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Film still for The Emperor Jones

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A movie still of a scene from The Emperor Jones. Depicted are four men. Starting from the left, the first man is dressed very formally while he is holding a coat in both his hands and looking over to his left. The second man, standing in the center of the frame, is looking straight ahead while he holds a glass in his right hand. He wears black boots that stop right below his knee caps. To the left of him are two men. They are dressed identically to the first man depicted. One of the men appears to be adjusting a piece of clothing on the second man depicted while the fourth man to the far right of the photograph is watching. Written in the bottom border of the photograph it says "John Krimsky and Gifford Cochran present Paul Robeson in "The Emperor Jones"/ United Artists Picture Made in U.S.A." On the back of the photo, in the top middle section is a rectangular piece of tape. There is writing on the back.

Film poster for Boyz n the Hood

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Promotional poster for the film Boys N the Hood. The poster features Morris Chestnut, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Ice Cube. They are around the rear of a convertible. Morris Chestnut is on the far left of the image and is seated within the backseat of the car. In the center of the poster wearing a yellow and black button-up shirt is Cuba Gooding, Jr. He stands with his arms resting behind him on the trunk of the car. To his left is Ice Cube, who is standing with his right leg propped up on the trunk. His arms rest on his right knee. Above the figures in the upper left corner is white text that reads “Once upon a time / in South Central L.A.” Written in red at center right is “BOYZ N THE / HOOD.” Below the title is additional white text that reads “It ain't no fairy tale.” Along the lower fourth of the poster, above the billing block is a narrow blue stripe with white text listing the actors in the film.

Pinback button for the film Sarafina!

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A white pinback button for the film Sarafina!. The button has a white background with a pink and orange depiction of Africa at center. The top of Africa fades into a flock of birds. To the lower right of the button, black lettering reads [Sarafina!]. The exterior edge has [© 1992 Hollywood Pictures] printed in black ink. The back of the button has a metal pin with a clasp.

Film still for Cabin in the Sky

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A movie still for the 1943 musical film Cabin in the Sky. The photo is in black and white. Starting to the left of the photo is a woman with a large light-colored flower pinned to the front right side of her hair. She is facing forward but her eyes are in the direction of a man to her left. She is wearing a light top with polka dots, hoop earrings, and bracelets on her right forearm. The man to the right of her is wearing a long sleeve collared shirt with the top button unbuttoned and is looking away from the woman. In the bottom right hand corner of the photograph reads the numbers “1267-70."

Lobby card for the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lobby card features a color still from the film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" The image depicts Katharine Hepburn and Katharine Houghton seated at a table looking up at Spencer Tracy to the right of the frame. Sidney Poitier is shown standing next to the table, facing Tracy. A white box with blue and red text in the BL corner reads, [Columbia Pictures presents a / Stanley Kramer / production / Spencer / Tracy / Sidney / Poitier / Katharine / Hepburn / guess who's / coming to dinner / and introducing / Katharine Houghton / Music by DeVol · Written by William Rose / Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer · Technicolor®]. Black type in BL corner of lobby card reads, [Copyright ©1967 by Columbia Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved].

Film still for Carmen Jones

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A black and white movie still for the 1954 film Carmen Jones. The photo depicts a man and a woman. The man in the photo is kneeling on his right knee supporting the reclining woman on his left arm as she lies on the ground. The man is wearing a dark hat and jacket with dark shoes. The woman on the ground is wearing a light colored dress and stares blankly past the man above her. Behind them are torn boxes and stacked Coca-Cola bottles. In the bottom right hand corner of the photo it reads "CJ-70" in white text. Below the photo is information about who the photo belongs to, the starring cast, and copyright information.

Poster for Claudine

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A color poster for the film Claudine. The poster features a large color photograph of a man and woman walking down a city sidewalk with six children. All are holding hands, with three children on each side of the couple in the center. Black type underneath reads, [A heart and soul comedy. / Can you dig it?]. At the bottom is [JAMES EARL JONES DIAHANN CARROLL / "CLAUDINE"] in large yellow type, with production information in smaller blue type.

