Censorship in Black and White

     When viewing early cinematic works, I have found out it is hard not to notice major differences compared to movies and television today. If I had never seen a movie from the 1930s, and compared it to some movies today, I would not be able to understand the potential of the movie, or what kind of work went into making it.

     One thing that really stands out in older movies is that so many of them are in black and white instead of color. Many people may feel this makes the film seem dull and not so real as color television, but I strongly disagree. I find black and white movies are just as powerful and if anything more real than color movies. This realization comes from the actual black and white footage I have seen of historic events. One very powerful movie shot in black and white is Steven Spielberg's 1993 Schindler's List.

     Until discussing black and movies in English 213, I never realized some of the benefits of directing a movie in black and white. I never realized Hershys syrup could be mistaken for blood, and that the colors of clothing did not make that much difference either dark or light.

     Another huge difference between early movies compared to today is the level of censorship found in early movies. Today viewers are subjected to everything when watching movies. Some films shown on television today make me wonder how the directors get away with showing some things. Needless to say, censorship is not what it used to be. Today people get away with murder and much, much more on television. In early movies, women could not even get away with looking pregnant.

     When contemplating early cinematic films with a lot of censorship, I think of Tennessee Williams. I really enjoyed his 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire as directed by Elia Kazan in 1951. Censorship played many roles in this film; for one thing, the rape scene is left for the viewer to picture. I really do not think that was such a bad thing, but it was very difficult compared to the way that scene would probably be shot today.

     I believe some censorship rules were a little silly, but I have to admit that when watching the earlier censored black and white films I am better able to focus on important aspects of the work instead of being distracted with sex and violence.

Kimberly A. Hunt

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