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FLM 151 — Hitchcock and the Censors

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Oct 24
Time: 7:00—9:00 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 28
Unit: 1
Tuition: $320
Instructor(s): John Billheimer
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—9:00 pm (PT)
Sep 26—Oct 24
5 weeks
Refund Date
Sep 28
1 Unit
John Billheimer
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
​​The Production Code established by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America controlled the final cut on all films distributed in the US from 1934 to 1968. Code censors demanded an average of 22 changes, ranging from the mundane to the mind-boggling, on all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films during this period. None of his productions escaped these changes, which rarely improved the finished film. Censors dictated the ending of Rebecca, shortened the shower scene in Psycho, absolved Cary Grant of guilt in Suspicion, and decided which window shades should be drawn in Rear Window.

While Hitchcock tended to acquiesce to censors’ demands early in his career, as his reputation grew, he fought censorship with exceptional tenacity, pushing the boundaries of sex and violence by charming the censors and changing bits of dialogue, plot, and individual shots (some of which had been deliberately inserted as trading chips) to protect cherished scenes and images. The details of these interactions highlight both Hitchcock’s priorities as a moviemaker and the shifting power of censorship as his career progressed.

This course traces the rise of censorship in both Britain and America, examines each of Hitchcock’s thrillers in light of the censors’ demands, and details the director’s responses to these demands through film clips, documenting his dexterity as he sidestepped censorship to produce a lifetime of memorable films.

Author; Researcher

John Billheimer received a PhD in engineering from Stanford and has authored two mystery series: one exploring various scams in his native state of West Virginia and a second featuring a Midwest sportswriter with a gambling habit. Billheimer has taught Continuing Studies courses in film noir, hard-boiled fiction, and the modern mystery in film and print. He has written two nonfiction works, Baseball and the Blame Game and Hitchcock and the Censors, which documents the director’s wily warfare with censorship. He received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) John Billheimer, Hitchcock and the Censors (ISBN 978-0813180540)