Hollywood Shuffle? Black History on Film - History Film Forum 2017

Smithsonian Institution
March 12, 2017 Panel Discussion at the History Film Forum Two years after #OscarsSoWhite began trending, the History Film Forum and The Undefeated examine the state of Black history on the screen. The African American Film Critics Association called 2016 the best year ever for black people in cinema, with films like Loving, Hidden Figures, and The Free State of Jones, along with powerful documentaries like OJ: Made in America, I am not your Negro, and 13th. We saw projects featuring African Americans in front of and behind the camera and black stories at the forefront. Despite the long standing dearth of diverse stories of the past making it to movie audiences, does this year indicate a lasting shift where we might consistently see new stories of the past on the screen? - Captured Live on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/national-museum-of-american-history

Lobby card for the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lobby card features a color still from the film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy are seated around a table in what appears to be an exterior shot with a lake and trees featured in the background. Tracy, seated to Poitier's right, reaches out to adjust a smiling Poitier's tie. Houghton's back is to the camera; seated to her left is Hepburn, who faces Poitier over r a plate of sandwiches. A white box with blue and red text in the bottom left corner reads, [Columbia Pictures presents a / Stanley Kramer / production / Spencer / Tracy / Sidney / Poitier / Katharine / Hepburn / guess who's / coming to dinner / and introducing / Katharine Houghton / Music by DeVol · Written by William Rose / Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer · Technicolor®]. Black type in the bottom left corner of the lobby card reads, [Copyright ©1967 by Columbia Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved].

Five Films that Redefined Hollywood

Smithsonian Magazine

In 1967, the five movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards represented the winds of change in Hollywood. The Graduate, rejected by every movie studio, was an iconic film for a generation; Bonnie and Clyde gave a 1930s counter-culture sensation a 1960s sensibility; In the Heat of the Night captured America’s racial tensions in performances by Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the ultimate Hollywood “message movie,” was the final role for Spencer Tracy, the last of the Golden Age icons; and finally, Dr. Doolittle, a train wreck of a movie that showcased all that was wrong with the dying studio system.

Smithsonian.com’s Brian Wolly talked with Mark Harris, a columnist for Entertainment Weekly about his book Pictures at a Revolution and the Academy Awards.

There appears to be a returning theme in your book of “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” where quotes or passages could just as easily be written about today’s Hollywood. Which aspect of this surprised you the most in your research?

All I knew about Dr. Doolittle going into the book was that it was an expensive disaster, which I thought would make a great counterpoint to these other four movies which were not disasters and all put together did not cost as much as Dr. Doolittle. There were certain things about the way it was made that I thought really had not come into play in Hollywood until the 1980s and 1990s that I was surprised to see were alive and well in the 1960s. For instance, picking a release date before you have a finished script, not worrying that you don’t have a finished script because you just imagined the script as a variable that you didn’t have to worry about. Thinking about no matter how bad the movie is, you can solve it either by tweaking it after test screenings or a really aggressive marketing campaign. Throwing good money after bad, thinking, “Oh we’re in so deep, we just have to keep going and we’ll spend our way to a hit.”

One review I read complimented you on not going in-depth on what was happening in the United States, the protests, the politics. You only really made parallels where it actually fit, as in Loving v. Virginia. Was this intentional on your part?

I didn’t want this to be a year that changed the world book, there are a lot of those out there and some of them are really interesting. This was a book specifically about movies and changes in the movie business. But I don’t think its possible to understand why movies in 1968 were different than movies in 1963 without understanding what went on in the country during those years.

Maybe a simpler way to put it is, it’s less important what was going on in the civil rights movement than what Norman Jewison [director of In the Heat of the Night] was aware what was going on in the civil rights movement versus what Stanley Kramer [director of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner] was aware what was going on in the civil rights movement. Their different levels of engagement with what was happening in terms of civil rights both within the country and within the industry tell you a lot about why each of those movies came out the way they did.

One of the more astounding points laid out in the book, at least for someone of my generation, is that movies not only stayed in theaters for months, but that they stayed at the top of the box office for months as well. When did this shift happen? How did affect how movies are made?

I think the shift happened when aftermarkets were invented. Movies did stay in theaters for months in the 60s and 70s, and sometimes even for a couple of years if they were really big hits. The only chance that you would ever have to see a movie after it ran theatrically was network television, where it would be interrupted by commercials and where anything objectionable would be cut out. There’s not a lot of reason now to rush out to see a movie in a movie theater, and in the 1960s, there were tons of reasons.

