“The first 50 years were extraordinarily repressive..”

The Irish Times has a short editorial on the official renaming of the Irish Film Censor’s Office (Ifco) to the Irish Film Classification Office yesterday. The history of the censorship of literature in the nascent republic began in 1926 with the ominously named Committee on Evil Literature but it was preceded in 1923 with the Censorship of Films Act. Current film censor classifier John Kelleher was interviewed in the Sunday Times 2 years ago and the Irish Times has some fascinating detail of one of his predecessors’ work.

The first film censor, James Montgomery, appointed in 1923, famously stated he knew nothing about movies, but he knew the Ten Commandments and he took them as his code. In his first full year as film censor, he banned 124 movies and cut 166. On the subject of the 1935 British film Father O’Flynn, Mr Montgomery commented: “Reel one might be called ‘stage Irish’, but the girl dancing on the village green shows more leg than I’ve seen on any village green in Ireland. Better amputate them.”

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  • The first film censor, James Montgomery, appointed in 1923, famously stated he knew nothing about movies, but he knew the Ten Commandments and he took them as his code.

    Oh, the irony. The evil censor of the ‘Free State’ turns out to have been, in all likelihood, an Iris-Robinson-style Ulster Prod!

    Be warned, folks, that is the era she wants us to return to. It perplexes me why she supports partition, except that maybe now the south is too liberal for her.

  • Greenflag

    Horseman ,

    ‘Just as well Mr Montgomery was not around to see Riverdance then . Flatley would never have made his 100 million and we’d never have got to see all those dancing ‘legs’ ‘.

    ‘It perplexes me why she supports partition’

    It should’nt . She’s British . With Mrs I.R. plus most other DUP’ers you subtract 150 years from the present year and you are back in Victorian times . Remember the good old days of rampant Christianity – life expectancy of 19 in Manchester and floating dysentery in the slums and 8 year children stuck in chimneys .

    What was the name of that film/play ‘No Sex please we’re British ‘ ?

    We can forgive Mr Montgomery his narrow view for it was after all 1923 – If Mrs Robinson were an elected MP for anywhere in Europe bar Northern Ireland her political career would be over .

    But that’s NI . She needs to hang in there for a little longer anyway soo that her political career can come to an abrupt end at the same time as the rest of the 104 MLA’s .

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    When I read this: “The first 50 years were extraordinarily repressive..” I assumed it was a thread about Northern Ireland since partition. As you were…

  • Con

    I thought the same when I read the title, billie-joe.

    “he history of the censorship of literature in the nascent republic began in 1926”

    It should be pointed out that the Free State didn’t declare itself a republic until 1948.

  • Bad form Pete to post on the unsavoury past of the state to our south.

  • joeCanuck

    The censorship thinking was weird. Any suggestion of sex or nudity was cut yet all violent scenes remained. There were no x-rated films so no restriction at all who could go to any film.
    I lived in Strabane and Lifford, less than a mile away had a cinema. When I was 8 years old, my aunt took me to see Murders in La Rue Morgue. I had nightmares for many months afterwards and was terrified to go to sleep, looking at the bedroom window and waiting for the creature to come smashing through.
    As I said, weird philosophy.

  • fair_deal

    Horseman

    “The evil censor of the ‘Free State’ turns out to have been, in all likelihood, an Iris-Robinson-style Ulster Prod!”

    Wrong. He was a Christian Brother educated Roman Catholic
    http://biblio-archive.unog.ch/detail.aspx?ID=78018
    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/when-looney-film-censors-ran-our-moral-madhouse-1263169.html

  • fair_deal,

    Excellent digging, and I stand corrected. Pity, it would have been nice if it was true. I still think that he and Iris would have seen eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, though.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Any suggestion of sex or nudity was cut yet all violent scenes remained.’

    ‘weird philosophy. ‘

    No weirder than Victorians covering ‘nude’ piano legs for fear of exciting music recital attendees 🙂

    There were of course the more hilarious aspects of this ‘philosophy’ in later life for those who saw the violence at an impressionable age and then were witless ? enough to put two and two together and get 8:) . A distant relative now deceased who shall remain nameless got to see ‘Tarzan and the Leopardmen’ . A few years later the man found himself in London somewhat ‘traumatised’ by all the ‘leopardmen ‘ a.k.a West Indians 🙂 who were alas not carrying spears or shrunken heads but driving buses and collecting fares .

    We progress a little at a time and thus there is hope even for the likes of Mrs Robinson 🙂 Mr Montgomery alas is beyond learning having departed this mortal coil .

    Shaw , O’Casey, Beckett , McGahern , O’Brien , Joyce etc etc all left our island of saints and scholars because they could’nt accept a lot of the hypocrisy and sanctimonious ‘crap’ that passed for ‘christianity’ . Ireland North or South in the period 1900 through to almost present times was not a place for free thinkers making their views known in the public sphere .

  • Con

    There were a number of strange situations that arose from the Free State’s cenorship policies. One was that Frank O’Connor’s translation of Brian Merriman’s seminal work, Cúirt an Mheán-Oíche, was banned by the authorities while the original was easily availble from the government’s own bookshop. A fact that probably has more to do with the seoinín nature of that government than anything else.

  • ggn

    Con,

    You got there seconds before me!

    An incredible case surely but as you say, it says alot about the nature of things.

    Never have go round to reading it!

    code word : move

  • ggn

    Con,

    Is féidir a chloisteáil ar líne! giota de cibé.

    http://www.merriman.ie/index.ga

    code word : alone