Hollywood V. Hard Core: How the Struggle Over Censorship Created the Modern Film Industry

Jon Lewis, Author, Scott Christianson, Author New York University Press $70 (390p) ISBN 978-0-8147-5142-8
Lewis's exhaustive history of censorship in American motion pictures starts off with a bang as he traces how the fledgling Motion Picture Association of America allied itself in 1947 with the House Committee on Un-American Activities to increase its power. The truth of the Hollywood adage ""when they tell you it's not about the money... it's about the money"" is repeatedly confirmed as Lewis demonstrates how the MPAA, which is supposed to serve as a watchdog for parents, really functions to promote big Hollywood business and discourage upstart independents. Lewis's chronicle of prominent skirmishes with the MPAA censors begins in the '50s (with The Moon Is Blue, Baby Doll and Tea and Sympathy) and continues into the '60s, when an X rating didn't necessarily indicate pornographic material (Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange, The Killing of Sister George), before moving into the present day (Eyes Wide Shut, Showgirls). The MPAA doesn't come off as an evil censor so much as a money-driven business concernDunlike Ted Turner, who apparently sabotaged the release of his own company's Crash and Bastard Out of Carolina because of his distaste for the projects. Only a fraction of the book covers the few years in the early 1970s when Hollywood was actually threatened by the popularity of hardcore films like The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat. If there's a problem with Lewis's investigative report, it's that it is exhaustively complete: there is no detail too small to trace back a century, making it an outstanding reference but too detailed for most general readers. Photos throughout. (Jan. 1)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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