Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hollywood Hostesses party dress decor menu 1930s

Hosting your own party?
Consider a making it a buffet

William Haines, his sister
and Edmund Lowe
A holiday buffet can be a smart choice for the host and hostess. Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Lowe were known to present one of the most interesting and beautifully arranged evenings in Hollywood.  What did she wear? How about centerpieces and tablescapes?

Their dining room seated 12 guests but when more than that were invited Mrs. Lowe "resorts to the hostess' greatest boon, the informal camaraderie of the buffet supper."

Mrs. Lowe is Lilyan Tashman and is famous as a hostess. Add to that her hobby of collecting exquisite china and silver which was used at her parties.

The table against the wall held the most marvelous array of dishes and the guests helped themselves. Groups gathered about small tables or in corners to eat.

Want to emulate hostess Jeanette MacDonald? Nice idea for table covers. One tip, she says, "I have an adorable organdy cloth with lace inserts. I use silk rayon undercloths in any color that appeals to me and it's all too-too for words. But the organdy napkins are horrible to use!" Check out vintage stores, auctions, even thrift shops and you may find things from the era.

Lucky enough to be dining at the home of Maureen O'Sullivan? Let's say it's Thanksgiving-time 1935. Maybe your hostess will point out that she painted the mailbox herself.  

"I'm one of those women who adores a paintbrush." There are big fountains splashing in a courtyard outside the windows. She lives in a Spanish style building in the upstairs apartment. 

Her living room is spacious. It's done in autumn shades with a deep couch drawn up before the fireplace not too much furniture. It's easily cleared away for dancing and games. 

John Farrow's portrait (John is Maureen's fiance) holds a place of honor.  Sometime during your visit, you're apt to get in on a game of ping pong. O'Sullivan and Farrow will have seven children including well-known actress Mia Farrow.

Columbia Pictures stars of the 1930s include:
Bebe Daniels, Pola Negri, Mack Sennett, Laura La Plante
George Bancroft rushes into the ocean to save someone
Joe E. Brown's baseball team 
Harold Lloyd attends a Bathing Beauty contest 
Ricardo Cortez and Barbara Stanwyck play a little golf
The homes of Charles Chaplin, Norma Shearer, Marlene Dietrich 

What are the ladies wearing, hostesses and guests?

Lilyan Tashman Lowe is
ready for her guests
"Dolores del Rio who doesn't go out a great deal was there with Larry Kent. She looked very lovely in a frock of apricot colored satin, made with a skirt of three long ruffles. It was noticeable that every woman in the room wore the new popular long skirts. 

"William Haines brought his sister who is a young southern matron spending the winter in Hollywood. She had on a gown of heavy black net and costume jewelry with crystal. Mr. and Mrs. Allan Dwan were also among the guests, Mrs. Dwan wearing a powder blue dress recently purchased in Paris, France."

For those of you planning to host a holiday dinner, here is how Lilyan Tashman/Mrs. Lowe's attire was described:

She wore "a new model which might be entitled the hostess' delight, so exactly suited was it to the needs of looking perfectly at home and still formally gowned. Of sheer black chiffon, the dress followed the natural contour of her figure. 

"The skirt just cleared the floor. The sleeves reached from the shoulder to wrist and then extended down the back in long flowing wings that trailed off for several feet on the floor."

Bésame Cosmetics has a make-up tutorial by decade! Flapper or Bombshell? Louise Brooks or Jean Harlow, Vivien Leigh or Grace Kelly? Once you've learned how to apply the cosmetics, what would look best on your face, choose from the vintage inspired items on their site. Love the pretty packaging.

Sally Eilers welcomes her guests
It's holiday time 1935 and Sally Eilers is hosting a buffet dinner. She makes her own special salad and prepares graciously to greet her guests in the dining room where a buffet supper is ready to be served. On this particular evening, Sally is wearing a cocktail gown consisting of a long black skirt and pale pink top. 

