Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest directors to ever live. While he is known for his innovative film techniques, he was also the master of sidestepping The Motion Picture Production Code and successfully inserting forbidden sexual content into his films.
The Motion Picture Production Code, better known as The Hayes Code, was a set of very strict moral guidelines that films made in the United States had to adhere to. The Hayes Code was pretty stern on what little violence and romance would be shown in films. Nudity was out of the question, as was the sound of a toilet flushing, which was deemed inappropriate for entertainment. In 1934, The Production Code Administration was established to enforce The Hayes Code. The PCA would read every script and screen every film before a release. Any objections by the PCA had to be addressed before the release of the film. They were literally deciding what entertainment could be shown to the American public.
Hitchcock, king of thrillers, didn’t let The Hayes Code discourage him from making his films steamy and found clever ways to sneak sexuality into his films. At times, he used visual cues because imagery loaded with sexual symbolism was less likely to get an objection. He would also stack a film with superfluous material that would definitely get an objection (like nudity) in order to distract the PCA away from the envelope pushing material that he did in fact want in his film.
Here are the ten cleverest ways that Hitchcock sneaked sexual content into his films during The Hayes Code:
10 39 Steps (1935) – The Handcuffed Couple
9 Rebecca (1940) – Gay Subtext
8 Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) – The Bathroom Scene
7 Notorious (1946) – The 2½ Minute Kiss
6 Rope (1948) - Gay Subtext (Again)
5 Rear Window (1954) – The Topless Dancer
4 To Catch a Thief (1955) – Fireworks
3 Vertigo (1958) – The Pounding Waves
2 North by Northwest (1959) – A Train Penetrating a Tunnel
1 Psycho (1960) – The Shower Scene
Considering how much the PCA didn't like bathrooms, one can assume that they weren't too happy about the infamous shower scene. Upon seeing the screenplay, the PCA warned that the shower scene must be handled with the utmost tact, among many other objections. Hitchcock did treat the shower scene with tact by tactfully inserting a very quickly cut nude shot as Janet Leigh's character grabs for the shower curtain. Since the scene was so quickly cut, the censors at the screening could not agree on whether they saw nudity. So it goes that this is how Hitchcock was finally able to sneak a bit of nudity into one of his most iconic scenes.
Sources: The Hitchcock Zone, Wikipedia (Production Code Administration)
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