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The Private Lives of Adam & Eve

The Private Lives of Adam & Eve(1961)


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Preceding the opening credits, a lengthy written prologue explains that the ensuing story is a dream meant to glorify God. The opening credits include the statement, "filmed in glorious Spectacolor by Path." While the portions of the film that take place in the present were shot in black-and-white, the fantasy sequences were shot in color. According to an March 11, 1960 Daily Variety article, Fryman Enterprises, co-owned by star and co-director Mickey Rooney and producer Red Doff, owned twenty percent of the picture, while the remainder of the film was owned by Universal and co-director Albert Zugsmith's company, Famous Players Corp.
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, several films based on the Adam and Eve story had previously been attempted, most notably by Alden Nash in 1950, Leo McCarey in 1954 and Herbert Kline in 1955, but all were rejected by the PCA because of the necessity of nudity to the story. An June 11, 1957 memo to Zugsmith from Geoffrey Shurlock warned that the subject would be almost impossible to tackle under Code restrictions, but later states that writer George Beck agreed that Adam and Eve could wear leaves even during the pre-fall sequence. Beck also agreed to allow Adam "infused knowledge" of God, to detract from his portrayal as "a nave sort of boob." On January 26, 1959, after the PCA deemed Fay Spain's bikini costume unacceptable, makeup designer Bud Westmore created a cover-up for her navel.
       The PCA awarded The Private Lives of Adam and Eve a seal of approval in August 1959, and Universal planned to hold the film's premiere on February 24, 1960 in New Orleans. On March 1, 1960, however, as reported in a Daily Variety article the following day, the National Catholic Legion of Decency gave the film a "C," or condemned, rating, the first of its kind in three years. The article stated that the Legion, headed by Monsignor Little, called the film "blasphemous and sacrilegious in its presentation of man's sex life as the invention of the devil, rather than the handiwork of God...the filmmaker resorts to indecencies and pornography." The Legion also objected to certain shots of Mamie Van Doren that gave a strong appearance of nudity. According to a March 9, 1960 Daily Variety article, co-director Zugsmith responded by recalling 150 prints of the film from distributors in order to cut the offending scenes.
       On March 11, 1960, Daily Variety announced a feud between Zugsmith and Doff during which each man blamed the other for the sequences that the Legion found objectionable. As reported in the article, Doff stated that "Zugsmith failed to tell the truth," while Zugsmith responded that "Red Doff is a liar...He ought to see a psychiatrist." Variety then declared on April 26, 1960 that the film would return to production the following week in order to shoot new footage that would more clearly establish the story as a fantasy dream sequence. That footage consisted of the prologue. According to a April 22, 1960 memo in the PCA files, Little also requested that several shots of "Ad" and "Evie" dreaming be inserted into the "Garden of Eden" sequence, to ensure that the fantasy nature of the sequence remained clear. The Legion gave the film a "B" rating on 24 May 1960.
       According to a June 9, 1959 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter, Universal originally borrowed Brad Dillman from Twentieth Century-Fox to play "Adam." On June 26, 1959, Hollywood Reporter noted that Brigitte Bardot's younger sister Mijanou was to make her American film debut in The Private Lives of Adam & Eve, but a 27 July news item stated that Mijanou considered both the "role and costumes too small." Although a July 9, 1959 "Rambling Reporter" item asserted that the film would feature 11 songs, including one titled "Pink Lemonade," only the title song was included in the released film. Upon its release in 1961, the Variety reviewer called the revised film "less morally objectionable than artistically chaotic."