There are white flowers all over the room. The centerpiece includes a silver candelabra with tall white candles. You'll serve yourself in the dining room and eat in the sunroom where four white tables have been set up for guests. Tonight she is serving mixed grill, cold turkey, bacon and a little pig. 

Your dinner party doesn't have to be Hollywood themed or have any theme at all. It can be a wedding rehearsal dinner, for Christmas or Thanksgiving, family reunion or when friends can't sit in the dining room. You're together to watch Cary Grant movies on TV. He's the December 2014 SOTM star of the month on TCM. :)

Sally is part of a cooking club with Mrs. Mervyn LeRoy, Mrs. Ricardo Cortez and
Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer
Original 8x10" Photo
Mrs. Pandro Berman. They meet each Thursday night at one of their homes. It was Sally's idea.

Irene Dunne has hit on a warm evening in 1936. She'll be wearing "a turquoise dinner gown with a feather trim, most becoming in shade and silhouette." 

Features of the gown are said to complement the red-gold of her hair and warm the blue of her eyes. 

"She likes to plan own dinner party menus. She places violet corsages at every feminine guest's place. .... 

"'See what I'm using for the corsages,' she said picking up a cluster of pale lavender-and-white violets. 'I had never seen the variegated flowers before and I thought my guests would like them.' ...

"'If this dinner were being given in New York, I should probably make it more elaborate, but here in Hollywood where everyone either diets or keeps a wary eye on the figure, I find that a three or four course dinner is appreciated.'" 

Are you giving any little gifts to your guests at their place settings? Something with their names inscribed? How about something to keep the kids occupied?

For an informal summer buffet on the terrace, Irene Dunne suggests that we consider including some cold beer for your guests. It can be refreshing.

In 1929, Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon gave a buffet holiday party. Ms. Daniels' favorite salad recipe was given.

A number of card tables were set up in the big studio drawing room very festive with little embroidered cloths over them and tiny silver candlesticks with bright red candles in the middle. 

Bebe Daniels and
Ben Lyon prepare
to greet their guests
The guests marched around the table and filled their plates and then selected their own small tables. There is a big bowl of combination salad. 

Bebe Daniels' cook makes the salad by first rubbing the bowl with garlic then pouring french dressing over lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and green chile peppers. It's promised to be quite the best you ever tasted. 

"In the center of the table was a huge circular plate with little fitted dishes [find one for your party] and in these were all kinds of fresh vegetables for Hollywood knows its dietetics nowadays. Carrots sliced thin, young onions, radishes and all kinds of olives." 

Dancing on a Rainbow from Stage Mother 1933

Maureen O'Sullivan starred with Alice Brady, Franchot Tone, Phillips Holmes, Ted Healy and Ben Alexander 


Happy Thanksgiving Join the 1930s stars

Hollywood Golden Age Stars enjoy the Holiday

Gobble, Gobble
Mary Pickford &
Douglas Fairbanks

ready for dinner
Where did the stars have their Thanksgiving dinners? Who had to work? Who was a host and who was a guest? What movies were they working on at that time? How did the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade look in the 1930s?

Also find the answers to The Old Hollywood Stars Thanksgiving Menus Quiz, posted on November 12th.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks dined at home in Beverly Hills. 

Mary spent part of the day cutting her newest picture and Douglas spent part of it cutting capers in the picture on which he is now at work. 

Pickford's film, Kiki was released in March 1931 while Fairbanks' film Reaching for the Moon came out December 1930.

The Fairbakses plan to spend Christmas at St. Moritz. Mary hates to spend Christmas away from home but Doug is troubled with itching feet again.  

Last year they spent Christmas aboard a steamer somewhere between here and China but at least Mary says they were en route home.

The Taming of the Shrew, scene from a talking picture starring Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks came out 1929

By the way, on December 5, 1933 the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition will be ratified. Will you attend a Repeal Party?

