Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Would You Rate That?

I was reading an interesting blog yesterday over at  Riot Kitty called  Could This Movie Be Made Today?.

She had watched the Bond movie Goldfinger and commented on some of the things contained in the movie that would by today's standards might be viewed differently.   I took a special interest in the topic as I was planning on writing a post today on the subject of a book that was made into a  movie in the 1950s that was considered scandalous....which I will talk about in a  moment.

Anyway..I always enjoy RK's take on things as she is a great blogger and  found her comparisons to Goldfinger which was released in 1964 to a current movie that she went to see.

Of course, me being me, I had to jump over to Google "Goldfinger" and refresh my memory.  I hadn't seen the movie since I was a teenager and didn't remember much other some of the characters odd names.  There was Goldfinger, of course, but there was also, Oddjob and Pussy Galore.

After taking a minute to read over the plot line on Wikipedia article related to the Goldfinger movie, I happened to notice an explanation of how the movie worked a rather racy innuendo into a movie of that era.

Honor Blackman (actress that played the role) as Pussy Galore: Goldfinger's personal pilot and leader of an all-female team of pilots known as the Flying Circus.The character's name follows in the tradition of other Bond girls names that are double entendres: concerned about censors, the producers thought about changing the character's name to "Kitty Galore", but they and Hamilton decided "if you were a ten-year old boy and knew what the name meant, you weren't a ten-year old boy, you were a dirty little bitch. The American censor was concerned, but we got round that by inviting him and his wife out to dinner and [told him] we were big supporters of the Republican Party."

Thought Number One..."That's Shocking!"  Then and Now

I, too watched a movie last week but, in my case,  I had never seen it before. Probably, in part because it was released in 1957, I was busy trying to master "Dick and Jane."....the book...not the movie.

 As I was scrolling through cable channels I  noticed that Peyton Place was starting.  While I had heard of the book, the movie and the TV series, I had never read or watched anything associated with Peyton Place.  BUT after watching the movie I had more questions than answers. WHY would either the movie or the book be described as "wicked" or "moral filth?"  The content of the movie was far less sexual and/or violent than any prime time television show today. Surely, the book was better.

Of course, that led to the obvious...I looked on the Internet and saw that the book was considered wicked, tawdry, sleazy, immoral filth ...at least by 1950's standards.....which also led to the fact...I had to read the book.

Thought Number Two:  What makes it sleazy now compared to what made it sleazy then.

  After watching the movie and  trying to find anything remotely resembling filth and sleaze, I thought there just had to be more to it.

Which led to ......Amazon + two day shipping putting this little gem on my doorstep.

The latest release of Peyton Place has an introduction written by Ardis Cameron that talks about the history of the book.  Back in 1956 this book was  touted as obscene, Canada considered it  indecent and made it  illegal in the Commonwealth,  it was banned from most major libraries, but still... it was the first true blockbuster novel.  It sold  sixty thousand copies in the first ten days of its release.  It remained on the New York Times best seller list for 59 weeks edging out God's Little Acre and Gone With the Wind. The book and it's author were vilified but that didn't keep it from being hidden in the nightstand in one out of every 29 households in America.

Just a guess, but I would think that 50 Shades of Grey would have been frowned upon in 1956.

Just as RK's  comparison to the Goldfinger movie to movies today, Peyton Place wouldn't be considered shocking in the same way today as it was then. What made the book taboo then was the story line of  a rape by a stepfather resulting in an abortion. The book did not contain an account of the rape itself.  It was inferred by the fact the character Selena needed an abortion.  (abortions being illegal back then)  The other big no-no in the book and movie was the town widow that had in fact never been married but had a child.  That seems to be a  horribly shocking scandal in the book.

By today's standards, the moral outrage connected to the book might of been the liberal use of racial slurs.  I doubt that much of the indignation connected with the book then, was for that reason

What makes the story more interesting is the real story behind the author and how the book affected her life. Grace Metalious loosely based  the book based on her childhood in New Hampshire.  It didn't win her friends and admirers.  Quite the opposite.  Her hometown paper, the Manchester Union Leader wrote an editorial saying:

This sad situation reveals a complete debasement of taste and fascination with filthy, rotten, side of life that are the earmarks of the collapse of civilization. 

