Ladies and gentlemen, the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society is now making the official announcement of our very first blogathon, the Great Breening Blogathon! It is centered around October 14, which is the 129th birthday of Joseph I. Breen, the head of the Production Code Administration. We like to think of him as the man who made the Golden Era golden. To celebrate his birthday, join us in the blogathon!
The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 was a guiding light for Hollywood between 1934 and 1954, when Mr. Breen strictly enforced it. It was a strong presence in every film made during the Golden Era, yet it is infrequently mentioned by most old film lovers. Many people think it was a bottleneck in the progress of the cinema and an infringement of First Amendment rights. However, how can anyone who loves Old Hollywood criticize the very thing that made it what it was? In this blogathon, we are going to specifically focus on the Code and Joseph Breen’s enforcement of it. Variety called it breening, and that’s why we have named this blogathon “The Great Breening Blogathon!”
How can you participate? There are lots of ways! First, you can try breening a film yourself! If you would like to see an example of how to breen a movie, you can read the biweekly articles in which I have breened various films. I have breened Night World from 1932 (https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/breening-thursday-1-night-world-from-1932/), High Society from 1956 (https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/breening-thursdays-2-high-society-from-1956/), Flying Down to Rio from 1933 (https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/breening-thursdays-3-flying-down-to-rio-from-1933/), You Can’t Run Away From It from 1956 (https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/breening-thursdays-4-you-cant-run-away-from-it-from-1956/), and It Happened to Jane from 1959 (https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/breening-thursday-5-it-happened-to-jane-from-1959/).
If you would like to learn from the master himself, you can look at the original PCA files here: http://digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/search/collection/p15759coll30. Also, if you want to refer to the actual Code, here are two different versions of it: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/the-original-motion-picture-production-code-of-1930/ and https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/the-motion-picture-production-code-with-its-revisions/.
What films are eligible for breening? Any film released before July 15, 1934, and any film released between 1955 and 1968 is eligible. We are also allowing Disney films from 1968 through the early 1970s. Choose a film and write about how it could be changed to be worthy of a seal from the Production Code Administration under Mr. Breen. Breening is an interesting endeavor, since it makes you really think about plot structure, characterization, and the importance of individual jokes or lines. Have you ever really liked a film but found that you were embarrassed to watch it with someone because of unnecessary, risque elements? Perhaps you also had the unpleasant experience of being a child and not being allowed to see a film because it contained some inappropriate material. The PCA’s self-regulation prevented the exclusion in these two circumstances. Everyone could see top-quality entertainment with no ratings, warnings, or classifications. Breening made and would make all films good for everyone!
In the second category of this blogathon, I am inviting the participants to play filmmaker! Have you ever read a book, a short story, or a poem and found yourself automatically imagining classic actors in the primary roles? Have you ever read about or seen some theatrical work which you can imagine being a marvelous film from the Golden Era? This is your chance to show what a marvelous filmmaker you would be! Write an article about an idea you have for a classic film. It can come from literature, an opera, a ballet, a play, a myth, a legend, history, or right out of your own head. I don’t care if it already has been made into one or many films. I want to hear your take on it. You may or may not mention a cast list or release year. That is not essential. It doesn’t even matter if the work was written after 1954. The important thing is that it conforms to the Code in terms of content, not dates. Just remember that this is a breening blogathon. Be sure to mention why your idea would be a good Code film or how it could be changed to be a Code film.
The third category is a tribute to anything relating to the Code, the Production Code Administration, or Joseph Breen. You could discuss Mr. Breen’s early days as a newspaperman. You could discuss his friendships with famous Hollywood folk like James Cagney and Frank Morgan. You could analyze the Code’s influence on television. You could discuss Mr. Breen’s influence on the famous ending of Casablanca from 1942. You could write about the long process of compromise regarding the production of the epic Gone With the Wind from 1939. There are endless possibilities.
For breened films and new film ideas, I would appreciate it if you could submit them to me by the early part of October. I am going to carefully read and review each one. Each successfully breened film or good new idea will be given a PEPS seal of approval! The most important thing in Code films is that audiences know throughout “that evil is wrong and good is right,” to quote the Code. Sin and wrongdoing may be depicted, but they must never be attractive, justified, or unpunished. The most important thing in breening is to include “compensating moral values.” Many a difficult film was passed by Mr. Breen because it included compensating moral values.
Regarding duplicates, I only ask that no two people breen the same film. After all, you can only breen a film so much!
Here are the banners for the blogathon. In each of the first four, we are putting a spin on the traditional CENSORED banner by spreading a BREENED banner across each picture. This is to show that breening is self-regulation, not odious censorship. Please use them to advertise for the blogathon on your column and on social media. As I said before, this is my first blogathon; I hope you will help make it a success.
If you want to breen a silent film, use the following banner, which shows Greta Garbo and Lew Ayres in The Kiss from 1929.
If you want to breen a pre-Code film, use the following banner, which shows James Cagney and Mae Clarke in Lady Killer from 1933.
If you want to breen a Shurlock era film (between 1955 and 1968), use the following banner, which shows Doris Day and John Raitt in The Pajama Game from 1957.
If you want to breen a Disney film from the late 1960s or early 1970s, use the following banner, which shows Dick Van Dyke and Joanna Moore in Never a Dull Moment from 1968.
If you want to write about your own idea for a movie, which may come from an opera, a ballet, a play, literature, or your own imagination, use the following banner, which shows Barbara Stanwyck contemplating what stories would make good Code films.
If you want to write a tribute to the Code era, use the following banner, which shows Joseph I. Breen in a picture extracted from a 1934 newsreel about the Production Code Administration.
If you have any questions or need suggestions, please comment on this article. I will be happy to help in any way I can. PEPS needs your support. Please become a follower to participate. Thank you very much. You don’t have to have a blog to participate. If you don’t have one, you can send your article to me by email, and I will post it for you. Let the breening begin!
THE ROSTER SO FAR
Part 1- Breening Films
- Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan for PEPS – The Doorway to Hell from 1930
- Eric Binford for Diary of a Movie Maniac – White Zombie from 1932
- Crystal Kalyana for In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Flesh and the Devil from 1926 and Grand Hotel from 1932
Part 2 – Code Film Ideas
- Rebekah Brannan for PEPS – Ring of Love, original idea for 1940
- Tiffany Brannan for PEPS – Twinkling Stars, original idea for 1937
- Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan for PEPS – Mean to Me, original idea based on Ruth Etting’s life for 1939
Part 3 – Tributes to the Code Era
- Tiffany Brannan for PEPS – Joseph I. Breen, America’s Moral Guardian
- William Ferry – Dodsworth from 1936
- Katrina Morrison for Life’s Daily Lessons – To Be Announced
- Christina Wehner – To Be Announced
- Katherine for In the Vintage Kitchen – To Be Announced
- Amanda Garrett for Old Hollywood Films – Clergy and Religion Under the Code
- Moody Moppet – To Be Announced
- Promise E. Pope – To Be Announced
- Rebecca Deniston for Taking Up Room – The More the Merrier from 1943