10 Surprising Things That Were Censored On Film And TV In The Past

February 24, 2017

Since the very first clip of moving pictures was developed, there have also been cases of bizarre film and TV censorship.

As the entertainment industry grew with the popularity of silent films, “talkies,” and home television sets, so did the scrutiny on each and every production attempting to air in front of an audience. Obviously, it’s all done in what those various establishments over the years thought was in our best interest, but as you can see in the examples below, they also had a habit of getting a little carried away.

For instance, I knew Elvis Presley caused a ruckus with his on-stage antics, but I had no idea it went so far as the details in #5 reveal.

Do you remember seeing something strange get banned or censored on TV or in a film back in the day? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

Thumbnail source: Flickr / Bill Bradford

1. The Cleavers’ Toilet

Wikimedia Commons / ABC Television

The Leave it to Beaver debut was originally banned because the boys try hiding a pet alligator in the back of their toilet. The network finally allowed it when they agreed to not show the seat, only the tank.

2. Kissing From Thomas Edison

Wikimedia Commons / Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Probably the earliest example of censorship, Thomas Edison’s The Kiss in 1896 was a chaste display of affection that they referred to as “sparkin’” back in the Victorian Era and was promptly frowned upon.

3. Jane Russell’s Breasts

Wikimedia Commons / George Hurrell

Though fully covered in 1941 The Outlaw, they were still considered too buxom for the Hollywood Production Code Administration’s taste, and they delayed the release of the film.

The Breen Office requested 37 specific reshoots of scenes with the actress, and director Howard Hughes shelved it twice before finally distributing it in 1946 amid more legal battles.

4. The Monkees Saying “Hell”

Wikimedia Commons / NBC Television

In a second season episode of The Monkees, Peter foolishly sells his soul to the devil and must go to court with his bandmates to fight for it back.

Even though it’s the location of the fictional courtroom, the boys were bleeped with a cuckoo bird sound every time they said “hell,” which Micky then controversially addressed by ending his argument saying, “You know what’s even more scary? You can’t say ‘hell’ on television.”

5. Elvis Presley’s Hips

Wikimedia Commons / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

The King’s swinging pelvis was too much on Milton Berle’s show in 1956, causing Ed Sullivan to cancel his scheduled appearance on his show as well. Steve Allen persevered, but made light of the tension by having Elvis wear a white tuxedo to serenade “Hound Dog” to a basset hound.

Ed invited Elvis back to his show soon after, though he also made sure to film the singer exclusively from the waist up.

6. Boxing Between The Greats

Wikimedia Commons

In 1897, a boxing match between James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons was dubbed “The Fight Of The Century,” and cameras were on site to capture one of the longest films at the time on over 11,000 feet of widescreen film.

However, due to anti-prizefighting laws, Maine passed a $500 fine for anyone showing boxing films. Illinois, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania quickly did the same.

7. Lucy Using The Word “Pregnant”

Wikimedia Commons / Bureau of Industrial Service

When Lucy Ricardo became pregnant in the second season of I Love Lucy, the cast was only allowed to say things like “with child,” “having a baby,” and “expecting” rather than acknowledge the condition more directly.

8. Jeannie’s Belly Button

Wikimedia Commons / NBC Television

The network had to make sure the bottom of Barbara Eden’s outfit on I Dream of Jeannie was high enough to cover the naval. The same applied to Dawn Wells as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island and all of the young actresses on Gidget.

9. Maureen O’Sullivan’s Torso

Wikimedia Commons / MGM

The actress’ midriff is on full display in the 1934 Tarzan and His Mate, but the Hays Code forced her to cover up five years later when she appeared again as Jane in Tarzan Finds a Son.

10. The Doors’ Lyrics

Wikimedia Commons / Elektra Records-Joel Brodsky

In 1967, Ed Sullivan asked Jim Morrison to amend the lyrics for “Light My Fire” to not say, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.”

Producers recommended the singer change it to, “Girl, we couldn’t get much better,” but Jim stood his ground, sang the original lyrics, and the band was banned from ever returning.

Did we miss any controversial moments of censorship you remember from the past? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!