reading *The Maltese Falcon *for *The Big Read *(see my entry in Watcha Reading in Cafe Society), I did quite a bit of research and know very well what a gunsel is. The punk kid is definitely supposed to be gay, as is, of course, Joel Cairo with his gardenia-scented handkerchiefs (in the book, chypre).

From what I’m reading here, TCM is stricter than the Hayes Code. Why do they have such a stick up their ass?

I don’t think they are overall. I’ve seen them play the nude scenes of Maureen O’Sullivan from Tarzan.

The Hayes Code, even though it was promulgated in 1930, did not come into actual effect for another four or five years. It certainly wouldn’t have applied to this movie. Footlight Parade in 1933, for instance, set one of the musical scenes in a brothel/opium parlor, with prostitutes openly smoking opium (the Shanghai Lil number).

Hollywood wasn’t actually infantized until around 1935.

In Parachute Jumper, from 1933, Frank McHugh gives the finger to a driver who passes him by when he is hitch-hiking. There is also drug smuggling, double-entendres, innuendo and one homosexual joke from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Last year TCM showed two R-rated blaxploitation pics, Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), uncut. They have run a number of R-rated titles with the nudity, language and violence intact.

Productions that began filming in July 1934 were subject to the enhanced enforcement of the Production Code.