I AM A CAMERA (Romulus, 1955)—Sex comedy/drama. Director: Henry Cornelius; Producer: Jack Clayton; Script: John Collier, based on the John Van Druten play that was based on the novel Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood; Cinematography: Guy Green; Music: Malcolm Arnold; Cast: Julie Harris (Sally Bowles), Laurence Harvey (Christopher Isherwood), Shelley Winters (Natalie Landauer), Ron Randell (Clive), Anton Diffring (Fritz Wendel), Lea Seidl (Frau Schneider), Patrick McGoohan (Swede), and Frederick Valk (Doctor).
Director Henry Cornelius wanted to shoot I Am a Camera in Berlin, the location for Christopher Isherwood's stories that formed the basis of both the film and John Van Druten's play. However currency problems denied the production company, Romulus, the opportunity to film in Berlin. This proved a major limitation as the sterility of the film is due, partly, to the endless studio interiors for a story demanding a sense of history and a strong atmosphere. The film's second major obstacle was the subject matter of the play, particularly Isherwood's homosexuality, Sally Bowles's casual, nonmoralistic attitude to sex, and her abortion in the third act. This immediately created problems, especially in the United States.
When a copy of Van Druten's play was submitted to Joseph Breen in May 1953, Breen pointed to code violations. I Am a Camera was released in the United Kingdom with an X certificate and without the Production Code Seal in Los Angeles on July 21,1955, and later in Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, Chicago, and Detroit. However, the film was condemned in August 1955 by the Catholic lobby group, the National Legion of Decency (I Am a Camera was one of four British film condemned by the league—the others were The Girl from Maxim's , Living Dangerously , and The Private Life of Henry VIII* ). Bowles's characterization in the film was a problem for Geoffrey Shurlock, Breen's successor, and he objected that her character lacked the “proper compensating moral values.” The issue of abortion was also a major obstacle—even after changes to the code in December 1956, it remained explicit in this regard: “The