Tuesday, 7 August 2007

SMOKE SCREENS

Years ago, cinemas were full of smoke and smokers - you could to see it shifting and swirling in the beam of light from the projector - and so, too, were the movies we went to see.



At the end of Now Voyager, Paul Henreid lit two cigarettes at once for Bette Davis and himself as they agreed not to ask for the moon when they had the stars; and the smoking of ciggies provided similar emotional punctuation in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, All About Eve and hundreds of other movies of the 'forties and 'fifties.

Nowadays, of course, smoking is social leprosy and one of Moviedom's leading dream factories has announced that they are giving up and taking the pledge...

Walt Disney Productions (the studio founded by a chain-smoker who died of lung cancer) announced that it had decided to stub out the fag habit:
BURBANK, Calif, July 25, 2007 -- The Walt Disney Company today made a commitment to US Representative Edward J Markey, Chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, that it will discourage depictions of cigarette smoking in its films...

In a letter sent to Representative Markey today, Disney President and CEO Robert A Iger said, “The Walt Disney Company shares your concern regarding deaths due to cigarette smoking. We discourage depictions of cigarette smoking in Disney, Touchstone and Miramax films. In particular, we expect that depictions of cigarette smoking in future Disney branded films will be non-existent. In response to your suggestion, our Company will place an anti-smoking Public Service Announcements on DVD's of any future film that does depict cigarette smoking.”

“Disney’s decision to take a stand against smoking is groundbreaking and I commend CEO Bob Iger for this important commitment. Now it’s time for other media companies to similarly kick the habit and follow Disney’s lead,” said Representative Markey.
Among the 'casualties' of this decision are various characters in Disney's on-going The Chronicles of Narnia franchise based on the books written by the pipe-smoking C S Lewis (right), who will not now be allowed to live in peace with their pipes...

Most significantly - and to the utter outrage of Narnia fans on the net - this will include Puddleglum the Marshwiggle (in the penultimate Chronicle, The Silver Chair) whose pipe was as much a feature of his personality as it was of his creator...

Mind you, it so happens that, for some time now, Disney have been retrospectively - and covertly - de-smoking some of their earlier films as part of a questionable revisionist practice to eliminates awkward and uncomfortable non-pc aspects of films from the past...

For example, Pecos Bill, the animated mythical hero of a tall tale of the West included in the 1948 film Melody Time, appeared throughout the piece (much as many flesh and blood Western actors did) with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip...


But now, thanks to the wonders of digital technology, Pecos Bill has been cured of his pernicious addiction to tobacco - though not his allegiance to the gun lobby...


And who's next for aversion therapy? Well, here's one obvious candidate...


...along with those other Wonderland reprobates: the cigar-chomping Walrus and the pipe-puffing Dodo!

11 comments:

Diva of Deception said...

You seem good at smoke screens yourself - how do you always manage to post at the same time each day, at 00.01 to be precise?!

Meanwhile... now that the smoking is being curbed - Will Disney people be keeping tabs on carbon emissions too?

Checking out Dumbo or the Darling family to ensure they really didn't have engines hidden on their persons which would be contributing to the demise of the ozone layer?

Reinventing Herbie as an enviromentally friendly car, diesel only maybe or even electric?

And will we see Snow White filling the recycling bins as she whistled while (or should it be whilst) she worked?

So much cleaning up to do - where will it all end?

Boll Weavil said...

I agree with the no smoking policy until it actually affects something I care about - like 'The Silver Chair' for example.Then I think that a simple disclaimer like 'Disney does not agree with the inhalation of tobacco by Marsh Wiggles' should be sufficent to deter potential suites from any of that species who are driven to the weed by seeing the film... Then again, if Disney are still interested in TNC by the time we get to The Silver Chair, I probably won't care whether Puddleglum smokes or not.I remember the BBC didn't have the balls to make half the series back in the eighties because the content was too challenging.It will be interesting to see whether the film makers are still making enough cash to stick with it.

LisaH said...

Will Popeye still be allowed to put spinach in his pipe or will he perhaps be fed it intavenously?

Brian Sibley said...

DIVA - Excellent suggestions/improvements all - which will, I'm sure, be taken up by Disney without hesitation!!

BOLL - Disney SAY they are now committed to filming all seven books, but I have my doubts about THE HORSE & HIS BOY and wonder if they'll go back in time to do THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW or have the balls to make THE LAST BATTLE...

LisaH - Ultimately, I think, it will depend on whether or not the spinach has been organically grown...

Suzanne said...

I object wholeheartedly to smoking when it means that I have to inhale someone else's poison. But I draw the line when the ban interferes with tradition or literature. I can assure you that people still smoke just as abundantly in Casablanca (the town) as they did in Casablanca (the film). Alice's caterpillar without his pipe is ludicrous. Are they now going to re-make the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy and take away the Hobbits' pipeweed? How then will Gandalf blow his "smoke rings"?
How far are these police/nanny states going to go? Will they ban "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" with the excuse that candy is bad for you?

Brian Sibley said...

SUZANNE - You are, of course, right in what you say, but I do wonder how many (and how long) the discussions at New Line Cinema were about smoking in TLOTR! I DO know that in one early version of the script for TFOTR, Gandalf was to have carried a bag of toffees because he was trying to give up the pipe-weed-habit!

Elliot said...

Perhaps all smokers in film should be banished to contribute to Anthony Gormley’s installation.

Qenny said...

Pipe smoking is so rare these days that I'm surprised they see fit to include it in their clean-out. By all means, digitally remove the cigarettes, but leave the cigars and pipes alone!

Brian Sibley said...

ELLIOT - Good idea: it would raise the now socially unacceptable to the level of art!

QENNY - I'm really against all digital de-fagging as being one step too close to the re-writing of history that has gone on (still goes on) in various totalitarian states...

Pete Emslie said...

I was quite angry when Disney digitally removed the cigarette dangling from the lip of Pecos Bill in the film, "Melody Time". I'm a lifelong nonsmoker myself, but it never bothered me to see a character smoking on film, especially when the character is a rootin' tootin' cowpoke like ol' Bill. For some reason Disney felt Pecos Bill was supposed to be a clean living role model and ruined the film because of that, particularly the scene where Bill tames the cyclone. The Disney PC police have hacked out a line from the song and the accompanying visual of Bill using a lightning bolt to light the cigarette he's just humourously rolled on his tongue, totally ruining the flow of the song. Later in the film, just before Bill attempts to lasso Sue, he flicks the cigarette up from his hand and his tongue darts out to catch it. With the cigarette now digitally excised, it now looks like Bill is having some spastic seizure!

Interestingly, in another segment of "Melody Time" called "Blame it on the Samba", the Brazilian parrot José Carioca is allowed to smoke his big fat cigars. Perhaps Disney was not concerned as to what negative message that might be sending to impressionable young parrot chicks who might be watching.

Brian Sibley said...

PETER - Strange to ban cigrettes but not cigars - I seem to remember Jose's cigar left trails of smoke - and maybe that was just too costly to expunge. What makes it worse is Disney's packaging the DVD as a 'Classic' or 'Masterpiece' when it has been tampered with.

Still, it is par for the course: the black centaur in FANTASIA was axed and MAKE MINE MUSIC lost the sequence featuring story of the comic feud between the gun-fightin' hill-billies, 'The Martins and the Coys'... But I dare say it will get worse from here on in...