Steele, Tom, Out
THE GAY GOODS THE CENSORS DIDN'T WANT YOU TO SEE.
Censorship in film has been around almost since the projector was invented. This month's revelatory documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated explores the workings of the Motion Picture Association of America, which rates movies and often forces out-and-out censorship to take place. The documentary is particularly focused on the MPAA's longtime president, Jack Valenti, who imposed his conservative political and religious agenda on the film industry for 38 years. It seems like everyone from Ewan McGregor to Colin Farrell has seen his cock cut (ouch!). In honor of This Film, we present our own time line of queer censorship in the movies.
One of the earliest examples of censorship of a gay scene occurs in Alla Nazimova's Salome, which reputedly has an all-gay cast, including Nazimova herself. Horrified censors order the elimination of several sequences, including one that flaunts a homosexual relationship between two Syrian soldiers, thus marking the first cinematic record of "don't ask, don't tell."
In this year, the existence of homosexuality is referred to in movies more often than at any other time in film history before the Hays Code, which is adopted to regulate and censor movies. The code remains in effect until the late 1960s.
Late in the year, the Hays Office sends memos to studios declaring that the word "pansy" is now forbidden. (We hear "cocksucker," however, is just fine.)
A gay murder victim in Richard Brooks's novel Crossfire instead becomes Jewish in the movie, which stars Robert Young, Robert Ryan, and Robert Mitchum. Oy.
The original exchange in Everybody's Girl reads:
Producer: Did you ever have a fairy godmother?
Showgirl: No. But I have an uncle in Chicago we're not too sure about. …