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Friday, August 01, 2014

Censors Muscling In On Chicago Gangs!

Little Caesar To Chicago Censors: You Guys Back Off,
 Or My Rod Will Speak Its Peace, See?

Warners Wuz Robbed On Little Caesar (1930)

An always-effective way to advertise was telling customers they'd see something that had been banned elsewhere. That's how Kansas City's Newman Theatre punched Little Caesar across to mid-westerners who knew from news how gangs ruled Chicago and other such urban jungles. If that burgh wouldn't "dare" show Little Caesar, it must really be strong meat! The "inside workings" of crime-ridden Chicago was catnip to farm belt provincials, whose own outlaw membership followed more the example of Jesse James and other stick-up men of yore. What Chicago seemed to have, in abundance, was vice on organized and unstoppable basis, that a black eye to city fathers and wound they meant to heal by blocking Little Caesar from Windy City theatres. The town was known for its heavy hand at censorship, resulting loss to the pic industry an estimated $2, 250,000 per annum. Thirty or so titles were being banned yearly, Party Girl (Tiffany) and Alibi (UA) being recent casualties. Their loss had been written off as cost of doing business (or not) in Chicago, but for Little Caesar, Warners would not lie down.

Say Copper, Where Were You When The Orpheum Got Looted on 4-20-31?

Suit was filed, with demand that police be forbidden to block Little Caesar. In addition to outright bans, Cook County censors had been "pinking" any number of features, that is, slapping "Adults Only" on programs and forbidding children to attend. This was in addition to rampant cutting of physical prints, for which film companies bore brunt of customer disappointment and criticism. WB wanted to open Little Caesar day-and-date at the Woods and Orpheum in April ('31), and so pushed for March hearing of their complaint. Success was had when a judge ordered censors to stand down, but the Woods backed off showing Little Caesar, with result a lone booking to 782 Orpheum seats. A three week stand was had there, business strong for a first two, though irony dealt a blow when the theatre was held up on 4-20 by bandits who made off with $1,300 from the boxoffice till. Well, this was Chicago after all, just living up to hype as America's most lawless town.

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