On October 13-15, we hosted our first blogathon, “The Great Breening Blogathon,” which celebrated the 129th birthday of the head of the PCA, Joseph I. Breen. I want to thank everyone who made this blogathon a huge success. Despite an unusual topic, we had a lot of participants who all brought their own unique perspectives. We studied and analyzed the Code and its era, discussed and researched Joe Breen’s life, hypothesized how the Code would have changed films made during different eras, and even wrote about our own ideas for Code films. We made four rosters for this blogathon, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. However, if you want to see all the articles for this blogathon, go no further! You will find them directly below. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see an exciting announcement, which happens to be the revealing of PEPS’s next blogathon!
Part 1 – Breening Films – This category includes articles in which authors analyzed films made outside of the Breen era (1934-1954) and explained how they would have been different under Mr. Breen’s watch. The word breening is a verb coined by Variety. It applies to Joseph Breen’s unique process of film review. Some people refer to his Code-enforcement as censorship, but it really should be called self-regulation. However, breening is the best enforcement of the Code, since others tries and failed to self-regulate. I have written many articles in which I “breened” films, and the authors who wrote the following articles did the same. Be sure to read each one, since they all offer imaginative, intelligent thought about the Code and how it would have changed these films.
Katrina Morrison showed impressive energy and enthusiasm in her breening. She was completely open-minded in her review, and she was able to see breening as a new, interesting way to examine a film. We commend her for her gallant efforts. We did not watch the entire movie, since we found the war scenes to be graphic to the point of being disturbing. However, we can still comment on the correctness of Katrina’s breening. She rightly said that dressing and undressing must be supervised. Some Code films did show men in nothing but shorts, but there was a quality which pre-Code undressing scenes featured which was not entirely acceptable. As she also pointed out, the soldiers’ undressed swimming must be eliminated, and the violence must be curtailed or implied. We were very impressed by her brilliant suggestion regarding the revenge toward the superior officer. Regarding the romance, she aptly pointed out that the whole problem could be avoided by changing the French girl to his wife back home. A sweetheart would work, as well. This would be the easiest, but, as she stated, it would be a shame to spoil this scene. It is not necessary. With the Breen touch, it could have been done. The wonderful thing about breening is that, unlike censorship, you have the power to change things before they are made. If the suggestive flavor was removed, we think the sequence could remain in a breened version. One has to wonder whether, if all these changes were made, the film would be a Code-compliant one. It really isn’t possible to say, since, as Mr. Breen always said, our decision would have to be based on the finished picture, and that we can never see. We really appreciate Katrina’s listing of different sections of the Code. Her conscientious, scholarly, and very entertaining article on breening entitles her to a PEPS Seal of Approval. (All PEPS Seals may be reproduced on the receiver’s website with our blessing.)
This article is an intelligent analysis of what makes this underrated pre-Code horror film a pre-Code film. The authoress mentioned the interesting fact that this film was released only two months before Mr. Breen began to really enforce the Code. As a matter of fact, Joseph was the head of the SRC at the time, so that means that he reviewed the film, even though he didn’t have the power to demand changes. We didn’t find this movie to be very violent or particularly disturbing, but we are sure it could be very disturbing to some people. The only real surface problems are the dead female bodies which are preserved, the fact that Boris Karloff and his wife are in the same bed, and especially the torture which Bela Lugosi begins to inflict on him. That was the only part that made us cringe. As Moody Moppet rightly pointed out, though, there are deeper, lurking elements of the plot which probably would prevent it from ever being a truly Seal-worthy film. Her excellent, intelligent analysis of this movies has earned her a PEPS Seal of Approval. (All PEPS Seals may be reproduced on the receiver’s website with our blessing.)
Breening “The Tender Trap” from 1955 by James Brannan for PEPS
In his first article for PEPS, president James Brannan breens an excellent musical from the early Shurlock era, The Tender Trap. In his analysis, he praises the film’s merits while analyzing its unnecessarily risque elements. Don’t miss this brilliant article by the Joe Breen of the twenty-first century!
Eric Binford contributed with an interesting article about a pre-Code United Artists horror film, White Zombie. He provided some very interesting commentary on it. We commend him for his unusual and fascinating opinions on it. Be sure to read his article if you want a fascinating description of this film which will not spoil it for you if you want to watch it yourself. Mr. Binford did not attempt to breen this pre-Code film, but it has relatively few problems. The only problems we detected were a few brief indecent exposures of the actress, some naked female figurines, and a bit of violence. Plus, we think it would be best to remove the continual joke of the minister asking for a light for his pipe. We were impressed by Mr. Binford’s writing style; his article is very entertaining and delightfully concise. Be sure to read it if you are interested in unusual old movies!
