The Code: The Rise And Fall Of Hollywood's Golden Era
By Ed Driscoll · December 14, 2007 07:51 PM · Hollywood, Interrupted
The Washington Post reviews Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen & the Production Code Administration by Thomas Doherty:
"JR in 3D," the ad read in its entirety. This was in 1954, when I was starting to venture beyond the comics section of my hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That minimalist text made no sense at first, but finally I caught on: "JR" stood for the voluptuous Jane Russell, and "3D" was three-dimensional moviemaking. Hollywood had released 3-D flicks in which tomahawks flew at us and jungle cats leapt at us. Now, it seemed, Jane Russell's bust would be coming our way. Sure enough, her new movie, "The French Line," had its world premiere in St. Louis the following week. The producer, Howard Hughes, had defied orders from Hollywood's Production Code office to tone down Russell's lascivious dancing and cover up her provocative flesh. Opening the film in out-of-the-way St. Louis rather than Los Angeles or New York was Hughes's way of thumbing his nose at the establishment.It's some "climate of timidity", when during it flowed such wonderful films as:
And all of the rest of the golden era of Hollywood. What happened when the Production Code was replaced in the mid-1960s with today's ratings system? As Michael Medved once rhetorically asked Jack Valenti upon Valenti's retirement as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, "What happened, Jack, to all those missing moviegoers?
Hollywood originally panicked that television would destroy its business by offering for free the sort of entertainment that cost money at the local Bijou, but during the fateful 10 years of the primary TV invasion (1950-60) the audience actually declined 34%, compared with a 60% decline in those nightmarish four years of the late '60s. In later decades, the arrival of the VCR, cable TV and DVD actually corresponded to modest increases in the motion-picture audience, so no theory centered on technological alternatives can solve the mystery of the missing moviegoers.It will never happen of course, but ironically, nobody could use a return to the Production Code more than modern Hollywood. Today, the annual low box office returns of the vast majority of Best Picture-nominated movies signify that Hollywood is merely one entertainment niche market competing with many others for our dollars, a trend which we noted a year and a half ago.
(Via Orrin Judd, who dubs Breen "The Alchemist.")
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