The World & I (1999) - Hitchcock and the censors
- article: Hitchcock and the censors
- author(s): Leonard J. Leff
- journal: The World & I (01/Aug/1999)
- issue: volume 14, issue 8, page 108
- journal ISSN: 0887-9346
- publisher: Washington Times Corporation
- keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, Bates Motel, Cary Grant, Censorship, Daphne du Maurier, David O. Selznick, Eva Marie Saint, Foreign Correspondent (1940), Grace Kelly, History, Ingrid Bergman, James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Joan Fontaine, Joseph Cotten, Judith Anderson, Laurence Olivier, Lifeboat (1944), Marion Crane, Motion picture directors & producers, Motion pictures, New York City, New York, North by Northwest (1959), Notorious (1946), Paramount Pictures, Production Code Administration, Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), Rebecca (1940), Saboteur (1942), Selznick International Pictures, Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Stephen Rebello, Vertigo (1958)
Director Alfred Hitchcock developed the art of suggestion into powerful cinema through collaboration and clashes with Hollywood's Production Code censors. Hitchcock worked hard to avoid crossing Joseph Breen in particular, who was the director of the internal censorship agency.
Through collaboration and clashes with Hollywood's Production Code censors, Alfred Hitchcock — born a hundred years ago — developed the art of suggestion into powerful cinema.
In the 1930s, in a drab, unmarked building in the West End of London, the British Board of Film Censors scoured new motion pictures for "anything repulsive and objectionable to the good taste and better feelings of the English audiences." Good taste was in the eye of the beholder — literally the eye, as director Alfred Hitchcock understood. The chief British censor wore glasses with one opaque lens, Hitchcock once recalled, and whenever an "offending piece of film approached, I said, 'Mr. Wilkinson . . .' He turned his head toward me, and the objectionable scene went by on the screen without his seeing it."
Born one hundred years ago this month, Hitchcock loved to kid the censors, yet he worked hard to avoid crossing them, especially one: Joseph Breen, director of the American movie industry's internal censorship agency, the Production Code Administration. Hitchcock was usually successful, too, since he, like Breen, preferred the subtle to the explicit, the suggested to the shown. Inevitably, the censors left fingerprints on his films. His special gift, though, was to make those "prints" go by on the screen without our seeing them.
Breen met Hitchcock on "Rebecca", the director's first American picture, released in 1940. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, this story of a naive young woman (Joan Fontaine) who marries a brooding English aristocrat (Laurence Olivier) looked inoffensive. Breen had read the treatment of the story, however, and red-penciled the conclusion. Olivier had ...