Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Scenes removed by censors for better or worse

Just what did the censors cut out?
Official cutouts and other judgments made by
The Chicago Board of Censors 1918

Mrs. Murdock pointed to a place near her bed. Nude statuary or sculpture was 
Gwen Lee "in hula skirt made of
film cut from her own films"
seen near the beginning of another film. Shocking. There's more. Apologies that I can't supply the removed scenes. Until we get a time machine, only the censors got to see them. But we can describe some of them.

What scenes were removed? What subtitles/intertitles had to be removed or changed? What films were issued Adult Only permits? What films were banned completely? Remember this is only Chicago. Films would likely be censored differently, some banned in one city and not another.

Which were issued permits but then revised so that they were once again released back for the general population? What you can't see won't hurt you?

The Fox Film, The Bird of Prey had its permit refused. The film featured the degradation of a woman and contained repeated scenes of immorality, murder and other unlawful acts.

Human Driftwood: Directed by Emile Chautard, 1916. Banned. Refused because the film portrays immoral, disorderly and unlawful scenes

The film Men Men had its Adults Only permit cancelled after revisions including Subtitles changed:
"I can deceive my mother no longer - when are we to be married?" changed to read "I can deceive my mother no longer, when is our marriage to be announced?"

"My family still objects, I can never marry you," changed to read, "Our marriage is not legal"

Request: During conversation between mother and daughter insert subtitle "My husband has deceived me with a mock marriage," or word to that effect.

Old Wives for New, Spanish subtitles on this print, intertitles are in English
Elliott Dexter, Florence Vidor, Sylvia Ashton, Theodore Roberts
Cecil B. DeMille director, Artcraft

Issued Adults only permit
Removed Scenes and Subtitles: 

"A shrewd sensualist"; "With a ribbon and feather Berkeley pays his debts"; "Suppose he didn't get you the ermine?" 

"No I can't forget, I'll take you only to your apartment"; "I killed him, he was a beast"; "We've got to get him to his hotel"; "Hushing it up"; "I won't turn you over to the police yet"

Removed incidents include: 
Mrs. Murdock pointing to a place near her bed 
All scenes of girl in man's arms on chair
Girl shooting man
All scenes of girl on floor after shooting

Is video we see today original or censored/edited version, does the unedited version even exist anymore? Who knows?

The Star Boarder aka The landlady's pet aka The House Has a hero
Charlie Chaplin, Minta Durfee, real-life wife of Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle

Chaplin thumbing his nose and Chaplin expanding trousers and looking into them

The types of scenes/shots that were removed from many movies features and short films (Naughty bits?):
  • Pulling a card from his sleeve
  • close-up of a roulette wheel
  • prize-fighting
  • slugging detective/shooting policeman
  • robbing/drilling a safe
  • shooting a dope fiend
  • an arson scene
  • close up of a man pulling out a knife
  • robbing a dead body
  • closeup of currency showing denomination
  • view of man rubbing his seat in the snow after being shot
  • view of man in electric chair
  • chloroforming man
  • throwing a stone at someone
  • man thumbing his nose
  • man forcibly kissing a girl
  • view of carbolic acid label
  • front view of nude child
  • man kicking woman
  • Pulling any foreign objects out of or putting anything down your trousers. They probably preferred it that actors just leave their trousers alone completely.
  • Scene of girl scratching herself
  • Clothes dropping to floor while dressing
  • A girl in a low cut gown bowing to the audience
  • Just about anything regarding underwear; picking it up, wearing it, talking about it. Sponge Bob wouldn't have had a chance in 1918 unless he put on some proper trousers. :-)
  • man in underwear bumping into girl
  • pulling the dress off of a fat woman and leaving her in her underwear
  • views of nude statuary in foreground
There might be notes such as: "Shorten kissing scene by at least half."

Tom Mix film Fame and Fortune had many scenes cut and changes of subtitles. Westerns in general with Mix, Broncho Billy and other stars had several edits.

A short Tom Mix biography. (Said to be a little inaccurate, the actor was born 1880 in Mix Run, Pennsylvania.)

