David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Censorship, Charity


• Will Hays, the man in charge of censoring movies during the days when such things were done, was once upset because actress Lana Turner had shown too much cleavage in a movie, and so he scheduled a meeting with movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, who was prepared to argue that he ran a morally upright movie studio. Unfortunately for both men, comedian Harpo Marx found out about the meeting, and Harpo hired a stripper to peel to the bare essentials, then he chased her through the room where Mr. Hays and Mr. Mayer were meeting.

• Alfred Hitchcock ran into a problem with the censors because of the shower scene in Psycho. The censors insisted that the scene showed nudity and the knife touching flesh. Mr. Hitchcock knew that the scene contained nothing of the kind but was edited to make the viewers think that that was what they were seeing. However, he agreed to make changes to the scene, waited a while, then resubmitted the movie exactly as it had been when the censors saw it. This time, the censors agreed that the movie was OK.

• Monty Python’s satiric film Life of Brian treated Jesus Christ with great respect, but it aimed deadly barbs at organized religion. For this reason, it was banned by many theaters. For example, it was banned in Swansea, Wales. Fortunately, a financially struggling theater in Porthcawl, which is near Swansea, showed the movie, so Python fans traveled there to see Life of Brian. The film helped keep the movie theater from being forced to declare bankruptcy.

• An interview with Mae West was once cancelled — that is, censored — by CBS-TV because of her comments. When Person to Person interviewer Charles Collingwood asked her about all the mirrors in her bedroom, she answered, “They’re for personal observation. I always like to know how I’m doing.” And when Mr. Collingwood attempted to change the subject to foreign affairs, Ms. West said, “I’ve always had a weakness for foreign affairs.”

• Early in his film career, Vincent Price thought that he had gotten his big break in a film in which he portrayed King Charles. In his big scene in the movie, King Charles and Nell Gwyn played with some puppies on a large bed. Unfortunately, the young actress playing Nell Gwyn was wearing such a low-cut dress and had such large breasts that the censors cut the scene out of the movie.

• The Marx Brothers are known for their comedic rejection of authority and embrace of anarchy, which is probably why Benito Mussolini hated them. Mussolini ordered his subjects in the fall of 1939 not to laugh at the Marx Brothers.

• Movie director John Waters knows how to keep censors happy — get a can of creamed corn and film a vomit scene so that the censors can cut it from the film.


• Comedian Richard Pryor’s private life was sometimes erratic. Once, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He was fined $500, ordered to get rid of his gun collection, and given the choice to do 10 benefit performances or go to jail for four months. His attorney, Jack Tanner, asked the judge if a $100,000 donation that Mr. Pryor had given to the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon would be acceptable in lieu of the 10 benefit performances. Mr. Pryor, however, was unwilling for his donation to be used in that way. He said, “That was for charity. I didn’t do it on account of this case, and I don’t want it to count as part of my sentence.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans — “Stella by Starlight”


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