Meet John Doe: Includes Gary Cooper,
Barbara Stanwyck, James Gleason
James Gleason, his wife Lucille and his son Russell had in Beverly hills the same kind of Thanksgiving  dinner which they always serve: 

Tomato juice cocktail, celery, spiced peaches, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and the chief emphasis on turkey with plenty of boiled onions. 

"All I wanted was turkey and onions," said James. "Why spoil the act with a lot of little program stunts?"

James Gleason is known for both film and television work. He was Lt. Rooney in Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane. 

For his work as Max Corkle in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Gleason received an Academy Award nomination. Later, Gleason appeared on television including several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents

In Daddy Long Legs, 1919, Mary Pickford
looked scornfully at a prune.
Chances are she would not use them in her stuffing?

Son, Russell Gleason was also an actor. He played Muller in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Russell Gleason and his wife wife, Cynthia Lindsay, were friends with Boris Karloff. 

Ms. Lindsay, a former Busby Berkeley chorus girl, wrote a biography of Karloff that is still popular today. It's called Dear Boris: The Life of William Henry Pratt a.k.a. Boris Karloff. 

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade 1930s

Richard Arlen and his wife, Jobyna Ralston have just about had dinner on their yacht as it
Jobyna Ralston and Harold Lloyd
For Heaven's Sake
skimmed down toward lower California. 

Harold Lloyd was likely dining with his own family.

Louise Fazenda, married to Warner Brothers' producer Hal B. Wallis, cooked Thanksgiving dinner herself in person. 

She's reputed to be a marvelous cook, "the kind that thinks up intricate stuff and invites ten relatives to eat it."

Did Spencer Tracy dine with Marlene Dietrich?

Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg numbered among those who had to work, to complete her picture even if it is Thanksgiving. They "arranged for slathers of holiday fare nonetheless on the Paramount lot." 

They are most likely working on the movie, Dishonored where Dietrich plays spy Marie Kolverer / X27. Blonde Venus was yet to come.  

Her Dishonored costars include Victor McLaglen and Warner Oland. This was her third talking picture or sound feature film.

Dietrich on holiday

~ That's good pie ~
Southern gal, Mary Brian hosted a party and of course June Collyer and Glenda Farrell were guests. She made her famous eggnog pie. Brian was a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1926. 

She was repeatedly photographed with and reported to be engaged to Cary Grant. Miss Brian and Glenda Farrell appeared in The Blue Moon Murder Case.

Hoping someone very nice will make you coffee this Thanksgiving.

How did their guests feel at dessert-time?
What was served?

Priscilla Dean makes leg of lamb;
Lois Wilson prepares "a big dinner of Nothing at all"

Magazines openly admitted that a certain percentage of the time when articles featured photos of stars cooking, they could have simply been posing with an empty pot or oven.

Though not shown or mentioned in some of the articles above, many of the stars had cooks and other employees who prepared and served the meals.

Ruth Chatterton, Ralph Forbes and William Powell feasted at Clive
Charming Sinners 1929
Chatterton, Powell, Brook
's house. Next Thanksgiving, 1931, Powell will spend with his new wife, actress Carole Lombard. 

You'll remember Clive Brook played Sherlock Holmes three times. In 1932 he will play opposite Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express. 

Charles Farrell said that his mother prepared the only real New England Thanksgiving dinner in Hollywood. 

It was enjoyed in Farrell's Cape Cod house. Other guests were Guinn "Big Boy" Williams and Mary

Buddy Rogers
helps mother with the dishes

Farrell marries actress Virginia Valli on the upcoming Valentine's Day 1931. They remained married until Valli's death from a stroke in September 1968.

Charles Buddy Rogers had been working in New York, but returned to California to spend Thanksgiving. In 1937, Rogers and Mary Pickford would become husband and wife.

Thanksgiving Macy's Parade 1935

Imagine watching the parade in color!

