Dead End

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Date: 1936

Region: North America

Subject: Depiction of Filth

Medium: Film Video

Dead End.jpg

Artist: Samuel Goldwyn, Producer

Confronting Bodies: Production Code Administration

Dates of Action: 1936

Location: Hollywood, CA

Description of Artwork: Dead End, a film about kids in the slums of New York.

The Incident: Samuel Goldwyn was warned by Production Code Administration Director, Joseph Ignatius Breen, not to depict "filth, or smelly garbage cans, or garbage floating in the river," in Goldwyn's upcoming film Dead End. Goldwyn adhered to the PDA demand by implementing his own form of self-censorship. "Goldwyn was shocked when he saw that William Wyler had made the slum and the East River "dirty." Producer and director fought, then compromised: for a scene in which the Kids swam through the mess, the refuse would be "clean." One Dead End news release celebrated the property man who halved the fresh grapefruit, washed the carrot greens and scrubbed the assorted debris that kids shared the water with."

Results of Incident: Goldwyn himself supported the Production Code, thus explaining the ease with which he self-censored. Furthermore, "Goldwyn had not laundered the trash to charm Production Code associates; the genteel poverty of Dead End mirrored Goldwyn--and Hollywood--aesthetic of realism edged with guilt."

Source: American Film, L. Leff and J. Simmons, December 1989