Critics called it lurid, sensational and cheap and they said it would never sell to which Metalious responded "If I am a lousy writer, then a hell of a lot of people have lousy taste."  but even with her bravado, Grace suffered.  Her husband lost his job as the local school principle, they later divorced and she became an alcoholic.  She died at the age of 39 with cirrhosis of the liver. She was quoted prior to her death as saying ""If I had to do it over again, it would be easier to be poor. Before I was successful, I was as happy as anyone gets. 

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L.C. Griffith said...

Wow! Things have indeed changed since 1957. Sex, nudity, bad language, drugs, violence and the love of money and power are the foundations of today's entertainment industry. This doesn't say much about us as a society. Racial slurs seem to be the "sensitive" spot in the industry today. It seems being politically correct is more important than the people themselves. I better not get started...I'm standing awfully close to a nerve;)

lisleman said...

What a filthy rotten post! You might be named another source of our civilization's demise. I would not need to look up the plot to Goldfinger. It was a top favorite of mine growing up. I wanted to become a spy after seeing it and many of the other spy action movies. I can still picture James Bond and Pussy Galore flipping each other in the hay. Nothing like a nice romantic horse barn. Don't know too much about Payton Place but I had certainly heard of it. It became an expression similar to skeletons in the closet. Another shocking book/movie I heard about but don't know much about it "Valley of the Dolls."

Kathleen Barca said...

OMG I never knew you were such a naughty girl, reading and watching those nasty movies! Well, my dear I was a little older than you so I really got to hear all the juicy gossip on all those books and movies. LOL! Of course I went to see all of them, it was the high light of my young friends life at the time. Wow! were we cool.

Love and Blessings,

Just Keepin' It Real Folks said...

Do you think anyone would be offended by the name Dick Galore? I know a few dudes I could pin that label on.

Cheryl P. said...

You and I have nerves that are BFFs. That was my point...we have evolved from a society that could hardly tolerate the mention of sex but now you just can't have enough explicit, gratuitous sex and violence in everything. Racial slurs would be what is vilified today but everything else is fair game. I think this is crazy how mass mass distributed books have evolved

Cheryl P. said...

I should of put an excerpt or two out of 50 Shades of Grey then we would really have some salacious, sordid stuff goin' on.

Did you recognize that the name Pussy Galore had the double entendre connotation at the time you saw it? Let's hope that no one that was a fan of the movie actually named their girl children Pussy.

That is a great comparison...Valley of the Dolls was considered quite risque as well. But by the time that was written there really were scenes in the book that were explicit. At least the movie version of Valley of the Dolls had a great couple of songs in the soundtrack.

Cheryl P. said...

After reading Peyton Place there really wasn't much in their that would of tainted me in any way. Pretty G rated by today's standards. As for 50 Shades of Grey, I never read it and don't have any immediate plans to do so. I have had a number of friends fill me in on the crux of it.

I think that would be interesting to have been aware of Peyton Place in it's time. This far removed it is hard to believe that people found it filthy.

BUT.....I bet you were COOL!!!

lisleman said...

Yes I was old enough to pickup on the name. The later movie named Octopussy was taking the naming too far. Xenia Onatopp was clever.

Robyn Engel said...

That's such a tragic story about Grace's demise, and she was so young.

Today, EL James could honestly state that a hell of a lot of people have lousy taste, and that's why she's a billionaire.

Thirdly, I'm still stuck on the name Honor Blackman. A real name? Well, it is much better than Pussy.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

It just goes to show how suffocatingly narrow and judgmental the 1950s were. Abortion and illegitimacy were bad enough but if a novel had a lesbian character, publishers insisted that she must die at the end of the novel to ensure sufficient punishment of that sin.

Cheryl P. said...

I am laughing...when I first read your comment, I read it not as "dick being a jerk" but as dick being a body part...which led me to think...which made the idea of you assigning the name Dick Galore fairly complimentary to those few guys.

