When did movies regularly start to have bad language in them?

I can’t say as to movies but I STRONGLY remember at some point during the A-Team BA called someone an “ASSHOLE” and I jaw-droppedly said to my mom “Can you SAY that?!” AND SHE SAID JAW-DROPEDLY: “I don’t know?!!”

The A-Team??!? That was rather late in the game.

Anatomy of a Murder is one of my favorite films, it even has the line:

“the first thing I’m going to do [when the husband gets out of jail] is kick that bitch from here to kingdom come”.:stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, but on network TV? Before 1985? In prime time? :eek:

Sounds more like Eddie Murphy doing his impression of Mr. T, if you ask me.

With the possible exception of The Professionals (1966), which I saw back then but don’t remember all that well, I think The Green Berets was the first time I heard swearing in a movie.

I also remember the episode of “Hill Street Blues” where Furillo announced the death of Sgt. Esterhaus (I think that was Thanksgiving of '83). They let JD get in a “Sonofabitch!”

Now that I think about it, there was an episode of “Charlie’s Angels” in '77 (I think it was the only episode of that show I ever watched) in which Art Metrano (playing one of the bad guys) told Kate Jackson she had “a cute ass.” (And she did, too! :cool:)

Both of those happened so quickly that if you were distracted for only a second, you would have missed them.

I remember the 1973 Jack Nicholson film The Last Detail was often held up as a watershed in sweariness - the poster emphasises the bad language. And also makes Jack Nicholson look like Burt Reynolds, oddly enough. Quoth the IMDB:

*The script was completed in 1970, but contained too much profanity to be shot as written. Columbia Pictures waited for two years trying to get writer Robert Towne to tone down the language. Instead, by 1972, the standards for foul language relaxed so much that all the profanity was left in.

A tamer version with less profanity was filmed at the same time for TV showings. Because of the amount of swearing, the entire movie was pretty much shot twice.*

I was expecting the quotes page to be full of relatively mild language, but it’s still pretty salty, and reminds me of this classic routine from Father Ted. I remember reading that Catch-22, in 1970, was a landmark for full-frontal nudity, and Siam has mentioned MASH* for its language, so I assume the answer to the original poster is “the early 1970s”. But not mainstream. I’d always mentally remembered The French Connection being full of bad language, but looking at the IMDB it seems to be typical tough-guy language without actual swearing. The Exorcist had a few precious profanities but not many overall. The Godfather, The Sting, Cabaret, the other big films, are relatively mannered (albeit that they’re not predominantly set in the 1970s).

My mental stereotype is that the 1970s are filled with sex, drugs, and countercultural anti-heroes, whereas the 1980s was a decade of swearing, violence, but only the bad guys took drugs and there wasn’t much nudity and the heroes didn’t have sex. And in the 1990s there was less of everything, because 18/R = limited audience.

No, early 1970s is too late. I was old enough to go to the movies on my own in the 1960s, and that’s when the swearing really picked up. And again, the film historians agree 1966 was the dividing line.

I have the impression that there was a point in the mid 70’s where the writers realized that they could get away with a lot more dirty language. I seem to remember that the movie House calls, which I haven’t seen since it came out in 1978, seemed to be written by a screenwriter who was celebrating his release from censorship. Not sure if I would get the same impression if I saw it today. Another Walter Matthau movie, the Bad News Bears form 1976 was also featured a lot of bad language, but from kids.

There’s lots of confusion about the Hays Code, and that link does a pretty good job and explaining why the popular conception of it is wrong.

The short version for this thread: Language wasn’t the major issue in the silent era. Some lip-readers understood what was really being said and some of the title cards had innuendo, but it was other types of nastiness that got the censors all hot and bothered. The problem was that even if Will Hays cared about enforcing the Code, he had no real power beyond argument and that has never stood up to someone making money.

A tighter Code was written by some influential Catholics in 1930, but it wasn’t enforced. Not until 1934, when some teeth were put in and Joseph Breen, another Catholic, took over did the so-called Code era began. Technically, though, almost the entire early history of sound firms that we call the “pre-Code” era today was under Hays and his Code. You can’t get much more ironic than the term Hays Code representing an era when Hays was gone and the term pre-code referring to the era when he was in charge. Hays became the villain to history when it was all Breen.

But there was basically no dirty language even in those “pre-code” sound films. The public wouldn’t have stood for it and they were the only ones who counted, because it was their money that bought the tickets.

And was, coincidentally, the subject of a MASH* episode.

Garden variety profanity, like damn and hell, was pretty common in the titles of silent films. Sometimes the words were only suggested (e.g. written as “d–n”, but they were often spelled out too.

THE BIG PARADE (1925) actually took title-card profanity about as far as you could in those days. After one character is killed in battle, John Gilbert says “They got him! They got him! GOD DAMN THEIR SOULS!” and then “You got my Buddy, you b---------s! Now… COME ON!”.

ROARING RAILS, a 1924 film with Harry Carey, also contained “bastard” written as “b-----d”.

On a somewhat different tangent, TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS (1927) contains title cards that likely provoked amusement in its original release but today would be considered blasphemous to Islam. William Boyd says to Louis Wolheim: “One flash at than pan of yours, and she’ll yell for Allah!” He replies, “I’ve had more broads yell for me than you and this guy Allah put together!” There’s also an “Oh, hell!” title and a “unick” joke.

In ALL TEED UP, a Charley Chase comedy from 1930, Charley storms out of a country club and breaks some golf clubs over his knee, apparently referring to them as “shitty sticks”. In SKYSCRAPER SOULS (1932), there’s one seen where Maureen O’Sullivan gets drunk with two gentlemen friends and apparently says “We’re being awfully shitty!”

There was a huge battle with the censors over the words panties and sperm, which the moviemakers eventually won. How times change. Panties, which was almost taboo in the 50s, had been perfectly acceptable in the 20s and 30s when the word meant briefs for men! In Shuffle Off To Buffalo, a song from the 1933 movie 42nd Street, the newly-wed guy sings these words to his bride:

I saw that movie when it came out and while I cannot remeber whether the “f” word was used, there was some serious nudity. Carol White was absolutely beautiful. Prior to this, however “Blowup” had what I remember as full frontal about 1966.

Well, they didn’t exactly say “shit”. What they actually said was


Luckily everything’s on YouTube. I think Charley Chase’s line is pretty clear, but I think Maureen O’Sullivan says “shilly.” When she says “I didn’t say silly,” I don’t think she means to imply that she said “shitty,” only that she’s somehow aware of her own word-slurring.

As an aside, while searching YouTube I came across this awesome music video that’s a must-see for any fans of the era.