Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brief Reflections

By ClassicBecky

I believe that many classic movie lovers fear the same thing I do, namely, political correctness.  I remember a few years ago when the United States Postal Service released an honorary stamp in tribute to the great blues artist Robert Johnson.  The most famous picture of Johnson that we have is of him looking into the camera holding his guitar and smoking a cigarette.  The Postal Service decided to digitally remove the cigarette from his mouth because of political correctness.  They changed Robert Johnson as he was to a false Robert Johnson who would fit their ideas of what is acceptable.  That is a horrifying travesty.  Anyone who has ever read George Orwell's "1984" is aware of what can happen when such thinking is taken to the limit. 

Our beloved classic films could very well be treated in the same way in the current climate.  Obviously there are things in classic films that society has evolved enough to realize are offensive, i.e. racial stereotypes, social habits that are no longer acceptable, etc.  However, this is history on film, and to change history is to crack the foundation of truth.  I fear that possibly in the near future, these movies will be cut and pasted to remove any dance numbers, comedy bits or habits that no longer fit a society of political correctness.  Removing smoking alone would be a full-time job, especially with a Bette Davis or Humphrey Bogart movie!

This is not a paranoid fantasy.  It happened to Robert Johnson's picture.  I have already seen a movie so chopped up, certainly not a classic one by any means, "Robin Hood - Men in Tights" by Mel Brooks.  Whoever edited this movie for the particular channel that showed it removed all references to gay jokes.  If you have seen that movie, you know that this resulted in its being chopped to pieces.  This may not be a stirring call to arms because of the particular movie, but it illustrates my fears.  If it could happen to one movie, it can happen to another.  Those of us who love classic film must be alert to this kind of trend and speak out if and when it finally hits the films we love.   History is history and truth is truth.  Neither should ever be changed.