Philadelphia 1942

Answers to the Old Hollywood Stars' Thanksgiving Menus, Quiz 
Some 1930s Thanksgiving menus of the stars

1) Mae Clarke: Menu B

2) Irene Dunne: Menu H

3) The team of Phyllis Fraser, Mary Mason and Dorothy Wilson: Menu A

4) Anita Page: Menu D

5) Irene Rich: Menu E

6) May Robson: Menu I

7) Charles Ruggles: Menu F [Arline Judge was his sister-in-law]

8) Peggy Shannon Menu J

9) Shirley Temple: Menu G

10) Claire Trevor: Menu C 

In 1945, Alan Ladd said "What's Thanksgiving without chrysanthemums?"

In 1917 fans from Louisville, KY of actress Virginia Pearson sent her a 17 pound turkey.

Virginia Valli

Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Edison, Mary Pickford 
How often do you see Fairbanks yawn? Too much turkey and ready for a nap?

Related Books and Pages of Interest: 

Boris Karloff wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving 1950, favorite classic folk songs, sea shanties, riddles; Listen to his old radio show 

Hollywood Hosts & Hostesses, party dress decor menu 1930s Hosting your own party? Consider a making it a buffet 

Dear Boris: The Life of William Henry Pratt a.k.a. Boris Karloff biography by friend, Cynthia Lindsay Russell

Old Hollywood Stars, Your Home - Your Personality, William Haines

Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios
Movie night Popcorn pillows, machine wash 
Italian actor, Rudloph Valentino with wife Natacha Key Chain
Rudloph Valentino with wife Natacha
Use custom keychains as place settings,
They're are a budget-friendly gift idea, start from scratch with your own photos.
Different styles and sizes are different prices.

Thanks to sources including
The Milwaukee Sentinel November 1930 and New Movie Magazine 1929 and 1934

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.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Movie censorship around the world 1910s-1950s

Film Censorship Japan, France, Britain, more

What did countries such as Japan and France think of American movies? How did they censor their own films and imports? When did the British Board of Film Censors appear? And much later, in 1979 did the members of Monty Python have to deal with audience uproar and what did Cary Grant say about his experiences?
Jack Pickford becomes a motion picture censor
for the US government
Jack Pickford, Movie Censor: In 1918, Mr. Pickford was given advance screenings of all pictures scheduled to appear on Universal's Screen Magazine and Universal's Current Events. Whatever scenes showing war-like preparations were eliminated from prints to be exported. 

"He said this had nothing to do with prints to be used domestically. 

"Pickford recently enlisted in the navy and owing to his knowledge of motion pictures was immediately assigned to the Intelligence Department."

Pictured above: Olive Thomas (his wife), Jack, Mrs. Charlotte Pickford, Mary Pickford with her niece, Mary Jr. and Lottie Pickford. Jack Pickford is leaving for New York.  

By at least 1910 Canadians worried about pictures' not being up to their moral standard. The government would have to censor all films.

Film Censorship in Japan 1920s

"The fans of staid Pennsylvania are well off compared to those in Japan. Kissing scenes have long been taboo. 

"Hold-ups and ardent love scenes very often do not get by the censors who consider such acts injurious to public peace and morality. Views of revolutions, especially those of the overthrow of a crowned ruler are frowned upon by police. Yet with all these limitations and obstacles in its path the popularity of the movies grows rather than declines. ...

"Every motion picture house is divided into three sections -- one for men and

Kayoko Saijo "a popular Japanese actress in
American and Japanese dress"
boys, another for women and girls and the third for married couples. Police officers are assigned to each theater to see that regulations are observed. 

"Regardless of how crowded the men's section may be and how vacant the women's is, no male is permitted to sit in the enclosure reserved for ladies.  

"This was done some years ago to safeguard morals when it was discovered that love scenes on the screen caused the more emotional among the audience to behave improperly." Komako Sunada and Aiko Takashima were other favorite Japanese actresses mentioned.

"Recently the censors lifted the ban on kissing so far as American and European actors and actresses, and were concerned to see the effect this move toward Westernization would have on public morals."

