I think this is refearing to the first movie to say “fuck” in it. I believe that the backround on the movie in the MAS*H DVD claimed that it was, and the IMDB site kind of backs it up IMDB (about half way down) but take it with a grain of salt.
John Gilbert, via intertitle, shouted “goddamn it” and “b------s!” (sic) during the heat of the battle in the hugely successful The Big Parade (1925).
In the closing line of the exotic The Green Goddess (1930), George Arliss, as a Asian tyrant, dismisses a woman who escaped his clutches with the comment, “She probably would have been a damned nuisance, anyway.”
Another World War I epic, Hell’s Angels (1930), really let it rip: you could hear “It’s me, goddamit”, “What the hell”, “For Chrissake”, “Jesus!”, and “That son-of-a-bitch!” amid the aerial dogfights.
Even after the Motion Picture Production Code began to be enforced in 1934, there were pre-Gone With the Wind uses of “damn”, including Katharine Hepburn quoting Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot” in Holiday (1938). The earliest Code-era “goddamn it” I know of was from Don Murray in Bus Stop (1956).
Scott Wilson was the first to say “shit” in an American feature, as one of the murderers in In Cold Blood (1967).
Glorifying the American Girl (1929) has a comedy sketch with Eddie Cantor and Louis Sorin as a pair of kvetching Jewish tailors: “Vat’s der idea uff calling me a damn fool in front uff der customers?” “So, it’s a secret?”
The first major Hollywood film to use “bullshit” was Bullitt in 1968.
Coincidentally, I’ve been trying to find the first mainstream American movie to feature the most taboo word of all - “cunt”. I know it was in Boys In The Band from 1970, but I think there may be an earlier instance.
Actually, there are supposedly several cases from the silent era where lip-readers did complain about swearing in the dialogue.
In this vein, there’s a scene between Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen in What Price Glory (1926) that reputedly caused problems, as did some of Gloria Swanson’s language in Sadie Thompson (1928). Similarly, there’s the case of Douglas Fairbanks and the dirty joke in The Habit of Happiness (1916).
The links are to the relevant entries in the IMDb, but I suspect they’ve just lifted the information from older film books that have repeated these stories. For instance, I just culled these examples from the old Guinness Book of Film Facts & Feats (Guinness, 1980) by Patrick Robertson. Whether the stories are actually true or not, I don’t know.
I don’t know the name of the film, and I haven’t the time at the moment to dig through the necessary imdb entries, but supposedly (I say this because I read it in an issue of Entertainment Weekly) there was a movie starring Jack Nicholson made in the 1960s or so, where he played an MP escorting a rather naive sailor to prison. In the course of the film, Nicholson and the other MP takes a liking to the sailor and proceed to show him the wilder side of life before they take him to prison. According to the EW, the movie was rife with profanity and was what led to the whole movie rating system.
I think Barbra Striesand was the first “big” movie star to say the F word in a mainstream movie “The Owl and the Pussycat” 1970.
And for what it’s worth I don’t think that the infamous dam in “Gone with the Wind” was actually swearing. I have always understood the phrase “I don’t give a dam” was a reference to a tinker’s dam which is a small relatively worthless blob of metal. But I could be wrong, dopers correct me at will.