THE DAME IN THE KIMONO: Hollywood, Censorship and the Production Code from the 1920s to the 1960s by Leonard J. & Jerold L. Simmons Left

THE DAME IN THE KIMONO: Hollywood, Censorship and the Production Code from the 1920s to the 1960s

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Serious try by Left (whose 1987 book, Hitchcock and Selznick, remains an essential Hollywood study) and Simmons to whip some life into a nearly dead horse: Hollywood's self-censorship as it limps from the early 30's Seal of Approval to today's rating system of G to X (or as porno exhibitors like to expand it, TRIPLE XXX!). The title is adapted from a line by Thelma Todd in the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon, who spots Brigid O'Shaughnessy in Sam Spade's apartment and cries, ""Say, who's that dame in my kimono?""--a line and a scene that in 1936 earned that film a no-go when Warners wanted lo rerelease it after the Production Code had been established to censor movies. Perhaps the biggest trouble or sense of cross-purposes about the Production Code was that it was self-imposed and financially supported by the studios, which immediately tried every way possible to get around their own policing of morals. Anyone today who sees pre-Production Code films on late-night TV can feel only sheer delight at the witty flaunting of morals--even in commonplace Myrna Loy or Warren William early talkies, whose laugh-out-loud spicy liveliness went with the Code and never returned (try Penthouse, The Mouthpiece, Employees Entrance, or Skyscraper Soul when they repeat). Younger readers will find the Code's entanglements with ""Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"" in Gone with the Wind; with Jane Russell's chest in The Outlaw; with bowdlerizing The Postman Always Rings Twice, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lolita, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, among many other films, of some mild interest, although it may well seem to them like an argument from before The Flood. Older readers who lived through those battles the first time will not find deep meaning or even much entertainment in their reheating. Detailed cultural filmology, more for students than fans of the art.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld