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Born to Be Bad

Born to Be Bad(1934)

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According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, this film was rejected by the Hays Office twice before it was finally approved. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, in the original story for the film, dated June 14, 1933, the character "Letty Strong" is called a "customer's girl...a 'clothes horse' who makes her deal with wholesalers to take out and entertain the customer who comes to New York for an out of the way buying trip. She is a 'whoopee' partner. She gets her clothes together with a nominal stipend from wholesalers for each client that she entertains and she makes as much as she can on the side by 'pleasing' the customer." After the film was shot and rejected by the Hays Office, retakes were made, according to a Daily Variety news item, to comply with requests by the Hays Office. Daily Variety noted that additional footage had been shot to get around making major cuts, but "no way was found to clean up the sex-hexed story without eliminating the blue scenes." According to a Daily Variety news item, the retakes were not directed by Lowell Sherman, the original director, who by then was directing another film at Universal. A Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Sidney Lanfield directed one day of added scenes on November 10, 1933 because Sherman was on vacation at the time. It is not known who directed the retakes scenes shot in 1934. When the remade version, in which "Letty's" occupation is only hinted at, was submitted to the Hays Office in April 1934, it was rejected again, "because of its general low moral tone." Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Pictures' vice-president in charge of production, complained about the judgment in correspondence to Joseph Breen, director of the newly formed PCA. Zanuck charged that the rejection was unfair, and listed a number of recent films, including George White's Scandals, Convention City, Bedside, The Big Shakedown, Search for Beauty and Love, Honor and Oh, Baby!, which, in his opinion, contained "disgraceful smut and slime and vulgar lines." Zanuck contended that the recent pressure on the Hays Office for a stricter interpretation and enforcement of the Production Code May have been the reason for the rejection. He wrote to Breen, "We realize that recently you have been pressed by the M.P.T.O.A. [Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America] delegates and the Catholic Church for clean pictures and that, perhaps, you have received stringent orders to reject many things that you would not even contemplate rejecting in the past. However, we of 20th Century feel that we are hardly the company to be made an example of." Breen responded, saying that the Hays Office "had no thought of trying to 'make an example' of your company" and after admitting "we are not infallible. It May be that our judgment is all haywire," suggested that Zanuck submit their decision to a ruling by the MPPDA Board. Zanuck instead accepted a number of cuts suggested by Breen and other PCA officials. In correspondence with Zanuck, Breen recommended "that you cut as much as possible the shots of Letty in her underwear." He specified that a "shot of Letty seated on the floor, with the upper part of her body covered with a dressing gown, and the crotch of her legs pointed four-square into the face of her child seated on the floor beside her, is very offensive to all four members of this staff" and recommended that Zanuck cut as much as possible shots of Letty and her son wrestling on the floor, which exposed "her legs almost from the hips." After these cuts were made, the PCA gave the film a certificate of approval, and Breen, in a correspondence with MPPDA President Will H. Hays commented, "We achieved the deletion of a good deal of objectionable material, and the replacement of one important key scene in the early part of the story which did a great deal to make acceptable the heroine's peculiar psychology." Although the film was released in May 1934, in February 1935, the film was on a list Breen submitted to Hays of films whose release should be halted. No information has been located to determined if, in fact, this film's release was halted in 1935.
       Zanuck stated in a letter in the MPAA/PCA Collection that M-G-M read the script for this film before it was produced and wanted to buy it as a starring vehicle for Joan Crawford. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, director Lowell Sherman was originally scheduled to also play a role in the film; Mickey Rooney tested for the child role, which Hollywood Reporter stated, would have been for him a "crack at the big time"; and Russ Brown was originally scheduled to play the role of "Steve Karns." According to a Daily Variety news item, the studio planned to use Dickie Moore for the retakes, because, they said, Jackie Kelk's physical appearance wasn't right for the part. Kelk, ultimately, was kept in the film. Andrew Tombes is listed in a cast sheet in the Produced Scripts Collection as playing the part of "Max Lieber." In the print viewed, a date is set up for "Letty" with an out-of-town buyer named "Max," but their scenes together are not in the print. It is possible that Tombes's part was cut from the final film. According to modern sources, this was 20th Century Pictures' only financial failure.