In your book, there is a constant theme of the roles Sidney Poitier plays and how white and black America viewed race relations through him. But given the research you lay out, you seem to be more on the critical side, that Poitier played black roles that were palatable to white audiences. Is that a fair reading?

My feeling is that Poitier was facing an almost impossible situation in trying to serve his race (which is something that he very badly wanted to do), grow as an actor (which is something he very badly wanted to do), work entirely within a white power structure (which is something he had to do), and make movies. He handled it as well as anyone possibly could have. I think that there’s real sadness in the fact that by the end of the book, he reaches the apex of his career, in terms of box office success and critical acclaim.

Image by © Bettmann / Corbis. Warren Beatty produced and starred in Bonnie and Clyde alongside Faye Dunaway in a movie that was about the 1930s, but was written to be a movie about the themes of the 60s. (original image)

Image by © Sunset Boulevard / Corbis. Dustin Hoffman, in the famous scene from The Graduate, during his first liaison with Mrs. Robinson. The movie was rejected by every major Hollywood studio. (original image)

Image by © John Springer Collection / Corbis. Sidney Poitier starred as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night with Rod Steiger as two detectives solving a homicide in the Deep South. (original image)

Image by © John Springer Collection / Corbis. Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner starred Sidney Poitier as the future son-in-law to Spencer Tracy. It would be Tracy's last film; he died just weeks after production ended with his longtime partner Katharine Hepburn at his side. (original image)

Image by © Bettmann / Corbis. Rex Harrison was the cantankerous star of Doctor Doolittle, a 1967 flop of epic proportions. (original image)

Poitier had a stretch of four years in which he was in Lillies of the FieldA Patch of BlueTo Sir with LoveGuess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night, a string that made him one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. What happened to his career after In the Heat of the Night?

There was this moment that just as white middle America completely embraced him, black America started to have less use for any black actor who was that embraced by white America. There was this sort of suspicion that if he’s that popular, he must by definition have been too accommodating. What you see when you read about Poitier after that is the story of a guy who had become deeply disillusioned with the way Hollywood worked.

I love the Mike Nichols quote about who Benjamin and Elaine [the two main characters in The Graduate] became – their parents. Yet it seems the same thing could be said for Oscar voters. The “old academy members” are the scapegoat for each questionable decision cast by the academy…and this was true in 1967 and it’s true now.

Young movie fans tend to be much more rigid and doctrinaire, because they’re the ones who say, “Well, a certain part of the electorate is just going to have to die before things change.” Eventually, the people complaining about the way things go this year will be the establishment. There’s no question that the academy votership is older than the median moviegoer.

I tend to really reject theories as if the Academy, as if it’s a single-brained entity, makes decisions one way or another. I hate the word “snubs” because it implies a sort of collective will behind something, that I don’t think is usually the case.

More things that are called snubs are actually the result of the extremely peculiar voting tabulation system that any kind of collective will, on the other hand, its completely fair to say that Academy voters have certain areas of really entrenched snobbery. I absolutely heard Academy voters say this year, point blank, that they wouldn’t vote for The Dark Knight for a best picture nomination because it was a comic book movie. You can see a history where they’ve taken a really, really long time to embrace certain genres. It really took until The Exorcist for a horror movie to get nominated, until Star Wars for a hardcore for a spaceships and laser guns, sci-fi movie to get nominated.

You write about how the organizers of the Oscars ceremony had to beg and plead with stars to show up at the event. What changed to make the Oscars a can’t-miss event for Hollywood?

Definitely some years after the period covered in my book is when it happened. The Oscars sort of hit bottom in terms of celebrity participation in the early 1970s. It was considered chic to hate awards; George C. Scott rejected his nomination and Marlon Brando rejected his Oscar. The academy at that point, seeming so old Hollywood establishment, was being rejected by a generation of new moviemaking mavericks. For a little while in the early 70s, the Oscars seemed to be at this precarious moment where they could go the way of the Miss America pageant. Then, as these newcomers became part of the establishment, lo and behold, they actually do like winning awards. It’s funny, when you start winning them, you don’t tend to turn up your nose at them quite so much. I think probably by the mid 70s, late 70s, it had kind of stabilized.