Breening “The Pleasure of His Company” from 1961 by Teresa Brannan for PEPS
Teresa Brannan, an inspiring member of the PEPS team and the mother of the Brannan family, has written her first article for the website to participate in our first blogathon. She contributed with a sensitive, touching review of a Shurlock era film which is very close to her own experiences, The Pleasure of His Company. As she told the fascinating story of this great movie, she provided very intelligent, effective, and detailed breening. Her article revealed how a few small chances could make all the difference in the world for the general outcome of Shurlock films like this. Be sure to read this rare article by Mrs. Brannan.
Promise E. Pope, our dearest friend and the director of social media for PEPS, contributed to the blogathon with a very detailed, thorough breening of her favorite pre-Code film, Footlight Parade. We were very impressed by her intelligent, systematic analysis of the film’s problems as well as her suggestions of remedies for them. Although her article is long, it goes by very quickly because of her unusual sense of humor and quick wit. We were touched by her tender reference to Joseph Breen as “Uncle Joe.” Of course, we would expect no less from a devoted PEPS member such as herself! We know that Mr. Breen would have approved of her breening, so we happily award her with a PEPS Seal of Approval! (All PEPS Seals may be reproduced on the receiver’s website with our blessing.)
Beth Daniels did an exceptionally fine job of breening a famous Warner Bros. pre-Code film, Night Nurse. We were terribly impressed by the detailed, intelligent way in which she wrote her article. She listed every section of the Code that was violated, explained how it was violated, and proposed how it could be fixed. Her version of the film sounds ideal and completely Code-compliant. Miss Daniels rightly identified the problem of the numerous undressing scenes; while it would be best for them to be completely eliminated, some of them could remain as long as the girls were never shown in less than full slips. The drunken mother being an invalid is an excellent suggestion. We were very impressed by her suggestion of making the bootlegger a milkman. Of course, he could start as a bootlegger who has to go to Laura after being shot. When she sees him again, he says that he has reformed, but it is revealed that he really hasn’t. Instead, he should really have reformed and become a milkman, as Miss Daniels suggested. Regarding the actual surgery, MGM’s Dr. Kildare series from 1938 to 1942 provides an excellent example of Code medical dramas. I agree that the surgery is too long in this movie. We were very pleasantly surprised that Miss Daniels noted the problem with the forbidden expression “Nuts.” We also noticed the use of the forbidden “lousy.” We highly recommend that all our readers read this fine, highly effective and equally entertaining breening article. We thank Miss Daniels for her participation and for the witty reference she made to our blogathon. It is with great pleasure that we present this PEPS Seal of Approval to Beth Daniels for her marvelous breening. (All PEPS Seals may be reproduced on the receiver’s website with our blessing.)
Part 2 – Code Film Ideas – This category features articles about films which could have been made in the Breen era. To quote from Showboat, “The game of just supposing is the sweetest game I know.” It is enjoyable to imagine movies that could have been made in the golden era with interesting combinations of classic actors. Only one other author joined us in this category, but Rebekah and I had a wonderful time writing about our ideas.
“Ring of Love:” An Original Movie from 1940 by Rebekah Brannan for PEPS
Rebekah Brannan, one of the founder of PEPS, published her first solo article for this website today. In this article, she describes her idea for a Code film which could have been made with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in 1940. We hope that, as you read it, the movie will be as real in your mind as it is in hers. While we do not give our own articles PEPS Seals of Approval, we think that Mr. Breen would have given his seal to this movie if it had been made.
“Mean to Me:” Ruth Etting’s Story in 1939 by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan for PEPS
We, the founders of PEPS, decided to use this blogathon as an opportunity to describe our ideas for a Code film of Ruth Etting’s life which could have been made by Warner Bros. in the late 1930s. With a few slight changes, the story easily became Code-compliant.
Christina Wehner was the only non-PEPS member to submit an original Code film idea as part of this blogathon, and we were thrilled by her choice and her final result. She used a delightful amount of imagination when composing her article about all the people who could have contributed to a Lord of the Rings film from the 1930s. We Brannan sisters love writing our own films with classic artists, and we know that Miss Wehner enjoyed the process herself. We would love to write more movies with her. She chose such a thorough group of participants, giving intelligent, well-planned reasons for each one’s inclusion. We were very impressed by her thoughts on the Production Code Administration’s influence on these hypothetical films. She couldn’t have done any better. We commend her, congratulate her, and recommend her article to all our readers. We enthusiastically present her with a PEPS Seal of Approval for a well-written Code film idea! (All PEPS Seals may be reproduced on the receiver’s website with our blessing.)
