Oscar-Winning Film Undergoes Mysterious Ex Post Facto Censorship

Oscar-Winning Film Undergoes Mysterious Ex Post Facto Censorship

Are we witnessing another camel’s nose under the tent moment? If so, no one appears willing to ‘fess up’ to the latest blast of censorship. Not even the person whose work got tweaked for modern sensibilities.

Even worse? The folks who should be outraged by it have gone silent.

“The French Connection,” the 1971 cop classic that snagged a Best Picture Oscar, has quietly gone under the cinematic knife. Gimlet-eyed film blogger Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere fame reported that a scene from the film where star Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle uses the n-word is no more, at least with versions of the film distributed by several major outlets.

The Criterion Channel. Turner Classic Movies. iTunes downloads.

The sequence in question captures Popeye Doyle’s anti-hero nature, a deeply flawed soul willing to do anything to collar a heroin smuggler.

Film scribe Glenn Kenny dug into the matter via Decider.com but came away with few answers. “French Connection” director William Friedkin of “The Exorcist” fame, now 87, isn’t publicly addressing the subject despite numerous attempts to reach him.

A suspect is shot by Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) during a scene from the 1971 police drama The French Connection. Hackman won Best Actor for his role, and the film won Best Picture.

Criterion, renowned for its commitment to cinema and film preservation, shared this response with both Kenny and customers who have inquired about the sequence’s trim.

We do not censor any content presented on Criterion Channel, though in some instances we present a content warning in the description of select films. We also frequently present films in directors’ cuts and other alternate versions as their makers and our licensors may require.

The company put the onus on Disney, which purchased the 20th Century back catalog in 2019.

Disney is no stranger to panic moves to appease the easily offended types. The company scrapped its Splash Mountain attraction due to its connection to “Song of the South,” the 1946 Disney film sent down the memory hole for its upbeat depiction of slavery.

It also slapped trigger warnings on its own product, like the animated “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” due to allegedly dated material.

Was anyone actually offended by the “French Connection” scene in question? Anecdotally, the opposite was once true.

Veteran film scribe Joe Leydon offered intriguing context to the film’s original release and audience reaction to the snipped exchange. He says co-star Roy Scheider recalling black audiences cheering the sequence in question. 


“It was the 1st time they heard movie cops talking like real cops.”

Many rage against cops in 2023 despite monumental advances in racial acceptance. In the early 1970s, racism reared its head early and often, and it impacted how black Americans interacted with law enforcement.

Hollywood giants, and those a few rungs down the A-list ladder, routinely weigh in on most hot-button issues. Yet, the vast majority haven’t whispered a public word on the subject. Not even Steven Spielberg, who recently admitted to regretting his decision to remove the guns from FBI agents in 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” to make them less scary for younger viewers.

A possible excuse? Most media outlets have ignored the issue, even sites like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, which cover entertainment matters exhaustively.

This reporter reached out to multiple groups dedicated to film preservation, including an organization founded by the legendary Martin Scorsese. None responded to those queries.

One of the biggest ironies on the matter? Tom Six, director of the notorious “Human Centipede” films, is one of the few “name” directors to lash out at the censorship.

Should modern censors want to eliminate the n-word in feature films, they may have their hands full, of course. It’s been used frequently over the decades, both to highlight character sins and for more casual, problematic reasons.

The word in question has always been toxic, but it’s still used throughout pop culture. Hip-hop songs by black artists lean into it without hesitation. Dave Chappelle uses it as a vocal crutch on stage. The all-black cast of the new horror-comedy “The Blackening” utters it from start to finish.

In 2014, Kevin Costner insisted the word be included in a pivotal scene from “Black or White.” The drama follows a grandfather (Costner) fighting for custody of his black granddaughter. In a crucial moment the grandfather utters the word at the child’s biological father, a terrible, drug-addled person he feels is undeserving of staying in the young girl’s life.

Director Mike Binder said Costner fought to keep the word in question, understanding it was important to the character and the film’s racial themes. That was despite news of celebrity chef Paula Deen uttering the word in question hitting the press the very day that scene was shot, according to Binder.

When he was initially asked if he wanted to “cover” it, meaning shoot an alternate version where he used a different word, Costner refused. The subject came up again. 

“The producers said, ‘maybe you should cover yourself,’ and he said, ‘I already said I wasn’t gonna cover it,’” Binder recalled, capturing Costner’s raised voice.

Will that sequence be “covered” in the near future, deleted to “protect” future generations? If so, it’ll happen with little outrage from the press or the Hollywood community.


We shouldn’t be surprised if it keeps happening following “The French Connection” incident.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 


Originally Posted on: https://www.dailywire.com/news/oscar-winning-film-undergoes-mysterious-ex-post-facto-censorship
By: Christian Toto

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