ENTERTAINMENT WITH PURPOSE:
ACLU-MD/The Charles Theatre Offer "Censored Film Series"
On four Saturdays at noon, viewers can see what inspired censors to act.
The Charles Theater and the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are taking a retrospective look at the subtle and not-so-subtle intrusions on free expression
in the making of films in the U.S. The series, called "Film and Free Expression," begins on Saturday, May 12.
Screen are at noon. Other dates for films in the series are May 19 and 26, and June 2. The Charles Theatre is at 1711 N. Charles St.
The four films, with rational for inclusion in the series, are:
- May 12: "Baby Face" (1933). Director Alfred E. Green; written by Darryl Zanuck; stars are Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook (76 min). Sultry Lily (Stanwyck), pimped by her degenerate father, breaks free and sleeps her way to the top of an Art Deco skyscraper with no regrets. "Baby Face" was one of the most notorious films of the Pre-Code era, the time during the early Depression when the Hollywood studios virtually ignored the censors and offered up one sex-filled film after another. It is often cited as the reason the industry adopted the even stricter Hays Production Code in 1934. Another trigger point for the morality police was Lily’s comradely relationship with her African American maid, Chico, played by USC music student Theresa Harris. This is a recently discovered unedited version that had been rejected by the NY Board of Censors. The film will be previewed at 11 a.m. by Mike Giuliano, local film critic and lecturer; bagels and coffee will be served.
- May 19: "Force of Evil" (1948). Writer/Director Abe Polonsky; independently produced by John Garfield 's Enterprise Productions; stars John Garfield. Lawyer Joe Morse falls in with gangsters who dominate the big-time racket operations in this film about the deleterious effects of materialism on the soul. Written and directed by Abe Polonsky, one of the most prominent victims of the Hollywood’s post-World War II blacklisting, it has been hailed as the greatest low-budget film noir ever. It was picked up by MGM and then dumped at the bottom of double bills, because of its contents. The film was not officially censored, but led directly to Polonsky's blacklisting after his uncooperative appearance before the HUAC in 1951. Polonsky did not get a chance to direct another film until 1968.
- May 26: "Baby Doll" (1956). Director Elia Kazan; screenplay Tennessee Williams (his first original); stars Karl Malden, Carol Baker, Eli Wallach, Mildred Dunnock. This landmark tragi-comedy film about the doltish owner of a Southern cotton gin married to luscious teenager is one of the most erotic films ever produced. This stark, controversial, black-and-white Southern drama features themes of moral decay, lust, sexual repression, seduction, infantile eroticism and the corruption of the human soul. New York's Cardinal Spellman exhorted Roman Catholics not to view the film "under pain of sin." Though officially banned only in Aurora, Illinois, the film was so viciously denounced by the Legion of Decency that it was nearly killed, cancelled by 77% of theaters scheduled to show it. It received a total of four Academy Award nominations, with no wins.
- June 2: "Female Trouble" (1974 John Waters). Stars Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Susan Lowe, Michael Potter, Cookie Mueller, Susan Walsh, Ed Peranio, Paul Swift, George Figgs, Bob Adams. One of John Waters' personal favorites, this film follows the inevitable path from teenage delinquency to the electric chair. Divine is Dawn Davenport: teenage delinquent, unwed mother, working girl and murderer. Follow her outrageous life of violence, and learn why "crime is beauty," in John Waters' cult comedy. Prior to the screening, at 11 a.m., the Hon. Elsbeth Bothe, former ACLU General Counsel and Arnold M. Weiner, Esq., will discuss their legal fights against film censorship. Bagels and coffee will be served.
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This story was published on May 8, 2007.