- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

With its tale of a same sex romance on the range, “Brokeback Mountain,” opening nationwide today, joins a select list of films that broke ground in presenting subjects once deemed unsuitable for moviegoers. A few notable examples:

From Here to Eternity — The 1953 screen adaptation of James Jones’ 859-page novel of the same name (the winner of 1951’s National Book Award) remained faithful to the book by presenting its unflinching look at Army life filled with sexual content, strong language, violence and subject matter — including prostitution and adultery — never before depicted on-screen. Still, concessions were made to appease the censorship board of the day and obtain the good will of the military, notes the Internet Movie Database. The brothel mentioned in Mr. Jones’ book was transformed into a nightclub, and the ladies of the night were called hostesses.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — Moviemakers have long been fascinated with interracial romance, a favorite “taboo” since the early days of film. But fearing audience backlash, many directors — including D.W. Griffith in “Broken Blossoms” (1919), James Whale in “Show Boat” (1936) and Elia Kazan in “Pinky” (1949) — initially cast whites as minorities. Things began to change by the 1950s, thanks to such films as “Sayonara” and “Island in the Sun.” In most instances, though (as in 1964’s “One Potato, Two Potato”), the characters paid dearly for their colorblind courtship — until 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” where an engaged couple (played by Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton) enjoyed a happy ending.

Midnight Cowboy — Escorts who play for pay were certainly nothing new in films, but 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy” — with Jon Voight as naive hustler Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman as Enrico Salvatore “Ratso” Rizzo, his cancer-stricken friend and pimp — put a male face on the world’s oldest profession and, in the process, became the first and only X-rated film (to date) to receive the Academy Award for best picture.

Something About Amelia — Television tackled pedophilia and stirrings of incest in this 1984 film starring Ted Danson as a father conflicted about his own daughter. Casting the popular “Cheers” star in the main role proved as daring as the choice in subject matter.

“To Be or Not to Be” (1942)/”The Producers” (1968) — Mocking Hitler and the Third Reich seemed like no laughing matter until these films proved us wrong.



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