Which of the five movies you reported on is your favorite? Which do you think has the most lasting power and would be appreciated in today’s environment?

This is always a tough one, and I usually say my favorite is The Graduate, and I think its because of, ironically, one of the things that made people complain about it when it first came out, which is it has this coolness, this distance, not just from the generation of Benjamin’s parents, but between Benjamin and his generation The Graduate still plays beautifully and its also just so astonishingly crafted scene by scene in terms of everything from the acting to the direction to the cinematography to the art direction to the soundtrack being on the same page. The first hour of that movie is a shot-by-shot master class.

I’ve done a bunch of screenings over the years since the book has come out, and generally, In the Heat of the Night is the movie that people are most pleasantly surprised by. In my head, when I started the book, I positioned it as sort of an old Colombo episode. The more I watched it, the more I really became impressed by the craft in every area. The way it’s edited, the way its shot, the way its directed…and how lean it is. There are very few wasted scenes or wasted shots in that movie. When I’ve shown it to people, they have been really surprised…they’ve expected this sort of antique parable about race, and instead you get a good movie.

I sort of wish I had done this interview last year, because this year’s movies are so subpar. Are any of the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars close to being as groundbreaking as those from that year?

This year? No. I have to honestly say no. I do think they could have contrived a more exciting set of nominees than the ones they picked. The parallel I would say between ‘67 and now, I think in ‘67, a lot of people in Hollywood were beginning to get the impression that they were at the end of something, but not aware yet of the thing that replaced what was dying out was going to be. I do feel that right now, the dominant thing that’s going on right now in Hollywood, without question, is economic panic. It’s how are we going to survive internet piracy, streaming video, and TV, and people wanting their DVDs sooner that ever, is the theatrical exhibition even going to last, and I think that kind of churning panic eventually breeds something very interesting on screen. But, we’ll know what that is probably going to be about a year or two from now.

From Budweiser to Heineken, Alcohol Brands Are Rampant in Hollywood Films

Smithsonian Magazine

“Are you drunk?” asks James T. Kirk in a scene from the 2013 film Star Trek: Into Darkness. Kirk is on the phone with his trusty engineer Scotty, attempting to ask him about a series of mysterious coordinates. The scene switches over to the loud bar in which Scotty is sitting. Next to him is a sleek, futuristic bottle of Budweiser beer—which is apparently still being marketed in 2259.

This kind of scene is no accident, contends new research being presented Tuesday at the 2017 annual Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting. Alcohol brand placement has nearly doubled over the past two decades, the authors find, and most of that is likely paid product placement.

"More than 80 percent of movies contain depictions of alcohol use," says Dartmouth University pediatrician James D. Sargent, who has been combing films for their depictions of violence, tobacco, drugs and drinking for more than 20 years. While this percentage remained relatively unchanged during those two decades, the presence of specific brands depicted on screen increased dramatically.

Sargent argues that the vast majority of alcohol depiction in films now is likely product placement. He found that roughly 44 percent of the 2,000 films studied showed real alcohol brands over the 20-year period studied. Moreover, the depiction of alcohol brands increased 96 percent in the movies studied, from 140 appearances in the top 100 films in 1996 to 282 appearances in the top 100 films of 2015.

The most-frequently seen brands were Budweiser, Miller and Heineken, says co-author Samantha Cukier, a public policy researcher who works with Sargent at Dartmouth, with the triad representing one-third of the total brands seen. "We assume it's being paid for,” says Sargent. While the alcohol and film industries have resisted efforts to disclose paid brand placement, for Star Trek: Into Darkness, Budweiser was a major partner in marketing the film. 

For this research, two longtime professional viewers from Sargent's team looked at the top 100 earning films from 1996 to 2015, and watched them closely for alcohol use and specific brands. They found that more than 1,700 of those some 2,000 films depicted alcohol consumption. In total, 93 percent of R-rated films and 92 percent of PG-13-rated films released during those years featured alcohol being consumed.

It isn’t just adult films that are heavy on the booze. According to the research, 72 percent of PG-rated films and 46 percent of G-rated films surveyed featured alcohol use. While that number appears to have stayed steady over time, again, brand placements nearly doubled within the 20-year period. For instance, in the 2003 film “Elf”—described as a “good-natured family comedy” by the film review website Rotten Tomatoes—Will Ferrell accidentally pours whiskey into his coffee, and then starts the party at work.

