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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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Torn Curtain (1966)

Torn Curtain (1966)

(p.264) 35 Torn Curtain (1966)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

When he made Torn Curtain in 1966, Hitchcock was sixty-six, the Production Code was thirty-six, and both were in decline. The curtain of the title is the Iron Curtain, and Paul Newman plays a nuclear scientist assigned to travel to East Germany as a Communist sympathizer to bring back the mathematical formula for an anti-missile system. The Production Code had three major concerns with the script. In one of the movie’s earliest scenes, there appeared to be inappropriate ‘intimacies of lovemaking’ between Newman and costar Julie Andrews. Code reviewers also worried that the killing of the East German bodyguard assigned to Newman was entirely too gruesome, and a scene in which Newman cried, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater might create panic among real theatergoers. Hitchcock recut the love scene, had Newman shout ‘Fire!’ in German? presumably so only German audiences would panic?but left the bodyguard’s murder uncut because he wanted to show just how difficult and messy it is to kill a man. He succeeded in this, and the murder is the high point of a disappointing film and a worthy addition to Hitchcock’s canon of memorable scenes.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Production Code Administration, crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, East Germany, Cold War, gruesome murder scene, Torn Curtain

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