Cheryl P. said...

It is a tragic story. Grace lived out of her time as far as her writing material goes. She would of been treated quite differently had she been born 30 or 40 years later.

That probably is true statement about the 50 Shades of Grey. I haven't read it but everyone I have talked to said as writing goes it was not well written. I guess, I can't say for sure.

I would be curious if Honor was a stage name. There is no mention of it on any of the bios I could find online.

Cheryl P. said...

Emily Toth wrote a biography of Grace Metalious' life and there are a number of instances that are mentioned about how provincial the publishers were in that era. In newest print of PP, Ardis Cameron talks about how Peyton Place's publisher, Kitty Messner, was one of the few women in the publishing business at the time and was taking a real chance publishing a book that the good ole boys thought was decadent.

Cheryl P. said...

I seem to be very naive about Bond films. I have to do some research it seems. I have heard the title Octopussy but I never saw it. As for Xenia Onatopp, I had to Google that.

Chubby Chatterbox said...

Does anything today cause shock anymore? In an age when boner pills are advertised on TV during the dinner hour it's hard to imagine anything being shocking.

Cheryl P. said...

Agreed...there isn't anything held back anymore. While I thoroughly love Dreamworks kind of animation that have small kids for their audience, even that has some sexual innuendo ...probably as much as adult literature in the 1950s.

Nicky said...

My, how times have changed. And, while I wouldn't want to go back to that type of oppressed morality, I do find it a bit sad that we've gotten to the point where nothing is scandalous anymore.

Cheryl P. said...

I agree about not wanting to go back to the buttoned-up, oppressed morality but I also, agree that the pendulum might have swung a bit too far the other way. Surely, there is a line that gets crossed when something becomes TMI, or just in bad taste. (BTW, it's so nice to see your little avatar here...hope all is going well with you and your family)

Wolfbernz said...

Hi Cheryl,
Times have changed... remember when the Roadrunner was considered the most violent show on television. Now, books have free reign into anything and TV is all about shooting and killing.

meleahrebeccah said...

Oh, man. That broke my heart to hear what happened to Grace after her scandalous book was published. What a shame really.

Riot Kitty said...

Hey, thanks for the shout-out! I love reading your blog, and I loved the James Bond trivia. Of course, wearing a dress that showed your ankles was also considered scandalous once...

Cheryl P. said...

Isn't that a funny twist...how straight laced the 50s were in some ways but the cartoons were super violent. I guess they figured that we all knew the roadrunner was indestructible.

But you are sure right about TV. Anything goes esp. on HBO and Showtime.

Cheryl P. said...

I found the story of the author more interesting than the book so I ordered her biography. Haven't started it yet but Grace sounds like a really interesting character. It is a shame she started with such promise with her book being such a hit when she was only 30 and by 39 she had spun out of control.

Cheryl P. said...

Wouldn't that be an interesting comparison, Victorian morality compared to today. Gosh, every woman in America would be considered immoral. Hah, some women more than others.

meleahrebeccah said...

I would LOVE to read her biography too. Seriously.

Cheryl P. said...

I haven't read either of the Grey books..there are just 2 aren't there? I was tempted to download it just so I could put a racy excerpt into my post but thought it would be a waste of money. I am sure that everyone rushed to buy it for the sexual content but most people agree that it was just a train wreck as far as writing goes. Peyton Place was well written but trashed because of implied sexual content. There wasn't much in it that was overtly descriptive. Pretty tame by today's standards.

The lady on the plane...seriously...she couldn't shut the Ipad off even for take off. What a putz. Can't trashy books be put down for a couple of minutes.

Cheryl P. said...

You guys could of been multi-millionaires in the 50's by just writing the post you wrote today. I kept waiting for something shocking to happen in the book Peyton Place.. for example....at the end of one chapter they talk about a girl's stepfather being angry, then next chapter starts and she is crying to the doctor about being in "trouble". Had Grace actually described any details concerning the rape, the book would of been banned. But even as "blah" as all of that was, it made Grace rich in the short term.