“Twinkling Stars:” An Original Movie from 1937 by Tiffany Brannan for PEPS
This is an article about my original film idea from 1937 with James Cagney and Eleanor Powell. I have hinted at my ideas for musicals which could have been made with these dancers, but you have to read this article if you want to know my idea for a whole movie which could have been made with them. Of course, I had to make the romance more complicated by adding Lew Ayres, Virginia Bruce, and Ruth Hussey to the cast. I hope my article will make the movie seem real to you. Although we do not award ourselves PEPS Seals of Approval, we think Mr. Breen would have approved of this proposed production.
Part 3 – Tributes to the Code Era – This was the most diverse category. Some of our participants wrote about Code films and how they were molded by Mr. Breen’s influence. Others described Joseph Breen’s life and work. Still others considered the Code itself and how it molded Hollywood. If you really want to learn about the Code and the man behind it, read these articles.
“Dodsworth” from 1936 by William Ferry
William Ferry, a member of the Golden Age of Hollywood, graciously agreed to join the blogathon with his review on Dodsworth, a Breen film from 1936. He cleverly and entertainingly reviewed the film, listed his opinions, and even mentioned its relation to the Breen Office. While a film from this category is not eligible for a PEPS Seal of Approval, we commend him for his excellent contribution to the blogathon.
Annette Bochenek, an unexpected but delightful addition to the blogathon, bases her articles on the hometowns of famous Hollywood people. For this blogathon, she contributed a very interesting, informative, and well-written article about Joseph Breen’s life, work, and hometown of Philadelphia. We were impressed by the research which obviously went into this and by the fascinating information she provided about his schools and residences, some of which are still standing today. We thank her for contributing this fascinating article to the blogathon.
Katherine delighted us with her article about Mr. Breen’s influence on the iconic Casablanca. We were thrilled to discover her open-minded, unbiased ability to examine facts and present them fairly. She raised our favorite point, namely, that many of the classic films from the Golden Era are so marvelous not in spite of but because of Mr. Breen’s efforts to enforce the Code. We were touched by the personal way she addressed Mr. Breen, especially since she did not know about his life and work before this blogathon. She tenderly referred to him as Joseph and presented him fairly, as we hoped our participants would. Plus, she included a delicious-sounding recipe for some spiced nuts which could be enjoyed while watching a great Code film. We commend her on her remarkable ability to assume the point of view of past generations and thank her for her wonderful contribution to Mr. Breen’s birthday blogathon!
Joseph I. Breen: America’s Moral Guardian by Tiffany Brannan for PEPS
This is my birthday tribute to Mr. Breen. In it, I explained my personal feelings about him. I also strove to disprove the most common falsehoods which are believed about him. I hope that all the participants will read this article, since I tried to explain his real character in it.
David Cairns joined this blogathon with the agreement that he would provide a contrasting opinion about the Code and its era. In his article, he discussed the eleven “Don’ts” from the 1927 list of “Don’ts and Be Carefuls.” This list was compiled by the moguls with help from Will Hays, unlike the Code, which was written by Martin Quigley and Father Daniel Lord in 1929. Mr. Cairns partially agreed with the rule forbidding profanity, but he thought that it doesn’t hurt anyone and said that even the Bible does not clearly forbid vulgarity, only taking the Lord’s name in vain; we must correct him on this point by quoting Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” While he is entitled to his belief that undressed forms can be pleasant to see, we feel that no motion picture is improved by the inclusion of nakedness; it merely produces lustful thoughts and limits the audience. Regarding the ban on presenting the illegal drug traffic, the idea behind this is that any reference to or depiction of drugs can produce morbid curiosity in immature minds; as proof, we refer to “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle in which a college student samples opium after reading Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and is addicted to it for the rest of his life. Regarding perversion, the normal facts of life are not included in this; in this instance, as in the Code, perversion means any abnormal amorous relationship, not the normal biological reaction between a man and a woman, whether it is proper or not. Regarding white slavery, it is a generally filthy subject which was considered too vile to be depicted to the general masses; Mr. Cairns compared white slavery to black slavery, wondering while the former was forbidden but the latter wasn’t. While black slavery was a terrible situation, it was a dreadful reality of history; whenever slaves were depicted in Code films, they seemed basically like servants, and the horrendous acts of many slave owners were never depicted. Regarding hygiene, specific diseases, childbirth, and children’s intimate organs, they are not considered to be necessarily evil; it just is not proper to depict or show these things. While the Don’ts just said that the clergy could not be ridiculed, the Code said a film should not throw ridicule on any religious faith, that ministers should not be villains or comical characters, and that religious ceremonies should be respectfully depicted; this does not mean that individual characters in a film may not ridicule a religion. The idea is just that any religion depicted, not just Christianity, should be respectfully and fairly depicted by the general film, not the characters in it. The Dont’s forbade wilful offense to any nation, race, or creed, but the Code said that the history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry of other nations must be represented fairly; this is more clear and better stated than the phrase in the Don’ts. I’m sure that most people will agree that it is a good idea to try to not offend others; in my opinion, Mr. Breen did a fine job of eliminating pre-Code stereotypes and jokes about nationalities and races. Of course, we want to be clear that we meant no criticism by this detailed response to Mr. Cairns’s very intellectual and detailed article. We greatly enjoyed reading his opposing view, but we felt compelled to give our response. We encourage all our participants to read his full article and consider his opinions on the Don’ts and the Code. We hope that Mr. Cairns will write articles about the Be Carefuls and the Code itself in the future, as he hinted that he might. We would be happy to link to them on our website. We thank him for his perceptive analysis and especially for participating in this blogathon even though he doesn’t agree with the Code. We would also like to thank him for refraining from insulting Mr. Breen personally. We encourage Mr. Cairns to respond to our thoughts on his article.