"It can really deliver a lot of alcohol images to an underage group," Sargent says.

Sargent compares this trend to portrayals of tobacco use in movies. To stop a flood of lawsuits from states and people seeking compensation for illness and death from smoking cigarettes they had been told was safe, America's largest tobacco companies agreed in 1998 to a settlement that, among other things, put restrictions on funding product placement in movies. In a study last year, Sargent and others found the depiction of smoking and tobacco brands in movies dropped by roughly half in the years following the settlement.

If similar film restrictions were put on the alcohol industry, Sargent says, "I would bet that you would get the same kind of decline with alcohol." However, this is an unlikely proposition, as there there is no similar flood of lawsuits against alcohol companies, and Sargent says that the public and lawmakers generally tend to view alcohol as less malicious than tobacco.

"There's a substantial amount of research out there now" about teen drinking and movies, Sargent says. Much of this peer-reviewed research has been led by Sargent himself, and has found that the more movies with alcohol use a teen has watched, the more likely he or she is to try drinking. These studies surveyed students in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany and asked them which movies they’d watched and about their attitudes and consumption of alcohol.

Unsurprisingly to Sargent, they found that alcohol-infused movies appeared to encourage drinking among these adolescents. While no comparable study has been conducted in Europe, the prevalence may be even higher there: one study found that 100 percent of the most viewed European films in 2009 depicted or mentioned alcohol use.

"The alcohol industry has long figured out that they can get their brands out there in movies and they will not be monitored as closely as if they were doing commercials in the more traditional way," says Cristel Russell, a marketing professor at American University who was not involved in this research. "We know these companies are in the entertainment marketing business."

Russell's past research has found similar impacts of alcohol depiction in television shows on teenagers. In a study that is now being peer reviewed at the Journal of Health Communication, Russell developed mock television episodes with all details and characters the same except for one had a storyline where drinking led to positive outcomes (such as getting a girl or making friends), while another had drinking lead to negative outcomes (such as social awkwardness).

For the subjects, who ranged in age from 14 to 17, just one exposure to the “positive” alcohol storyline led them to express more positive attitudes toward drinkers.

"You're clearly having an influence on the views that teenagers have of the consequences of drinking," Russell says. Between experimental research like hers and content analysis research like Sargent's study, she adds, "there's no doubt in my mind that there's enough of a body of evidence out there" to prove that alcohol depiction in movies is a considerable public health problem.

While the average viewer can't do much to stop this, Russell says that increasing teens’ media literacy can help them resist these subtle messages, because teenagers often don't like to feel like they're being manipulated into liking something. "By merely being aware of these influences, you can counteract them a little bit," Russell says. One such effort is the U.S. government’s “Too Smart to Start” program, which creates resource guides and advertisements that encourage kids to be aware of the subliminal messaging.

Sargent is looking next to review more than 10 studies that have tracked the outcomes of roughly 50,000 young people to disentangle how exposure to alcohol in movies affected their lives. In the future, he hopes that the film industry will take a more active role in helping parents keep track of their children's viewing experiences, pointing out that the current film rating system used by the Motion Picture Association of America doesn't provide any warning for films that show drinking—even for movies targeted at the youngest viewers.

"If there's alcohol brand placement, they're not going to find out about it until they watch the movie," Sargent says. "That to me is a much more important component to the ratings than the f-word."

Film still from To Sir, with Love

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A color film still from the film To Sir, With Love, depicting Sidney Poitier and Judy Geeson in a classroom. Gleeson sits upon a student's desk, facing towards Poitier, who stands in front of but perpendicular to Geeson, facing the camera. The teachers desk is front of Poitier, facing towards the student desks, arranged in the classroom in rows. A wall of windows is to the side of the desks, behind Poitier and Geeson. The image is surrounded by a white border, with black text underneath providing copyright information, billing and production information, and a licensing message from National Screen Service Corp.

