Man's Castle (1933) Censoring?

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myrnaloyisdope
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Man's Castle (1933) Censoring?

Post by myrnaloyisdope »

So I just finished watching Frank Borzage's Man's Castle and I was very impressed.

My question is about the cutting of the film. I know the original version exists, I believe TCM showed this version last week, but for many years the only version available was one that was cut and re-ordered by the Breen office. Can anyone break down the difference between the two versions, I have a feeling I just watched the cut version, but I don't know for sure.

The version I saw had Loretta Young's character get pregnant, then Spencer Tracy leaves very abruptly, then he comes back, and the next cut they are getting married. It was all very jarring, and between Tracy coming back and the wedding scene there is about 5 seconds of black. Then later on when Tracy is talking to Ira after being shot, there is an obvious cut while Tracy is talking.
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moira finnie
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Post by moira finnie »

I'm not as well versed as others about what is in archives and what is not, but according to Hervé Dumont's very thoroughly researched biography and filmography "Frank Borzage", (McFarland, 2006), there may not be any original copies of Man's Castle (1933) that really show the film as Borzage and company made it. I found that transition you mentioned a bit abrupt too, but the whole movie seemed more episodic and character centered than plot driven, so that didn't bother me too much. Here are some of the facts that I drew from Dumont's account of the film's history:

Subject to censorship as it was being made (for example, Tracy was to have read portions of the "Song of Solomon" to Young, which proved too racy for the nascent production code boys, despite the biblical provenance). The Hays Office also made it known that they wanted toned down the scenes regarding "cohabitation, nude scene [Tracy & Young's swim, during which Tracy's backside was reportedly seen clearly as he dove into the water], an illegitimate child, attempted rape, allusions to prostitution [found in Bill and Trina's park bench conversation and Marjorie Rambeau's character], suggestions of suicide, and even abortion, alcoholism and unpunished breaking and entering (in the case of Bill), "justified" murder (the elimination of Bragg), indecent dialogues, swearing, blasphemous references to religion, etc." Miraculously, many of the desired cuts were not made, and the taste, poetry, and realism that Borzage filled the film with was supported by Columbia's mogul, Harry Cohn. When it was released in Dec. 1933, NYC censors impose over 30 more cuts, followed by Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania censors.
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Tracy & Young in a tender scene in bed that would be impossible after July, 1934.

After the imposition of the Code in July 1934 every time Columbia tried to reissue the film, it was subject to more cuts. In 1937, Harry Cohn wanted to take advantage of Oscar winner Tracy's popularity by putting the movie in theaters, but was so cowed by the PCA he wound up placing the seventh reel marriage of Tracy and Young (which originally followed her announcement of her pregnancy) near the beginning of the movie in the first reel.

The real problem with the film that may have contributed to further cuts, was that it was not a commercial or mass critical success, with exceptions and few as released prints were saved, though there are reports that scholars are still scouring the world trying to piece the film back together to its original state. To Frank Borzage, it was one of his favorite experiences, as he once explained: "If I had to make the picture over again, I should alter hardly a line of it and certainly make no cast changes whatsoever."
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Ann Harding
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Post by Ann Harding »

I have now seen the TCM broadcast of Man's Castle. It's a real pleasure to be able to replace my old VHS copy made in 1996 from a Channel 4 broadcast. 8)
But, alas, it's still the heavily censored version I have seen before. First, I caught it in a cinema in Paris in 1986. I remember that the print looked quite hazy in places and rather dark. Perhaps Columbia destroyed the negative???? (like they did for Lost Horizon) Later, in 1996, I saw it again on British TV. Still censored.
Now, with this new print, it's even easier to spot the places where it was cut: numerous jump cuts are visible throughout the film. Joseph Walker's cinematography must have been a sight to behold, but like for Lost Horizon, the prints are too hazy, dark and lacking in contrast in places to really judge it properly... :( Still, it's a great improvement to what I had so far!
The film is an absolute masterpiece even its cut version. Loretta and Spencer really glow under Borzage's masterful direction. Let's hope, one day, we'll be able to get a full uncensored version. :)
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vallo
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Post by vallo »

While I did tape it. I've yet to watch it. Hopefully it rains this weekend. :wink: According to IMDb: 75 min | USA:69 min (TCM print)



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Ann Harding
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Post by Ann Harding »

Hi Vallo! Timings on IMDb are notoriously unreliable. The original uncensored print was 79 min. :wink: (according to Hervé Dumont's bible on Borzage)
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