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July 1995, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 5 Jul 1995 11:29:24 CDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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In at least one of Mae West's mid-1930s star vehicles, she murmurs
indistinguishably in a love/seduction scene.  This doesn't quite fit the
request for conversation "drowned out" by other sounds, but West's explanation
for the technique does point to another possible reason for its use.
West claimed that the murmuring (mostly sequences of "ums") was a means
of circumventing anticipated censorship of the bawdy remarks she would
like to have made in performing the scene.  Her contention was that
viewers would "fill in" the words from their imaginations, which, given
their established expectations of the star and the scene, were likelier
to be far racier than any she could have uttered on film at that period.
The idea recalls for me both the supposedly indecent song "Louie, Louie"
and the balcony love scene in Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS, in which Cary
Grant and Ingrid Berman murmur and nibble at each other for what seems
a tantalizingly long time, without holding a single kiss for more than a
second or two.  I've read somewhere in the voluminous "Hitchcockania" that
the scene strove to achieve maximum erotic (and yes, suspenseful) effect,
without violating any strictures on a kiss's duration that the Production
Code Administration might have imposed (to preclude the kissing's seeming
Ramona Curry
Dept. of English
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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