Hav Plenty

National Museum of African American History and Culture
VHS video cassette tape titled "Hav Plenty." The film is approximately ninety minutes and was written, directed, and produced by Christopher Scott Cherot. The video cassette is stored in its original cardboard case and is wrapped in shrink wrap. The front of the case features a color photograph of the main characters depicted clockwise as: Lee Plenty (Christopher Scott Cherot), Havilland Savage (Chenoa Maxwell), Caroline Gooden (Tammi Katherine Jones), and Leigh Darling (Robinne Lee). The three (3) women are smiling and resting their heads on Cherot’s torso. Cherot is resting his chin on Maxwell’s head. The film’s title is printed in yellow and blue across the bottom of the case. The image is set against a blue background with yellow and white text that reads [The Sexy / New Comedy From / The Producers of Soul Food / “Hilarious!” / -Premiere Magazine / “Witty!” / -The New York Times.]. The back of the case features a plot summary, critic’s blurbs, a barcode, three color photographic stills from the movie, and production information. There are two (2), white, identical stamps on the plastic shrink wrap on the front of the cassette that read [[Disney castle] Buena Vista / Home Entertainment].

Lobby card for the film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lobby card features a color still from the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner The image depicts Katharine Hepburn and Katharine Houghton seated at a table looking up at Spencer Tracy to the right of the frame. Sidney Poitier is shown standing next to the table, facing Tracy. A white box with blue and red text in the bottom left corner reads, [Columbia Pictures presents a / Stanley Kramer / production / Spencer / Tracy / Sidney / Poitier / Katharine / Hepburn / guess who's / coming to dinner / and introducing / Katharine Houghton / Music by DeVol · Written by William Rose / Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer · Technicolor®]. Black type in BL corner of lobby card reads, [Copyright ©1967 by Columbia Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved].

Russell Williams II Oral History Interview

National Museum of African American History and Culture
The oral history consists of 2016.129.13.1a and 2016.129.13.2a: two versions (unedited, and edited) of a single digital video recording.

228.30216 GB

Russell Williams was interviewed as part of the NMAAHC Donor Oral History Collection. Mr. Williams donated a collection of artifacts and photographs representing his pioneering Hollywood career, including both of his Academy Awards, his two Emmy Awards, and audio equipment he used to record dialogue on the set of various films to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In this oral history Russell Williams discusses his childhood in Washington, DC and his journey to becoming a successful Hollywood sound engineer. He talks about the challenges that face African Americans in the film industry. He also gives vivid descriptions of what it was like to work on the sets of "Glory" and "Dances with Wolves".

Unedited File: Unedited digital file of oral history interview. This file is necessary in case we need to refer to the original recording for any reason and/or want to use a portion of the file that has been edited out.

Edited File: Videographer has minimized or eliminated interruptions, false starts and any unnecessary sounds. An agreed upon slate has also been added with title, date, and logo. Separate files of the same interview have been concatenated. This is the copy that will be made available to the public and/or researchers and uploaded to the website.

Before Hollywood Had Ratings, Films Were Way Racier

Smithsonian Magazine

Today, at the beginning of every movie, the Motion Picture Association of America provides you with a handy primer as to what kind of indecency you’re about to see on the screen. Sometimes these ratings can make or break a movie: an R rating can narrow the potential audience and cut into box office sales. An X rating is like a kiss of death. But movies didn’t always go through such a rigorous screening process. In fact, at the beginning of the cinema, directors could get away with a lot more.

The blog Let’s Misbehave: A Tribute to Precode Hollywood has a great collection of movies from before the MPAA existed or its predecessor, the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, started enforcing censorship guidelines in 1934.  Take this post on drugs in pre-code movies for example:

The most interesting use of drugs in film is the 1916 film ‘The Mystery of the Leaping Fish’ staring the famous Douglas Fairbanks. The comedy picture shows Douglas as a Sherlock Holmes like detective solving crimes while being addicted to cocaine. In the pictures below it is obvious to see the product cocaine and the use of syringes.

In the 1934 movie Murder at the Vanities, there’s a whole musical number about the pleasures of marijuana (sung by half-naked women).

Let’s Misbehave has more examples of drug use, and whole catalogue of other pre-code novelties.

