scrubbing soundtracks

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Harlett O'Dowd

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scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 9:44 am

Attention Nitratevillains:

we've astounded the world with our combined scholarship documenting murphy beds and swastikas in vintage film.

Your new challenge: scrubbed soundtracks.

In lieu of cutting films so that they were incomprehensible, local censors or studios, at least in the pre-Code era, would erase an objectionable word or two from a sound film but leave the shot otherwise intact. the actor moves his/her lips, but for a second, the talkie goes completely silent.

Two examples:

1) In APPLAUSE, Helen Morgan comforts her daughter (Joan Peers) by telling her a couple of the girls in the burlesque troupe are as good Catholics as anyone, even if they do shake for a living. Bowing under pressure, Paramount erased the word "catholic" from the surviving print(s). This appears to have been a change made before/during the original release (APPLAUSE never had a major re-release and was largely unknown until Bill Everson rescued it from obscurity in the early 60s.)

2) In SO THIS IS COLLEGE, at about the one hour mark, while Elliott Nugent and Sally Starr say goodnight by shouting phrases that begin with OH! (Oh bliss! oh Rapture!, etc.) Robert Montgomery, fuming, spits "Oh nertz!" - but "nertz" has been scrubbed from the print TCM airs. anyone know if this was scrubbed during the original run or later on?

Anyone else know of any other soundtracks that were deliberately scrubbed without sacrificing footage?
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 11:26 am

COUNSELOR AT LAW (1934) scrubs Thelma Todd's line " What did you expect for $10,000, a virgin? "
with the last two words dropped out.
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silentfilm

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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 12:15 pm

My 16mm print of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) has a couple of one-word drop-outs. Like when Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll are being kidnapped in the back of the taxi, I believe that they blooped a "hell" or "damn".
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 12:35 pm

Not a soundtrack issue, but Marion Davies' shimmy dance is missing frames in at least 2 places in Beauty's Worth. The toned-down dance only lasts a minute or less but it's obviously been edited.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 1:59 pm

Not quite the same thing, but I recall a scene in SHANGHAI DRAMA (1938) where Louis Jouvet utters the word 'merde' and the subtitle come up with something along the lines of 'damn'.

And of course there has been scrubbing of kinds when 'X' rated films such as THE LAST DETAIL (1974) have been televised, One wonders why they bother.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 2:07 pm

The 'god' remark from Frankenstein used to be muted, didn't it, until it was found on a vitaphone disc and reinserted?
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 9:03 pm

This is a stretch but a word was deleted from soundtrack near the end of DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936). Otto Kruger offers the coach driver extra money to drive him to Borgo Pass. His mouth says, "I'll give you twenty five pounds..." but his voice on the soundtrack says, "I'll give you (pause) five pounds..."

Even stranger, in RENDEZVOUS (1935) the picture and soundtrack were both doctored to change a character's name when anybody spoke it. There's gotta be a story behind that one.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostThu Feb 23, 2017 10:48 pm

Gregory William Mank's book The Very Witching Time of the Night has a great essay about the making of James Whale's One More River. The film suffered retakes and redubbing because of censor Breen's meddling. One example is Jane Wyatt's character says, "He seems to be quite a beast!" about her brother-in-law Sir Gerald Corven (Colin Clive) to her aunt Lady Mont (Mrs. Patrick Campbell). They redubbed Wyatt's line to "He seems to be quite a cad!", but she still mouthed the word "beast". Also, in the scene where Clare, Lady Corven (Diana Wynyard) waits in the library of the house of her aunt and uncle and is surprised by her husband played by Colin Clive, she called him a "brute" after he tried to grab her, but I think she actually said something else like beast.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostFri Feb 24, 2017 6:41 am

I don't have a copy handy, but doesn't Robert Williams say something quite profane in Platinum Blonde, only to have the sound obscured? Or is he just mumbling his curses?
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostFri Feb 24, 2017 9:49 am

A later, famous one was in Dr. Strangelove. Slim Pickens, after reciting what's in the emergency survival kit ("One combination miniature Bible and Roooshian phrase book") said "Hell, a feller could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with this stuff." But then President Kennedy was shot and the line was looped to say "Vegas" instead-- which, honestly, makes the line better in the first place. You can clearly see Pickens mouthing "Dallas," though.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostFri Feb 24, 2017 4:16 pm

Perhaps the most famous and clumsy case I know of this practise is in the British release print of the Astaire/Rogers musical FOLLOW THE FLEET (1936).

The song "Get Thee Behind Me Satan" sung by Harriet Hillard (Nelson) was edited in prints shown in Great Britain in order to remove the word 'Satan' (it apparently offended the overly prudish censorship board in 1936).

The result looks and sounds as though the film is faulty and jumps several frames each time the line is sung, but the effect was deliberate and a highly unusual example of censorship, possibly the only time a popular song was edited in this way.

