Thursday, May 20, 2010

Boston vs. The Talkies

You thought Boston was only known for banning books? No ma'am, they had problems with talkies as well, according to the July 12, 1930 issue of The New Yorker.
SOME unhappy Bostonians tell us that things are being made harder and harder for the people of their city. Lately the censors got after the talkies, deleting passages of dialogue which were dangerous to morals. The way matters stand now there are passages in many films which can't be said in the town at any time, and still further passages which pass on weekdays but won't do on Sundays...

The movie people have to assign a man at a switch which controls the speaking apparatus, and he turns off the sound when a dangerous passage is reached...

This practice bewildered the audiences at first, but they are getting pretty good at lip-reading now and can follow the plot fairly well.
And it wasn't just Boston. Only a few months before this article was published the Hayes Code had come into effect -- though it wouldn't be enforced for another four years -- with the practical result of convincing many people today that America before the 1960s was a place of tranquility, harmony, and only the simplest of problems. Which tends to be the result of most broad prohibition attempts: misinforming people and creating a disconnect between actual events and cultural artifacts.

Check out the pre-code films, though, and whoa Nelly! That's the stuff.

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