Serious Charge and ﬁlm
IN M AY 1950 the Wheare Committee recommended that a new `X' category be introduced and applied to ﬁlms intended for exhibition to `adults only'. By January 1951, the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) agreed to the implementation of an `X' certiﬁcate which limited the cinema- going audience to those over 16 years of age. `It is our desire', said the BBFC secretary, Arthur Watkins, `that “X” ﬁlms should not be merely sordid ﬁlms dealing with unpleasant subjects, but ﬁlms which, while not being suitable for children, are good adult entertainment and ﬁlms which appeal to an intelligent public.'
The difﬁculties in deﬁning `good adult entertainment' soon became apparent when, on 5 January 1955, director Ronald Neame informed the British Film Producers Association that he felt `the “X” certiﬁcate was no longer serving the purpose for which it was intended'. `The British Board of Film Censors had stated at the outset that it was intended to encourage the production of ﬁlms for adult audiences,' he argued; `in fact, however, the “X” certiﬁcate was being wrongly exploited and was assisting considerably wider distribution of Continental ﬁlms in this country than might otherwise be possible whilst, at the same time, attempts by British producers to make ﬁlms suitable for adult audiences had, more often than not, failed.' 1
The problems encountered by the BBFC and the ﬁlm-makers in this instance are indicative of the problems that obtained throughout the 1950s with the `X' certiﬁcate and British cinema at large. But the story of British ﬁlm censorship during the period is also inextricably linked with the system of censorship operated by the Lord Chamberlain over stage productions and____________________