This strange UK print used to be shown by the BBC for years (I actually have an off-air video tape of it) but nowadays the US print from the Turner library is shown.

(from my comment at IMDB)
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostFri Feb 24, 2017 6:52 pm

In "Summer Stock" (1950), (which was released in the U.K as "If You Feel Like Singing") Judy Garland sings the famous song "Get Happy" in the finale of said film -- which includes the lyrics --

"Shout hallelujah come on get happy -- Get ready for the judgement day."


Anyway, over here, in the very conservative, puritanical U.K the term "Judgement Day" was deemed highly unacceptable and they had a "Judy Garland Sound-alike" sing the word "Jolly", instead of "Judgement". So the song went:

"Shout hallelujah come on get happy -- Get ready for the jolly day.."
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostFri Feb 24, 2017 10:59 pm

I've always thought that films during that time in the UK would show more, not less, than could be shown in the US. How, otherwise, could the UK produce something as saucy as THE WICKED LADY, which was heavily altered for US showing? Was UK censorship more strict on, say, religious matters but less so for others? It would seem not, now that I think about the situation with BLACK NARCISSUS, which also had sequences trimmed here.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 12:53 pm

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum released in England as Hallelujah, I'm a Tramp with the word Tramp replacing Bum in the song.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 1:48 pm

Danny Burk wrote:I've always thought that films during that time in the UK would show more, not less, than could be shown in the US. How, otherwise, could the UK produce something as saucy as THE WICKED LADY, which was heavily altered for US showing? Was UK censorship more strict on, say, religious matters but less so for others? It would seem not, now that I think about the situation with BLACK NARCISSUS, which also had sequences trimmed here.


There is something to this. In Australia, the Chief Censor put out an annual report which included a general statement on the films of the past year. Even in the early 30s, when some of the racier American pre-Codes were causing controversy, British films were singled out for greater concern. His 1933 report even claimed he had banned twice as many British films as American films during the previous year.

Interestingly, his 1929 report specifically discusses the technical challenges of soundtrack scrubbing, which led to fundamental changes in censorship practices. Previously, a local distributor could easily cut scenes or intertitles at the censor's behest. This was no longer possible with sound, and the burden of alteration was pushed upwards to the studios themselves.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 3:51 pm

The ultimate scrub may have been a UK film called The Faithful Heart aka Faithful Hearts, which starred Herbert Marshall and Edna Best. At some point, some cluck decided Americans couldn't understand or didn't like English accents, so the entire film was dubbed by American actors. It was a colossal flop. Luckily the original UK version survives, and it's a good little film.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 7:29 pm

drednm wrote:The ultimate scrub may have been a UK film called The Faithful Heart aka Faithful Hearts, which starred Herbert Marshall and Edna Best. At some point, some cluck decided Americans couldn't understand or didn't like English accents, so the entire film was dubbed by American actors. It was a colossal flop. Luckily the original UK version survives, and it's a good little film.


Akin to this - the Australian picture "Crocodile Dundee" with Paul Hogan was set to be dubbed with American voices by Paramount for its U.S. release. Luckily the producers - Paul Hogan and John Cornell stuck to their guns and refused to have this done. And this is why, children, Americans have grown to understand "Strine".


:D
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 11:25 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
drednm wrote:The ultimate scrub may have been a UK film called The Faithful Heart aka Faithful Hearts, which starred Herbert Marshall and Edna Best. At some point, some cluck decided Americans couldn't understand or didn't like English accents, so the entire film was dubbed by American actors. It was a colossal flop. Luckily the original UK version survives, and it's a good little film.


Akin to this - the Australian picture "Crocodile Dundee" with Paul Hogan was set to be dubbed with American voices by Paramount for its U.S. release. Luckily the producers - Paul Hogan and John Cornell stuck to their guns and refused to have this done. And this is why, children, Americans have grown to understand "Strine".

But it was done for the original American International release of Mad Max, and subsequent videotape releases, although the original Aussie soundtrack was restored to the DVD version.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 11:27 pm

I recall reading that the 1932 Mask of Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff had some dialogue scrubbed after the code came into effect, some of the more hateful "Yellow Peril" stuff.
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Re: scrubbing soundtracks

PostSat Feb 25, 2017 11:37 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:Akin to this - the Australian picture "Crocodile Dundee" with Paul Hogan was set to be dubbed with American voices by Paramount for its U.S. release. Luckily the producers - Paul Hogan and John Cornell stuck to their guns and refused to have this done. And this is why, children, Americans have grown to understand "Strine".

But it was done for the original American International release of Mad Max, and subsequent videotape releases, although the original Aussie soundtrack was restored to the DVD version.[/quote]

I guess the general feeling with Paul Hogan et al was that we here in Oz had had to "endure" the American accent since Al Jolson had decided to open his gob and that, therefore, it was good enough for the Americans to put up with "Strine". :D

(I have never bothered to sit through any of the "Mad Max" pictures. Just not my cup of tea I'm afraid)
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