"While on stage, the majority of feminine roles are played by men, women have from the very beginning established themselves firmly in motion pictures. At the Kabuki-za, the largest theater in Tokyo, no actresses are employed. On the other hand while there are only a handful of male film stars all studios are crowded with actresses." 

The total footage of film shown one that year was 4,135,801. But the proprietors of the movie theaters bought much than that. A substantial amount, 121,000 feet of film had been cut by censors, "for the public morals and protection of children" it was said. Those who made the pictures said that the highlights of the movies and scenes integral to plot were cut. ...

The Katsuben or Benshi: 
Subtitle Readers-Translators
From one publication; "Subtitle readers are hired by the dozen by each theater to translate the titles as they appear and to shout their translations to the audience. There are more than eight thousand regularly paid subtitle readers in the country and a skillful interpreter increases the value of a picture to a great extent. Imagination is employed by some of the men who succeed frequently in altering a weak story."

The 1921 dressing room of these benshi is even fitted with electric lights
From a different publication (a few years earlier); "The Japanese censor does not stop with the surgical operations of films. He gets at the public through katsuben, also. The katsuben or benshi as he or she is sometimes called is a sort of animated caption. They are of both sexes for girls are quite as active in the profession as men. He explains the picture, he makes the silent drama vocal."

The censors recruited, hired and carefully trained those who would act as benshi. It was said that moviegoers in big and small towns in Japan wrote letters to newspapers complaining that the censorship of movies was too harsh.

"The moral influences of these explainers of pictures over the audience is
Sessue Hayakawa 1918
thought to be great. At least that is the opinion of the Japanese censor. Therefore next to the editing of the films, he turns his best attentions to the expurgation of the benshi. The benshi is not permitted to earn his bread by the sear of his artistic sense unless he is armed with a declaration from the censor, on the impeccability of his ethical character."

-- From articles dated 1921-1926

One article claimed that Sessue Hayakawa, a popular Japanese actor living and working in the US, "is extremely unpopular in his native country because of the parts he plays in motion pictures."

There were, of course artists, writers, technicians, etc. who came to work in the US movie business from all different parts of the world. I found The Japanese American Film Company and The Mandarin Film Company both independent studios in California in the 1910s begun by actors and other creative people from Japan and China.  

England 1913 Clean & Wholesome...

British Board of Film Censors certificate 1913
"No film subject will be passed that is not clean and wholesome and absolutely above suspicion but those passed for universal exhibition are especially recommended for children's matinees." 

In 1913 The British Board of Film Censors showed off examples of their two certificates. They were to be used for every film examined and passed, be they for universal or public exhibition. There were two certificates for every film examined and passed, for universal or public exhibition. Copies of the certificates would be printed on films immediately following the main title. The board will appreciate a report as to any objectionable film that may be shown in your district, they said.

Certificate granted any to any Hall showing motion pictures

Also the Board issues a certificate, on vellum, for each hall becoming a party to the agreement. (above) The certificate remains property of the Board and is subject to be revoked at any time.

Friday Night, Saturday Morning The Life of Brian aka Monty Python's Life of Brian brought a lot of controversy in the UK, the US and elsewhere. It was said that in the US a senator who'd not even seen the film worked to have it banned. 

The film features Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Films, art, Free Speech, 1979 debate.

John Cleese would say that in this interview was one of the few times he ever saw Michael Palin angry.

1918 little rhyme about censors

The French & The Americans 1953

The Stowaway, Martine Carol
She is Colette, a night club singer who winds up in Tahiti

In 1953, Screenland magazine offered a discussion on movie censorship which featured quotes from French actors and directors such as Danielle Darrieux, Giselle Pascal and especially, Martine Carol and Christian-Jaque (Christian-Jacque in article). 

The focus was a comparison of censorship in France and America and consequently what they thought of the tastes in each country.

