Content Warning For A Movie Made Before 1960

We understand if you cancel these long-dead actors.

Alan Johnson
Nov 16, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash

The classic film you’ve decided to watch is one of the most enduringly popular films of all time. However, the film is also a product of its time and contains many elements that modern audiences may notice have not aged well. In an effort to spare viewers of any unnecessary offense, we created a content warning of every problematic aspect of this classic film.

The film contains outdated and insensitive portrayals of African Americans. I should also say here that it includes offensive caricatures of Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, and, actually, every race you can imagine. In fact, the United States used this film as propaganda to garner support for every war ever fought, causing thousands of needless deaths. With that being said, many film scholars believe this film is an important part of the Western canon, and far be it for you or me to say they’re wrong.

Some viewers will take umbrage with many of the 54 love scenes. The men in the film are abusive and coerce women into going to bed with them, which would be bad enough, but they also refuse to reciprocate oral sex on their partner. Not surprising for a film from that era, but it would have been nice to see. There’s also a scene where a character tries to give a woman money for sex, calling her a “sex worker.” That seems very progressive out of context, but in the scene the character was actually speaking to a nurse, who was taking the pulse of a woman he had just shot in the face. Nevertheless, the film won a record 20 Academy Awards, including Best Love Scene (now known as Best Supporting Actress).

During the three and a half hour runtime, the plot takes a dramatic turn when all of the characters make a pact to hunt and kill every dog within 500 miles of their city. The dogs killed in the movie were real and, perhaps more unfortunately, were the only guide dogs in America at the time. Please keep this context in mind while watching the 38-minute sequence, which was originally shown in Smell-O-Vision. This particular plot point was reviled by critics at the time and has aged poorly, but this is still one of the absolute classic films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, according to people who died 40 years ago.

Near the end of the film, there’s a reveal that the main character is actually the ghost of Adolf Hitler. Even worse, he’s wearing black face, something that isn’t mentioned in the film, but is clearly on the mind of every actor in the film. You can even see one of the background actors clearly mouthing, “Is that guy supposed to be Adolf Hitler in blackface?” with another actor answering, “Yeah. Pretty weird.” We think this may be a searing indictment of Nazis in America or perhaps a sly satirical look at race relations, but, honestly, the choice is uninspired and makes defending any aspect of this movie very difficult. It’s still hard to believe this film won a Nobel Peace Prize.

After creating this content warning, we edited the film until all that was left were non-offensive moments. However, that left just a few establishing shots and an honestly pretty boring song and dance number called “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” so we’re not going to screen that for you. With that in mind, the song is the only part of the film we took out — trust us, it’s a real slog.

We hope you enjoy the movie and, if you don’t, we understand if you cancel these long-dead actors.

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