#AMonthWithoutTheCode2020 #1: “Phffft!” from 1954


August: #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020!

#1 – Phffft! (1954)

Phffft (1954)


Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, and Jack Carson

Production Notes:

Director: Mark Robson, Producer: Fred Kohlmar, Production Company: Columbia Pictures


After eight years of marriage, a lawyer and a successful television authoress decide to get a divorce. After they “phffft,” the husband’s playboy playwright friend tries to fix him up with ditsy girls, and the wife’s mother encourages her to find herself an attractive man, but they still find themselves drawn toward each other.


You may be surprised to see a 1954 film listed as my first un-Code film for #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020. This film was released on November 10, 1954, almost a month after Joseph Breen retired as head of the PCA, so it technically is a Shurlock Era film. I decided to start with this late 1954 film because it is a wonderful example of how quickly films started to move away from Breen Era standards. In the months before his retirement, Mr. Breen spent less and less time in the office, leaving self-regulation to his incompetent associates, who would soon let the whole film industry’s morals slide. This film is blatantly Shurlockian. It opens with husband Robert Tracey (Jack Lemmon) panting over a racy book which we hear him reading in overdubbed dialogue. Marriage and divorce are flippantly treated as subject matter for comedic dialogue. There is excessive focus on and discussion of beds, particularly an automatic bed which comes out of the wall in Nina’s (Judy Holliday) apartment; later, her mother (Luella Gear) wants her to have a round bed. Lecherous playwright Charlie Nelson (Jack Carson) talks to and about women in very suggestive ways, particularly in his dissertation on the theory of laughers and criers. Janis (Kim Novak) is a dumb blonde tramp who wears low necklines and shamelessly finishes dressing in front of male escorts. A kissing scene between Janis and Robert on a tiger skin rug is uncomfortably excessive. In short, this is a very funny movie with great acting and some enjoyable moments, but it is actually embarrassing at times, at least to sensitive Code girls like me. It was only released ten months after Jack Lemmon’s first film, It Should Happen to You, but the difference between Phffft! and his only real Breen Era film are like night and day. Do you miss the Code yet? I do.

Have an Enlightening #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020.


 Click here to join our month-long abstinence from American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies to create greater appreciation for the Code, #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020!

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Only the Code can make the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!

One thought on “#AMonthWithoutTheCode2020 #1: “Phffft!” from 1954

  1. Really good take on how this film is not Breen Code friendly! I also reviewed this film and I found it to be ok. I’ll share the link in this comment section. For movies that talk about marriage and divorce flippantly, my pick is the 1965 film ‘Marriage on the Rocks’. The movie’s views on these subjects were so one-sided, it made the film uncomfortable for me to watch. I will include the link to my review in this comment section as well.




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