Sex, Censorship and the Silver Screen Poster

Episode List


Season 1

Peep Shows and Public Outrage
From the opening of the first cinema in New York in 1894, movie makers realized that sex and scintillation sold tickets. The Kiss (1896) was a scandal and considered an attack on public morals as was the film of the belly dancer in Fatima (1897). Censorship began take shape leading the mayor of New York City to cancel all licenses to show motion pictures in 1908. Theda Bara appeared in A Fool There Was (1915) and instantly became the screen's first sex symbol and made 40 films over the next 4 years. After a 1915 ruling by the US Supreme Court that movies were not protected under the Constitution, censorship began in earnest. ...
The Temptations of Eve
The focus is on the early years of the talkies in Hollywood and particularly some of its biggest female stars including Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West. The Hays office was in a constant battle battle with the movie studios to delete any sexually suggestive scenes or dialog but the movies moguls knew what would sell and pushed it to the limit. As the films got racier however, politicians and social groups began to demand a greater degree of censorship changing the movies for years to come.
By the 1930s, the Hays Office was in firm control of censorship. The Hollywood studios were constantly trying to find ways to circumvent those controls by inventing snappy dialog and innuendo. While some of Hollywood's stars move on - Jean Harlow died at the age of 26 - others take their place. Veronica Lake with her peekaboo hairstyle and Lana Turner, the sweater girl, are among the new sex symbols of the 1940s. The first genuinely successful challenge to the Hays Office came from Howard Hughes whose film The Outlaw (1943)starred the buxom Jane Russell. He was forced to distribute ...
Hollywood Comes of Age
After the end of the Second World War, public attitudes began to change but the Hays Office and the League of Decency still held considerable sway. When the much-loved Ingrid Berman announced she was going to leave her husband to live with Roberto Rossellini, she was the subject of a fierce campaign of character assassination and even denounced on the floor of the US Senate. A Supreme Court ruling in 1952 granting films the same freedom of speech protection as other arts opens the door. It starts with European films being shown in art house theaters but it's the works...
Look Ma, No Clothes
In 1956 New York State banned a nudist colony documentary entitled The Garden of Eden. On appeal however, the courts ruled that nudity in and of itself was not obscene. Independent film makers were becoming bolder and films like Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) began to appear. In main stream Hollywood, little changed but European films continued to evolve. Victim (1961) with Dirk Bogarde dealt with homosexuality in a serious way and was the first film where a man said 'I love you' to another man. Other European films like La Dolce Vita (1960) and those of the the French New Wave directors continued to explore new themes. The Pawnbroker (1964) by ...
Forward Into the Past
By the 1970s, Americans were undergoing fundamental societal changes. Many US communities banned films such as A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Carnal Knowledge (1971). 'Stanley Kubrick (I)' re-edited A Clockwork Orange (1971) as a result. The film Deep Throat was controversial and popular and was at the vanguard of the the rise of pornographic films. Under the new MPAA rating system, an X rating soon became associated with pornographic films and Last Tango in Paris (1972) (Last Tango in Paris) was the last major studio release to carry an X rating and it wasn't until 1990 that a new adult film category, NC-17, was created. In June 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ...

 Season 1 

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