Comedy short film A Tight Squeeze
Lloyd Hamilton, Ethel Teare, Jimmie Adams, Charles Dorety and Tom Kennedy
Removed scenes included:
  • Scene of a duck squirting water into a rooster's posterior
  • Entire incident of man lying in water feeling back while looking at a cow
  • View of a stork with sign, "We satisfy" 
  • Scene of feather duster landing in ram's posterior
  • Two views of dancer's legs through curtain
  • Two scenes of dancer wiggling her posterior and first scene where she swings the same

Caught in the Rain
Other titles: Who Got Stung? and At It Again 1914

Charles Chaplin, Alice Davenport, Mack Swain
It didn't appear to matter how big or popular the director, producer or star was. (Though we did see censors investigated and arrested on charges such as graft across the country.)
All scenes of man or woman in nightrobes, man thumbing nose. 
Additional eliminations: Scene of Chaplin in underwear preparing for bed, Chaplin putting legs across woman's lap, Chaplin picking up woman's underwear.

Other shocking cuts:
Mary Pickford loses her trademark curls...
Changes to women's hair
will continue to shock audiences in the future

whether imitated by the public as styles often are, or not

Short films were mentioned as often as features.
Slapstick comedy was not exempt

The 1917 Billy West, Oliver Hardy short film, The Band Master.

Scene of dough dropping from West after he sits in pan. 
Two scenes of West kicking woman, two scenes of West dropping trousers, two scenes of West bumping women, West expectorating into telephone receptacle (figure of woman).

The Belles of Liberty featuring Eva Novak.
Two scenes of girls ascending stairs with skirts raised above their knees, scene of elderly girl in same action.   

In Dutch, a comedy short
Three scenes with a Dutch dancer kicking fat man seated in a chair, striking man in seat with a fork 

It's a Great Life, another comedy short:

Four scenes of vacuum cleaner pulling girls' skirts up, scene of vacuum cleaner pulling man's shirt out of his trousers and pushing it in again, man and girl falling into bathtub, woman in bed embracing a minister

In a Keystone comedy, Alonzo's wriggling dance(r), a scene where a character puts a photo down the front of his trousers was removed

Fatty's Wine Party 1914 released 1918 with title Fatty's Wild Night
Fatty Arbuckle, Syd Chaplin, Mabel Normand, comedy short
Fatty sticking Chaplin in seat with a pin, Chaplin pulling pin out and then sticking Fatty in the seat with the pin.

Fatty and Mabel Adrift 1915. 
Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Al St. John

World War One ended in 1918. Clara Bow had yet to make a film in 1918. The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution establishing prohibition of alcoholic beverages was ratified in 1919. It wasn't repealed until 1933.  

In 1922, Frank Sinatra called Chicago a toddlin' town. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy began working together in the late 1920s.

Not long ago, almost one hundred years after those 'nude statues' were removed from a movie, on television I saw some unclothed store mannequins. Someone had pixelated/blurred out the 'breasts.' 

Related Books and Articles of Interest:

Movie Censorship around the world, Japan 1920s, France/United States 1950s  .... even Monty Python and Cary Grant have their say

Dirty Business Movie Censorship 1900s, 1910s, 1920s Ballots & Scorecards, Arrests & Raids, Theaters shut down 

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 4 This is a popular series with films, stars and directors who get too little attention.

Early Charlie Chaplin: The Artist as Apprentice at Keystone Studios by James L. Neibaur 
Mack Sennett's Fun Factory: A History and Filmography of His Studio and His Keystone and Mack Sennett Comedies, with Biographies of Players and Personnel (2 volume set) by Brent E. Walker

Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty) (Universal Backlot Series) Some early Cary Grant

Cyberlink PowerDirector 13 Ultimate Video Editing Software, Rated excellent by PC Magazine 
In 1918 Exhibitor's Herald ran a sample of scenes cut by the Chicago Board of Censors. Couldn't find lists similar to this earlier or later. All films are thought to be 1918 unless stated otherwise.
This is part of a series. Major changes will be noted and marked with date.


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