Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Let The Joy Be Unconfined

The TCM 2016 classic film festival in Hollywood has been announced.  I've never attended since there are old movies playing in town throughout the year.  But something piqued my interest in the list of features.

They'll be showing Horse Feathers (1932), one of my favorite Marx Brothers films.  I've seen it many times in theatres, and own a DVD copy, but this will be a "world premiere restoration presented in collaboration with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment."

So what?  Well, here's the thing.  Some Marx Brothers films were censored after they originally appeared in cinemas.  In Animal Crackers (1930), one dirty line in a song was excised, so now Groucho misses a rhyme and leaps across the screen for no good reason.  And since no one thought of preservation in those days, there are, as far as I know, no copies of the movie available without the cut.

Then there's A Night At The Opera (1935), which has certain references to Italy cut out.  It's hardly noticeable, but an opening sequence giving a sense of the setting is now gone, and the film literally starts in the middle of a character's line.  (I'm not sure why they cut the Italian stuff.  This is well before WWII, so perhaps they were worried about Italian sensibilities?)

But the most cut up film of all is Horse Feathers. It's missing a gag from Harpo early on, but more important, in a lengthy comic scene with all four brothers and lovely costar Thelma Todd, a whole bunch of stuff with Harpo is missing, and a bunch of lines from Chico are chopped to pieces, as anyone who's seen the film can attest.  This is because after Joseph Breen took over the Hays Office in 1934 and started seriously enforcing the censorship code, films that were re-released had to lose material he deemed unfit for the audience--the same audience that enjoyed it a few years back.

So Marx fans know there's some big stuff missing. Is there any chance TCM and Universal (it's a Paramount film, but most early Paramount material was sold to Universal years ago) found a clean copy and are waiting to unveil it?  That would be big news, indeed.  As Otis B. Driftwood in A Night At The Opera declares, Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the parlor.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Please let us know if this turns out to be the case!

9:35 AM, December 09, 2015  
Blogger Gazzoo said...

Reliable sources I'm hearing from say they have not recovered any of the missing footage...

11:22 AM, December 10, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

A disappointment, but not a surprise. If they managed to find that footage it would be big news, and they'd probably be announcing it.

5:07 PM, December 10, 2015  
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