The power of the MPAA in Hollywood was the topic of the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, where they long for the days before ratings. We certainly don’t get musicals about weed anymore.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Celebrating Home Movie Day
Determining Who Made the Most Movies

Fur coat worn by Max Julien as Goldie in the film The Mack

National Museum of African American History and Culture
This cream fur coat was worn by Max Julien as the character John "Goldie" Mickens in the 1973 film "The Mack." The single-breasted fur coat is long, falling mid-calf on Julien, with an oversized notched spread collar, full-length sleeves, and a split tail. It closes at the center front with two (2) large round pearl-like plastic buttons. The cuffs, the interior front opening, and the interior tails are trimmed with white leather. The yoke and the collar lining are also faced in white leather. A 2 1/2 inch wide belt of the white leather is attached at the sides across the back waist. The coat is fully lined with cream acetate.

Film

National Museum of American History
Mounted gelatin silver print of Will Connell's "Film," one of a series of photographs taken for "In Pictures," Connell's satirical 1937 book about the Hollywood film industry. The photograph is a montage of looping motion picture film lit from beneath. Will Connell (1898-1961) was an influential photographer, teacher and author in Southern California known for his often-satirical “modern pictorialist” style, commercial photography work and mentorship of a generation of photographers. The National Museum of American History’s Photographic History collection received a donation of 11 prints of various subjects from Connell’s wife in 1963. This donation was followed by another, from Connell’s son, in 1977, comprised of the 49 prints published in In Pictures. Connell was born in McPherson, Kansas, but moved to California soon after. As a young man in Los Angeles, Connell came into contact with the thriving California camera clubs of the 1910s and 1920s, and more importantly, the burgeoning Hollywood film industry. After a brief stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps at the end of the first World War, Connell worked a variety of odd jobs while experimenting in amateur photography. Several motion picture studios hired Connell to photograph actors and actresses in the 1920s and 1930s, and he soon became a professional. Connell’s glamour shots of stars such as Myrna Loy, as well as his growing body of art photography, reveal pictorialist influence, and his work was often exhibited at salons and exhibitions throughout the United States. In the 1930s, Connell began working as a photographer for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Time and Vogue, started teaching photography at Art Center College and continued work at the Los Angeles studio he opened in 1925. Connell spent the rest of his life in Los Angeles, teaching, judging work, producing commercial work and writing, notably, his "Counsel by Connell" column in US Camera, which he authored for 15 years. His first book, In Pictures, was published in 1937. Now considered a classic work of satire, the book featured montaged, often surreal images that mocked the Hollywood studio system and a public enamored with the motion picture industry. The photographs were published alongside a fictional account of a meeting of Hollywood moguls, written by several of Connell’s friends in the business. While the images appear to be a marked departure from Connell’s earlier soft-focus pictorialism, the sharp, poignant photographs nevertheless retain that movement’s emphasis on composition and communication of a message. In Pictures also pays homage to the film industry where the photographer cut his teeth – many of the images feature close-ups, characteristic stage lighting and influence of the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Connell, in his work and teaching until his death in 1961, is cited as an influence on an entire generation of photographers, including Dr. Dain Tasker (COLL.PHOTOS.000031). His 1949 book About Photography outlined an artistic philosophy that stressed a straight-forward, communicative style of photography and expressed the author’s belief that even the most commercial work can have artistic merit. A 1963 monograph in US Camera featured fond remembrances from friends Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, among others, who praised Connell for his warm personality and unique work. Related Collections: Dain Tasker collection, Photographic History Collection, NMAH Will Connell collection, California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, California Will Connell papers, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California Art Center School Archives, Pasadena, California

Photograph of Marty May

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A silver gelatin print depicting a black-and-white image of Marty May. May is depicted from the chest up, against a white background, cast with shadows. His proper left shoulder is slightly forward and he is looking towards the right edge of the image. May is wearing a medium toned suit, a white collared shirt, and a medium toned, striped tie. He has a white pocket square in his proper left breast pocket. May’s hair is smoothed back and parted down the center. Along the right edge of the photograph is a handwritten inscription in black ink that reads, [To / Laure / Sincerely / Marty May]. The photographer's mark, printed in the negative, located in the bottom right corner reads, [DeMuyian[?] [underlined] / of / New York – Hollywood]. There are no inscriptions on the back of the photograph.

