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    • March 2009
    • 9780231143592
  • 440 Pages
  • Paperback
  • $26.00

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    • November 2007
    • 9780231143585
  • 440 Pages
  • Hardcover
  • $75.00

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    • March 2009
    • 9780231512848
  • 440 Pages
  • E-book
  • $25.99

Hollywood's Censor

Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration

Thomas Doherty

From 1934 to 1954 Joseph I. Breen, a media-savvy Victorian Irishman, reigned over the Production Code Administration, the Hollywood office tasked with censoring the American screen. Though little known outside the ranks of the studio system, this former journalist and public relations agent was one of the most powerful men in the motion picture industry. As enforcer of the puritanical Production Code, Breen dictated "final cut" over more movies than anyone in the history of American cinema. His editorial decisions profoundly influenced the images and values projected by Hollywood during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.

Cultural historian Thomas Doherty tells the absorbing story of Breen's ascent to power and the widespread effects of his reign. Breen vetted story lines, blue-penciled dialogue, and excised footage (a process that came to be known as "Breening") to fit the demands of his strict moral framework. Empowered by industry insiders and millions of like-minded Catholics who supported his missionary zeal, Breen strove to protect innocent souls from the temptations beckoning from the motion picture screen.

There were few elements of cinematic production beyond Breen's reach—he oversaw the editing of A-list feature films, low-budget B movies, short subjects, previews of coming attractions, and even cartoons. Populated by a colorful cast of characters, including Catholic priests, Jewish moguls, visionary auteurs, hardnosed journalists, and bluenose agitators, Doherty's insightful, behind-the-scenes portrait brings a tumultuous era—and an individual both feared and admired—to vivid life.

About the Author

Thomas Doherty is professor of American studies at Brandeis University. He serves on the editorial board of Cineaste and is the author of Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture; Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934; Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II; and Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Movies in the 1950s.

Doherty writes with such wit and verve, bringing the past to life... a very entertaining read.

Compelling, colorful, insightful, and nearly encyclopedic in detail, this book seems destined to become the definitive scholarly biography of Breen. Highly recommended.

[An] entertaining and rigorous biography of Breen.

Ada Calhoun

A fascinating read for anyone interested in American film history.

Carol O'Sullivan

[An] authoritative, entertaining, unexpectedly unnerving biography.

Kenneth Turan

[A] brilliant and absorbing new book.

Gerald Peary

Hollywood's Censor is a stinging portrait of a cultural strongman who made it his business to baby his fellow citizens.

Dennis Drabelle

Written with controlled exuberance, and much wit.

Scott Eyman

A pleasure to read.

Rob Hardy

An exemplary biography... Highly recommended.

Opening CreditsPrologue: Hollywood, 19541 The Victorian Irishman2 Bluenoses Against the Screen3 Hollywood Shot to Pieces4 The Breen Office5 Decoding Classical Hollywood Cinema6 Confessional7 Intermission at RKO8 At War with the Breen Office9 In His Sacerdotalism10 "Our Semitic Brethren"11 Social Problems, Existential Dilemmas and Outsized Anatomies12 Invasion of the Art Films13 Amending the Ten Commandments14 Not the Breen Office15 Final Cut: Joseph I. Breen and the Auteur TheoryAppendix: The Production CodeNotesFilm IndexIndex