Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Censors Are Out: Fanny By Gaslight Or Granny By Flashlight?

Have you ever heard of Joseph Breen or June Johnson? 


I thought not - and the person in the picture below will only confuse matters further. Neither had I until I stumbled across a nice surprise.

I found this scrapbook while I was clearing through my father's stuff. I thought it would be a book about skiing, as a). the picture of the skiier must be someone well known and b). my father had been an avid skiier in the 1950's frequently going to St. Anton-am-Arlberg in Austria.

But no, it had nothing to do with skiing. It was a scrapbook containing cuttings of his first love -  horseracing. It was a stroll down memory lane with the heroic names of that time, 1946 - Gordon Richards, Fred Darling, Cecil Boyd-Rochford, T.Weston, T.Lowery, Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda and many more. Happy Knight won the 2,000 Guineas, Hypericum, owned by The King, the 1,000. Airborne won the Derby at 50/1 in front of a crowd of 550,000. Worcester races were flooded out, Assault won the Kentucky Derby, there were Racecard rackets running at Hurst Park and Epsom, over 100,000 people went to Chester and starting stalls were trialled in Sydney, Australia.

But that, as interesting as it may be, was not the thing which fascinated me the most. there was a loose cutting from the Daily Mail of the day's runners at Newmarket. On the reverse however were two stories about Joseph Breen and June Johnson.

Joseph Breen was described as 'America's film purity dictator' who vetted all British films before they were screened in the United States. He was in London, visiting British producers to tell them how to save themselves time, trouble and thousands of pounds. The film The Wicked Lady was in danger of being censored and had been held up for six months due to objections to low cut dresses.

Several pictures had been forced to make substantial changes. The Rake's Progress which was renamed The Notorious Gentleman because of a fear that the American audience might expect a gardening movie, was still being held up over the deletion of a bedroom scene.

Henry V with Lawrence Olivier had to be reshot because of American objections to words such as 'damn' and 'bastard'. Fanny By Gaslight was seen as dubious as it had an illegitimate heroine, and showed scenes in an immoral house. Fascinating.

Adjacent was the story about June Johnson, a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Washington, County Durham, who had gone on 'a night ride, clad only in pyjamas and dressing gown on a man's bike' to capture three men who had broken into the Newbottle branch of the Co-operative Stores, staeling articles valued at £45. The judge recommended that she should be rewarded £5 5s.

Times change and they don't change. People are still behaving in the same manner. There are still the odd June Johnson around. There are many more Joseph Breens. The trouble though, is that they all seem to be British and spend the time telling everyone what to do and what not to do.

It is good to see censorship still continues today. Of course The Pope Must Die......t.

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