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The Dame in the Kimono

The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Production Code

Leonard J. Leff
Jerold L. Simmons
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The Dame in the Kimono
    Book Description:

    " The new edition of this seminal work takes the story of the Production Code and motion picture censorship into the present, including the creation of the PG-13 and NC-17 ratings in the 1990s.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4345-3
    Subjects: Film Studies, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. The Production Code 1922–1934

    • 1 Welcome Will Hays!
      (pp. 3-17)

      In the late teens of the twentieth century, America lost her innocence. The Great War not only tarnished her ideals but cast doubt on her national goals. Painters and poets, reporters and Rotarians, laborers and politicians—all experienced the bitter aftershock of the war. Some turned to God, some to pessimism, and some, especially in Hollywood, to the hot-cha-cha.

      The California sun warmed the innocent and the corrupt, both of whom could overheat. By the 1920s, scandal seemed rife. actress dies at drunken party, one 1921 headline shouted. famous comedian charged with murder. For the Labor Day weekend, Fatty Arbuckle...

    • 2 Welcome Mae West!
      (pp. 18-33)

      “This burg is probably the mad house of the universe,” Breen wrote Hays from Hollywood in August 1931. Press relations were a shambles. Local reporters and free-lancers loved alcohol and hated work; they also “despise[d] the Producers.” When the latter barred the press from the studios, the coverage turned worse. Breen wrote Hays: “The writing corps became over night a band of snoopers with spies and tipsters prowling everywhere—and reporting what they see and hear to the correspondents who are eager to print the stuff, come what may.” The studios rolled out “blurb stuff” for reporters, who laughed it...

    • 3 Welcome Joe Breen!
      (pp. 34-56)

      Joseph Ignatius Breen “spoke Hollywood.” Tough and brash and larger than life, he was “just dumb enough,” one associate recalled, and could see clear through the tinsel of the Tinseltown moguls.

      Sons of immigrants, the Breen men were reared on the streets of Philadelphia. One brother graduated from St. Joseph’s College and maintained a long association with the Jesuit campus; another became a priest. Joe had attended St. Joseph’s but had dropped out by 1908 to learn the newspaper trade. Rather like the moguls who inflated studio vitae to complement their new status, however, Breen always called himself a college...

  6. The Production Code Administration 1934–1966

    • 4 Dead End
      (pp. 59-80)

      “We’re off for Hollywood,” Princess Tamara purred inThe Women, “where dear Mr. Hays will protect me.” The Princess Tamaras of the world assumed that it was Will Hays who had tamed the movies; using his administrative skills and Washington contacts, he had certainly improved the climate for trade and contained the prospect of antitrust action. Across the country, however, on the West Coast, producers and industry observers knew that one of Hays’ lieutenants had more directly affected the nature of screen content. The English trade paperFilm Weeklycalled Hays “a mere Hindenberg,” reserving for Joseph Breen the title...

    • 5 Gone With the Wind
      (pp. 81-112)

      Once upon a time at a West Coast dinner party, a fortune-teller sat behind a screen and invited the stars to query him. He revealed all the “intimate details of their private lives,” noted an observer, yet they “never learned that the ‘palmist’ really was Will Hays, the movie censor.” While holding hands in Hollywood, the General not only told secrets but took pulses. Was RKO bleeding again? Had a Paramount executive moved from heavy drinking to alcoholism? Would too many rough pictures on the Warners schedule undermine the goodwill of the Association? The trade press, the boardroom, and the...

    • 6 The Outlaw and The Postman Always Rings Twice
      (pp. 113-144)

      In March 1941, “The Last Time I Saw Paris” captured the mood of the moment better than all the Gallup polls. Jerome Kern’s haunting melody and Oscar Hammerstein’s tender lyrics expressed Americans’ yearning for a world seemingly lost forever. Only twelve months earlier, the war in Europe had threatened to expire from lack of interest. “Sitzkrieg” had replaced “blitzkrieg” as troops stared at each other for weeks on end across the front lines. Then, in April 1940, the Germans crossed the border into Denmark and launched a surprise air assault on Oslo. Within two months the map of Europe changed...

