The Dirtiest Sex Scene of 1951 (in Technicolor!)

By Jason Haggstrom, March 31, 2012

I know what you’re thinking. Last year for April Fools I doctored up the infamous joke ending of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in order to make it just a taaaad more obvious. Y’know, for the people that only felt the rush of wind as the original joke sailed right over their heads. So you might be expecting that this post will be a joke too, right? Well, here’s the thing: last year was somewhat of an anomaly. I’m not really a big April Fools kinda guy. But just because this isn’t an April Fool (hey, it’s only March 31st!) that doesn’t mean that this post won’t have funny bits. And, yeah, I might even doctor up another video so stick around ’til the end.

I’m really, really opposed to censorship, but it’s funny to think that if it weren’t for the Motion Picture Production Code we wouldn’t have instances of sexual metaphors like the one that ends North by Northwest. Just four years earlier, in 1955’s To Catch a Thief, Hitchcock had used a similar visual gag when he used shots of fireworks going off in place of showing actual sexual pleasure between the film’s lovemaking couple. Back in 1946, Hitchcock had been forced to break a long kiss in Notorious into several small, consecutive kisses in order to get around the censor’s three-second-kiss rule (the great irony being that the "notorious" of the title referred to the female lead’s sexual reputation, and that the film’s plot centered around her using sex to infiltrate a group of Nazis). Hitchcock knew the ropes, and he figured out how to skirt the censors.

Like Hitchcock, Billy Wilder made a career by pushing the Production Code to its limits. His films often toyed with sexual themes and all of the deviant possibilities that Hollywood was trying to avoid. The greed-lust-murder combination in Double Indemnity, the role-reversed sex-for-money arrangement in Sunset Blvd., and the gender-bending Some Like it Hot that actually blends genders to the point where they no longer matter anymore when it comes to love ("Nobody’s perfect"). In the years of Hollywood self-censorship, Wilder certainly lived up to his name.

In some cases, it seems that the censors were just too dense to understand that filmmakers were sneaking sexual material past them. One of the best examples being the very first joke in Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby where Miss Swallow (ahem) remarks about how Dr. Huxley "tried it in the tail yesterday, and it didn’t fit." Of course, they were just talking about a dinosaur bone (wink, wink). And then there’s this scene from The African Queen featured in the video below. The first time I saw it, I just about fell out of my chair laughing. It’s so explicit a sexual metaphor that it’s unbelievable that the censors didn’t take notice and force it to be cut:

Oh yeah, baby! Easy does it indeed. That’s one filthy couple right there, and I mean that as much in the literal sense as I do the symbolic. Those two need a shower. They’re so funky that you can practically taste the stank in the air. The African Queen was the first color film for both Bogart and Hepburn, and boy did that saturated palette of colors affect the image. We should count ourselves lucky that the film didn’t arrive with Smell-O-Vision too.

After the shot of Bogart and Hepburn… um… pumping that lever, they go through a minute or two of uncomfortable chitchat before finally breaking down and going at it. Now this was 1951—smack dab in the middle of the Production Code era—which means that we don’t get to see much more than an embrace and a kiss. But director John Huston chose to end the shot of the couple kissing with a fade to black:

That fade to black may not seem like much now, but that was Huston’s way of letting the audience know that something else happened between the end of that shot, and the one that followed. Of course, Huston did precede the kiss with a simulated handjob while a sweat-soaked Bogart held Hepburn close and instructed her "easy does it" and "don’t wear yourself out" just before his eyes practically rolled back into his head. How that got past the censors, we’ll never know. I’m just glad it did because it’s freakin’ hilarious. And just in case Hepburn’s furious pumping action, the kiss, and the fade to black didn’t tip people off, the sequence that came after was certain to seal the deal. After the fade to black, Bogart is shown asleep (by himself, but remember that married couples slept in separate beds in the movies at the time) while Hepburn prepares coffee. When she goes to pour it, she completely misses the cup for a few seconds before regaining her focus. It’s still the same day so we know he’s not sleeping because it’s nighty-night time. Well played, John Huston, well played. You created the dirtiest sex scene in a mainstream movie for the year 1951!

See, that scene was so blatantly dirty that I didn’t even have to doctor it. Then again… here’s an edit that increases the creep factor by about ten. Enjoy!

It’s clear that Bogart and Hepburn need a shower, but you might need one as well after watching the edited clip. Here, let me help you with that. Oh, you’ve got it? Mmmmmmmm. Easy does it. Don’t wear yourself out. Ohhhhh.

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2 Comments

By Tiel Lundy on April 5, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Of course you know that now all your loyal readers will expect a brilliant piece from you *every* April 1st!

Without question, this is the “dirtiest” scene from 1951 American cinema. (And to think: my mom insisted that I watch The African Queen when I was a teenager) There is, however, another film from the same year that might win the prize for naughtiest film. Howard Hawkes/Christian Nyby’s sci-fi horror film The Thing From Another World has a great scene in which Margaret Sheridan, in the role of Nikki, totally teases Kenneth Tobey (as Capt. Patrick Hendry). She ties him up (!!!), makes him do a shot of whiskey, and then kisses him. How did *bondage* get past the censors???

By Jason Haggstrom on April 6, 2012 at 12:23 AM

Oh my. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, and I can’t help but wonder if that scene also ends with a (wink, wink) fade to black!

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