Poster for One Mile From Heaven

National Museum of African American History and Culture
This illustrated film poster depicts two women with one little girl between them. In the upper left hand corner is a newspaper with [A STORY OF MOTHER-LOVE / THE NEWS PAPERS / WOULD NOT PRINT!]. In the upper right hand corner one woman, shown from the shoulders up, has her arm around a little girl. Both wear lavender coats. The other woman is on the left hand side halfway along the margin, shown from the neck up, facing towards the other woman and little girl. Next to her head in large blue text it reads "ONE MILE/ FROM HEAVEN." Below this, in darker green lettering against a light green background is the cast: [Claire TREVOR / Sally BLANE / Douglas Fowley / Fredi WASHINGTON / AND Bill ROBINSON]. In the lower left corner is the logo for 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

Certificate of nomination from the Academy Awards issued to Lonne Elder III

National Museum of African American History and Culture
An Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Certificate for Nomination for Award issued to Lonne Elder III for the screenplay for the film Sounder. The certificate is printed in black ink on grey and white paper with a gold border. The left side of the certificate is grey with an image of an Oscar statue at top and "THE / ACADEMY / OF / MOTION / PICTURE / ARTS / AND / SCIENCES" printed in white ink below it. The certificate is adhered to a black piece of wood and is lacquered. The certificate reads "CERTIFICATE / OF / NOMINATION / FOR / AWARD / Be it known that / LONNE ELDER III / was nominated for an / ACADEMY AWARD OF MERIT / for outstanding achievement / Screenplay / “SOUNDER” / This judgement being rendered with reference to Motion Pictures / first regularly exhibited in Los Angeles district / during the year ending December 31, 1972." The certificate is signed by David Tabardash and Hal Elias in the bottom right corner. The back of the plaque has a rectangular metal hook with a sticker for the manufacturer, Perma Plaque Corp., below it. An embossed mark for Perma Plaque Corp. is also in the bottom left corner. The back has two felt pads adhered to the bottom corners.

Detroit Lions jacket worn by Eddie Murphy in the film Beverly Hills Cop II

National Museum of African American History and Culture
This black and off-white Detroit Lions letterman jacket was worn by Eddie Murphy in the film Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). The jacket is made from black felted wool with off-white leather sleeves. Ribbed knitted synthetic fabric with a blue and white stripe design on a black ground is attached as the fold-over collar, the cuffs of each sleeve, and around the hem of the jacket body. The jacket closes at the center front using seven (7) metal snaps painted black on the facing side. There are two (2) diagonally set welted pockets, one at each front side waist, with the welts made from the off-white leather. Appliqued hooked thread designs are attached at the proper left chest, across the back, and on the sleeves just below the shoulder seam. The design on the proper left front consists of gray letters reading "LIONS" over a gray, white, and blue football helmet that has the Detroit Lions mascot on the helmet. The design on the back of the jacket consists of gray letters reading "DETROIT" above a larger version of the football helmet and gray letters below the helmet reading "LIONS". The number "67" in black is on each sleeve.

The jacket is fully lined in dark gray rayon. A black fabric label with gold embroidered stitching is sewn at the center back below the collar that reads "Albion / AWARD / Jacket / ALBION KNITTING MILLS / GARDENA, CALIFORNIA / WOOL FABRIC / PROFESSIONALLY DRY CLEAN ONLY / MADE IN U.S.A.". A size tag is sewn to the bottom of the label. A label with style, content, and care information is sewn into the interior proper right side seam near the waist.

Sounder

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A hardcover copy of the novel “Sounder” owned by Lonne Elder, III. The novel is grey with a black spine. Text on the spine is silver and reads “ARMSTRONG,” “SOUNDER,” and “HARPER & ROW.” The front endpaper has a graphite and ink inscription that reads “Robt. Radnitz. Mattel / WRITER-SCREEN / ADAPTOR / LONNE ELDER, III / OFF. 763-8411 EXT 1325-6 / HOME 464-1861 / IF LOST PLEASE RETURN / TO LONNE ELDER, III / BOB RADNITZ PRODUCTIONS / CBS-STUDIO CENTER / STUDIO CITY, CALIF.” The book has 118 pages with several black and white illustrations. The book has handwritten notes and annotations in graphite throughout the novel. Eighteen (18) paperclips hold portions of the text block together.
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