    • 7 The Bicycle Thief
      (pp. 145-166)

      When American GI Rod Geiger returned from Italy in 1945, his barracks bag contained an unusual war trophy: a print of Roberto Rossellini’sOpen City. Geiger had purchased exclusive United States rights to the film for $13,000; over the next seven years it grossed more than $3 million in American theaters. From such profits revolutions are made.Open Citystirred filmmakers across Europe into a frenzy of activity; Italy alone produced 822 features between 1945 and 1953, most aimed at expanding the beachhead created byOpen City. France followed close behind. In the vanguard of this foreign invasion was a...

    • 8 Detective Story and A Streetcar Named Desire
      (pp. 167-189)

      It was the stormiest meeting in the history of the Screen Directors Guild. For six and a half hours on the evening of October 22, 1950, Guild members hurled accusations at one another across the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Then Cecil B. De Mille, a founding member and Hollywood’s most successful money-director, denounced his subversive opponents and began to recite their names in a strange German-Yiddish accent that drew attention to their foreign origins—“Mr. Villy Vyler,” “Mr. Fred S-s-s-inimon”—until boos and catcalls from the audience interrupted the performance. George Stevens rose to demand that the De...

    • 9 The Moon Is Blue and The French Line
      (pp. 190-218)

      The 1956 Christmas issue ofLifefeatured a portrait of the ideal American woman. A thirty-two-year-old suburban housewife and mother of four, she cooked well, cleaned house better, and was “pretty and popular.” Her weekly round of activities included club and PTA meetings, ceramics classes, choir practice, and church on Sunday. She dieted and exercised “to keep her size 12 figure,” and she dressed conservatively; in public, she always wore a girdle. She was all that was wholesome in that most wholesome of decades.

      TheLifeideal expressed the desire for feminine domesticity and family togetherness that helped define the...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 10 Lolita
      (pp. 219-246)

      As Joe Breen cashed his first retirement checks, a boy with sensual lips and light-brown sideburns cut a disc for a Tennessee record company. The voice had potential, but jobs were scarce for poor kids with spotty educations, so the boy continued to drive a truck for a living. Weekends another boy played hillbilly music at a West Texas roller rink. Though the kids skated to songs made popular by Hank Williams and Bob Wills, the boy on the bandstand sometimes broke away from Western swing to produce a different sound, one so propulsive that it made his steel-rimmed glasses...

    • 11 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
      (pp. 247-271)

      InTropic of Cancer,the down-and-out narrator spends months on the skids. He sponges from American expatriates, pimps for French tarts, and concludes that civilization is doomed, that only art and sex—especially sex—matter.Tropic of Cancer(author Henry Miller noted) was about “the recording of all that which is omitted in books.” At once funny and sexually explicit, the novel was published in France during the heyday of Mae West, and promptly divided the critics. Was it literature? Or high-toned graffiti? Americans could only speculate, for the government had banned the novel. In 1961, however, Grove Press published...

  7. Aftermath
    (pp. 272-284)

    Two mobsters once formed a partnership to take over gambling—and more—in Havana. They met with Cuban officials who blessed the merger, then celebrated on the terrace of a luxury hotel suite. Florida kingpin Hyman Roth called the moment historic. “We have now what we have always needed,” he told Michael Corleone, heir to the Corleone family and the Havana operation, “real partnership with a government.” As the gangsters cut a birthday cake shaped to represent Cuba, Roth and Corleone contemplated the rewards of an Olympian blend of private and public interests. “Michael,” Roth mused, “we’re bigger than U.S....

  8. Appendix: The Motion Picture Production Code
    (pp. 285-300)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 301-340)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 341-348)
  11. Selected Filmography
    (pp. 349-358)
  12. About the Authors
    (pp. 359-360)
  13. Index
    (pp. 361-377)