"Dozens of French films are turned out every year. Many are in very bad taste,

pictures about women of the streets, about menage a trois, you know a three-handed game of love, as well as many horrible crime pictures. They're dreadful, far worse than many of Hollywood's I assure you," said Martine Carol.

They shook their heads over The Moon Is Blue which received flack from censors. The movie was directed Otto Preminger and starred David Niven, William Holden, Maggie McNamara.

The Moon is Blue movie trailer

Giselle Pascal (Gisèle Pascal): "Films as an art for the masses need some kind of censorship. A man or woman who buys a book general has a good idea of what is being paid for. But movies are different. Much of your audience is totally unaware of the content of the product they are buying. I think it important for the heads of the French film industry to guard carefully against excesses of
Martine Carol
nudity and immorality and excesses, in my opinion, there have been." 

The trouble, if you can call it that, with the idea of censorship is that it's so subjective. Is it really in the eye of the beholder and as DW Griffith said, should be left up to parents, Mother and Father in the case of children and then up to each adult?

The article said that the singer and actress was working on a film, Horizons Without End. Either it was renamed or translated, Endless Horizons. Miss Pascal was also in the news thanks to rumors of a romance with American actor Gary Cooper.
The point was made that while intimacy and nudity were more acceptable in French cinema, "many American made scenes of violence mayhem murder and what some French critics call rank sadism are given the green light by our censors without the flicker of an eyelash while at the same time they are severely scissored and sometimes completely vetoed by French censors." 

Foreign Censors Cuts from American Films:
This included gangster pictures but also Westerns and other movies. They cut a scene from Calamity Jane with Doris Day and Howard Keel. Fernando Lamas' slap at Liz Taylor was too realistic in The Girl Who Had Everything. (right)

A scene in Cry of the Hunted a 1953 film noir with Vittorio Gassman, Polly Bergen and Barry Sullivan wasn't approved.

Foreign censors get their best licks in on the fight scenes. Violent romance in Wings of the Hawk with Van Heflin and Julie Adams was toned down.

Bob Mitchum and Jack Palance were too rough for the censors in a film they made with Linda Darnell, Second Chance. A deleted shot from The Golden Blade with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie.

One of Martine Carol's films, Caprice of Caroline Cherie, got past censors but had trouble with segments of the audiences themselves in portions of France.

"Once they approve pictures for release, no individual or group in any part of France has the right to make additional cuts or to ban a showing. There is one exception however. Under the law, if a film is so controversial that it inflames the public and incites them to riot it can be what you call, yanked on the spot."

1953 More cuts even after approval by Breen office:
The reporter explained to Martine and Christian how the American censorship set-up differs from that in France. In the US, local, city and state censor boards could make cuts alterations, including banning films even though they had already received the seal of approval from the Breen office. In 1934 Joseph Breen had been appointed head of the new PCA, Production Code Administration.

They were somewhat surprised at this situation in the USA. Martine Carol said, "In general we have a sensible attitude. The board looks for things like extreme immorality, unusually brutal violence and  the re-enactment of crimes recently committed - cases where the individuals or families involved are still alive. They also have an eye open for unattractive portrayals of French nationals. And that's about it. 

"To show a tender and realistic bedroom scene or an intimate but humorous love scene is not considered immoral. It is assumed to be an accurate portrait of life.  I will never understand why in the United States certain cuts were ordered in the beautiful and sensitive The Devil in the Flesh."  .... 

"'On the other hand, chimed in Christian-Jaque, 'I can't understand why such a witty, amusing picture as La Ronde has been banned in New York. It's all tongue in cheek and certainly less harmful to the public than any dozen or more American gangster pictures I could name for you. It couldn't possibly offend anyone over sixteen.'"

Martine, the writer of the article notes she is 'blessed with a heavenly body,' said she feels much the same as Christian does. 

"We just don't consider that the sight of of a beautiful nude body is lewd. However we think it is vulgar to show complete nudity or to display extremely revealing clothes on cheap and unattractive women."