Rebecca Deniston wrote a very entertaining article about The More The Merrier from 1943. I have seen its Shurlock era remake, Walk, Don’t Run, but I have never seen this original. It sounds very similar in its scenario despite the very different setting. We commend her for her intelligent analysis of the Code’s influence on this film. It is interesting to ponder the films which were made under the Code as well as ones which were not. This is a well-written and enjoyable article analyzing a wartime Code film.
David Cairns provided us with a detailed sequel to his article on The Don’ts from 1927. In this article, he considered the Be Carefuls one by one. We appreciate his thoroughness and the time which he obviously put into these works. We are also very grateful that he decided to contribute another article during the blogathon. We recommend his article to anyone who is interested in reading an intelligently-written opposing view.
Jenni provided a very interesting overview of the two film versions of Ben-Hur, one from 1925 and the other from 1959. She described her surprise at the nudity in the first silent version, which shows the shockingly risqué elements which were present before the Code. She then discussed the “Code” version from the late 50s, which was a Shurlock picture. Although the Code had already begun to decay, Jenni mentioned the fact that its presence could still be felt in the fact that there was no nudity. This is a really entertaining window into the world of re-makes and self-regulation. We highly recommend it as an opening review for someone who doesn’t know either film and doesn’t want the effect to be spoiled when he watches it. We commend Jenni for her intelligent, insightful opinions on these topics.
Thank you for reading the contributions to this blogathon. We welcome any comments and thoughts on this topic and anything related to Joseph Breen! Now, since you have waited so patiently, you are going to be rewarded. Without further ado, here is PEPS’s next blogathon: THE SINGING SWEETHEARTS BLOGATHON!
Valentine’s Day is the day for sweethearts. What better way to celebrate this day than with a blogathon about the most romantic sweethearts in Hollywood’s Golden Era, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy? On February 12-14, PEPS is holding its second blogathon, which is going to celebrate the magic and music of the most famous singing team in movie history. Rebekah is going to be hosting this blogathon, although I will help her. As a devoted admirer of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, she wanted a blogathon dedicated to them to be her first major contribution to PEPS. Here are the rules for the blogathon:
- You may write about any film which features one or both of the Singing Sweethearts, or you may write the outline of a movie which they could have made together.
- You may also write about a non-film aspect of there careers, such as their opera careers, their participation in World War II, or their radio careers.
- Because the subject of this blogathon is largely the Singing Sweethearts’ movies together, of which there are only eight, I am putting no limit on duplicates. This will present an interesting collage of contrasting opinions.
- I must ask that, in this blogathon, all participants discuss only their on-screen romance and relationship. Although I know it is tempting to discuss their personal lives and relationships, I wish this to be an entirely on-screen blogathon. You can discuss their marvelous chemistry, and their excellent interaction to a point. I mainly want to avoid discussion of their alleged affair, since the extent of their relationship is largely debatable. In conclusion, let’s keep this blogathon entirely Code compliant!
- If you aren’t sure whether a topic is acceptable or not, just leave us a comment. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can!
Rebekah will be publishing the official announcement for the blogathon very soon. That article will contain more details, the rest of the banners, and the roster of participants. In the mean time, please comment on this article to tell us that you want to participate! Please leave your name, website, and topic choice if you have one so far. We know you will help us make this second blogathon a huge success! The Singing Sweethearts were some of the brightest starts during the Breen era!
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