Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Eliminations" - The Censorship of Baby Face

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One of the most startling segments in These Amazing Shadows is about the censorship of the 1933 Warner Bros. film, Baby Face. The documents from the New York State Archives that accompany this blog post show exactly what was taken out, replaced, and re-shot to accommodate the demands of the New York censors. It is funny how in the above cover letter Warner Bros. uses the term, "eliminations," and ends it's with the very contrite, "I hope the enclosed pages will be helpful to you." At the time of this letter - May 19, 1933 - movie studios like Warner Bros. were not generally used to having outside organizations crudely censor the content of their films. From the very beginnings of the movie business there were outcries about how the movies corrupt the youth, promote criminal behavior and sexual promiscuity. In those early days of the movies most attempts at censorship was unorganized. It was not until the Motion Picture Production Code was adopted in 1930 was there a real and effective way to, as Mick LaSalle says in TAS, "block the free expression of one era talking to another." Though the production code was adopted in 1930 it wasn't until 1933 that studios really had to fall in line. Thus, the censorship of Baby Face and the marvelous performance by Barbara Stanwyck.


  1. Amazing film, terrible what the censors did to it in its day but wonderful the original print somehow survived.

  2. Thanks for your comment. It is shocking to read the actual letters advising what scenes to alter and cut. Truly amazing that the original print survived.