Christian-Jaque, it was reported would become Miss Carol's husband as soon as her divorce is final from Stephen Crane, Lana Turner's ex-spouse.

Martine Carol and Stephen Crane were married 1948-1953. You may recall that in April 1958, when she was 14 years old, Cheryl Crane, the daughter of Lana Turner and Stephen Crane killed Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. The stabbing was ruled self defense. Cheryl Crane wrote a book, Detour: a Hollywood Tragedy - My Life With Lana Turner, My Mother. This happened during the time that Martine Carol was married to Christian-Jaque.

Martine Carol was a big star in France, often called the French Marilyn Monroe. Christian-Jaque directed some of her films.  Martine Carol films DVD, streaming.

By the late 1950s, newcomer Brigitte Bardot came on the scene. Martine Carol was married to American Actor Stephen Crane, ex-husband of Lana Turner, 1948-1953. She was married to director Christian-Jaque 1954-1959.

While Man in the Dark and Detective Story were enjoyed by the public, the films had some difficulty with Gallic censors. Also according to the 1953 article, "In Switzerland youngsters under eighteen cannot even attend movies. In Spain kissing scenes are cut from films."
Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman
B&W Notorious 24X36 Poster
During the era of the Production Code, there was a three second time limit on screen kisses. Alfred Hitchcock was a director who was, uh, notorious for thinking of ways around such restrictions. He was one of the directors who used a train to say what he couldn't say any other way.

In his 1946 movie Notorious, where he worked around the rule of three-second-kissing only by having Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant break off every three seconds. The sequence lasts for two and a half minutes.

How do you think the work of this generation of actors and other artists in the industry may have been different without censorship?

In North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock deftly used the symbolism of a train speeding into a tunnel at the end of his film to represent what Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint could not show on screen in the 1960s.

In The Awful Truth "Leo McCarey cuts to the cuckoo clock chiming midnight. The male figurine turns on his heels and hungrily pursues the female through her doorway. The Breen office was amused and satisfied. 

"Breen had warned during the script review phase, 'Great care will be needed in shooting it to avoid the sex suggestiveness that might lead to censor deletions which could ruin the end of your picture.'  They warned 'The bedroom scene in the cabin could be possibly suggestive [but] only if it were not played in fine taste for delicate comedy.'" -- Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration

Cary Grant gave a newspaper interview in early 1986. He talked about restrictions he faced while making movies in the 1930s through the 1960s. He was in his eighties and people still begged him to act again or perhaps produce films. He continued to decline their offers. 

"The actors today are so much better than the ones in our day. I'm amazed at what Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson can do. 

"In my day, our work was incredibly confined because we were so hurt by censorship. We weren't allowed to show any passion. Whether or not the freedom is used wisely is another matter." 

A kiss to end this one.

More to come...

  • What if they censored Shakespeare's plays?!
  • What did Ed Sullivan say?
  • What were the stars' own taboos, No-Nos that were written into their contracts, self-censorship?

Related Pages, Books of Interest:

When is a train more than just a mode of transportation? Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint or William Powell and Myrna Loy could tell you...

Scenes removed by censors, intertitles, subtitles ordered changed

Dirty Business Film Censorship in the Early Days 1900s, 1910s, 1920s

Academy Award winning short films, foreign films

Laurel & Hardy Putting Pants on Philip

Join Amazon Prime (Free Month) Streaming Movies & TV Shipping Discounts and more - Watch Over 40,000 Movies, HBO shows & specials... Wide selection of new/old movies, foreign films and documentaries compared to other streaming video sites and the yearly price is about the same. It's our preference, many old and new TV shows and films are free with membership.

The Dragon Painter DVD 1919 English language silent film stars Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki

Sources not cited elsewhere
Cinema News and Property Gazette 1913
Dallas Morning News March 20, 1986
Motion Picture 1921
Motion Picture Classic 1926
Moving Picture World 1918