To circumvent this problem, the production team employed of shrewd tactics on part of the production team that the movie got the approval from the Breen Office. Firstly, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett started the shooting of the film under the working title A Can of Beans, which sounded rather innocuous to the censors. Secondly, the writer-director team did not send the entire script to the Breen Office. They instead sent it one chapter at a time, making it hard for the censors to perceive its content in totality. Despite such carefulness, the Breen Office did ask for changes to the script, albeit minor ones. For example, Joe Gillis’s “I’m up that creek and I need a job,” which became “I’m over a barrel. I need a job.” (Harris, 2008)
In the movie North by Northwest (1959), made by the master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, there are quite a few tricky passages that attracted the attention of the Breen Office. In the last scene of the preview print sent to the Breen Office, the lead actors Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint have an intimate moment during their train ride, which tested the censors in terms of its sexual content. According to the Production Code, “scenes of passion were not to be introduced when not essential to the plot. Excessive and lustful kissing was to be avoided, along with any other treatment that might stimulate the lower and baser element” (Harris, 2008). The challenge for the director here is to show their intimacy without breaching this clause of the code. The genius of Hitchcock comes through in the way he finds a solution. As the two of them
“travel by Pullman train to New York. Grant pulls her up into his upper berth, and they fall back in a kiss and, eventually, we assume, more. Unacceptable, the censors ordered: The couple must be sitting up (or at least not lying down) at the fadeout. Hitchcock recalled that he had some outtakes of the train, including a shot of it speeding into a tunnel. In the finished picture, as Roger and Eve begin to fall back, he cuts to that train, in context looking boldly–and whimsically–phallic. The censors were pleased, Hitchcock was delighted, and audiences left the theater smiling” (Leff, 1999)
At another point in the film the dialogue between the lead actors gets a little sexually suggestive. Somehow the censors let this one pass, probably due to oversight. For example, Eve Kendall tells Roger Thornhill “I’m a big girl”, for which Roger replies “Yea, in all the right places too”. The Breen Office has taken to task far less suggestive dialogues, but somehow this one had got through. The high esteem and reputation of Alfred Hitchcock might also have been a reason why this happened. Hitchcock had an amicable relationship with the Breen Office. Moreover, the Breen Office was less concerned with the implications of the story or the narrative, but only its outward depiction in the form of “treatment of crimes, the treatment of scenes of passion, the treatment of repellant subjects, etc. And Hitchcock’s treatment, his vaunted touch, lessened the burden of the censors; in turn, the censors rewarded the director with more latitude than many of his peers enjoyed. And, showing and telling all only goes only so far. As the Production Code boys and directors like Hitchcock always understood, less is more.” (Allen & Ishii-Gonzáles, 2004)
Hitchcock and the Censors. Contributors: Leonard J. Leff – author. Magazine Title: World and I. Volume: 14. Issue: 8. Publication Date: August 1999. Page Number: 108. COPYRIGHT 1999 News World Communications, Inc.
Staggs, Sam: Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond and the Dark Hollywood Dream. St. Martin’s Griffin Books, 2002. ISBN 0-312-30254-1
Hitchcock : Past and Future. Contributors: Richard Allen – editor, Sam Ishii-Gonzáles – editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2004. Page Number: 95.
Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Group. pp. 173–176. ISBN 978-1594201523.
Friedrich, Otto (1997). City of nets: a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s. University of California Press (reprint). pp. 86–89. ISBN 978-0520209497.