While working to bring some of the most iconic suspense films to the screen, it is no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock would have faced many challenges with the censors. His conflicts with censors were nothing new to the industry; with the the Hays Code steadfastly in place, artists had to be especially creative in trying to tell the stories they intended to portray, with “questionable” content cleverly and strategically occurring both on screen and off.
Hitchcock was no exception to the rules. The Motion Picture Production Code Office had final say on films made and distributed in the U.S., demanding an average of 22.5 changes per Hitchcock film.
John Billheimer’s Hitchcock and the Censors focuses specifically upon Hitchcock’s clashes with the censors on a film-by-film basis. Hitchcock worked hard to defend and protect his work, even going on to bargain with code reviewers and skirting censorship to produce his films. Though bounded by the Code, Hitchcock found ways to push the limits of sex and violence permitted in films, sometimes tricking the censors.
Billheimer’s work is a fine exploration of Hitchcock’s priorities as an artist as well as an examination of which characteristics truly defined the Hitchcock touch.