Synopses & Reviews
From 1934 to 1954 Joseph I. Breen, a media-savvy Victorian Irishman, reigned over the Production Code Administration, the Hollywood office tasked with censoring the American screen. Though little known outside the ranks of the studio system, this former journalist and public relations agent was one of the most powerful men in the motion picture industry. As enforcer of the puritanical Production Code, Breen dictated final cut over more movies than anyone in the history of American cinema. His editorial decisions profoundly influenced the images and values projected by Hollywood during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.
Cultural historian Thomas Doherty tells the absorbing story of Breen's ascent to power and the widespread effects of his reign. Breen vetted story lines, blue-penciled dialogue, and excised footage (a process that came to be known as Breening) to fit the demands of his strict moral framework. Empowered by industry insiders and millions of like-minded Catholics who supported his missionary zeal, Breen strove to protect innocent souls from the temptations beckoning from the motion picture screen.
There were few elements of cinematic production beyond Breen's reach--he oversaw the editing of A-list feature films, low-budget B movies, short subjects, previews of coming attractions, and even cartoons. Populated by a colorful cast of characters, including Catholic priests, Jewish moguls, visionary auteurs, hardnosed journalists, and bluenose agitators, Doherty's insightful, behind-the-scenes portrait brings a tumultuous era--and an individual both feared and admired--to vivid life.
"In this comprehensive coverage of cinematic censorship, Doherty, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University, probes the power of Joseph I. Breen (1888 1965), head of Hollywood's puritanical Production Code Administration from 1934 to 1954, and along the way, he captures the clash of 'Catholic priests, Jewish moguls, visionary auteurs, studio hacks, hardnosed journalists and bluenosed agitators' in pre-TV Tinseltown. Born in Philadelphia, the Irish-Catholic Breen was a journalist turned publicist. His successful marketing of a film documentary showing 'Catholic multitudes' at the 1926 Eucharistic Congress catapulted his career. With powerful backers in his corner, the Catholics and the New Dealers, Breen tightened the screws: 'I am hopeful of doing something, to lessen, at least, the flow of filth, but I have no illusions about the problem.' He ruled with an iron fist, altering scripts and deleting footage until Otto Preminger cracked the Code in 1953 with The Moon Is Blue. Amid an avalanche of anecdotes and fascinating movie lore are 60 illustrations (ads, posters, stills) and a copy of the 1956 Production Code. The 42 pages of bibliographic notes are evidence of the author's exhaustive research. Doherty writes with such wit and verve, bringing the past to life, that this scholarly study is also a very entertaining read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Cultural historian Thomas Doherty recounts the untold tale of the man who dictated "final cut" over more movies than anyone in the history of American cinema. Empowered by industry insiders and millions of like-minded Catholics, Joseph I. Breen oversaw the editing of A-list feature films, low-budget B movies, short subjects, previews of coming attractions, and even cartoons. Populated by a colorful cast of characters, including Catholic priests, Jewish moguls, visionary auteurs, hardnosed journalists, and bluenose agitators, Doherty's insightful, behind-the-scenes portrait brings a tumultuous era& mdash;and an individual both feared and admired-to vivid life.