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For a short period before this film went into production, it was called The Shame of Temple Drake. George Raft was suspended by Paramount for his refusal to appear as "Trigger" in this film, but returned to the studio for the 1934 film The Trumpet Blows. According to information found in the MPPDA file on the film, prior to shooting, the Hays Office objected to any filmed adaptation of William Faulkner's novel, and later forbade any reference to the novel in advertising for the film. Joseph I. Breen, in charge of public relations for the Hays Office, admitted in a memo dated March 17, 1933 that he had not read the novel but was convinced that people would say that the filmmakers had adapted for the screen "the vilest book of the present years." It was Breen's opinion, however, that the picture was so tame in comparison to the novel that readers of the book who saw the picture would "charge us with fraud."
On March 9, 1933, P. S. Harrison, editor of Harrrison's Reports, wrote a letter to Adolph Zukor chastising him for making this film. Zukor had made the claim that Hays agent James Wingate, formerly Chairman of the New York Censorship Board, had approved the script. In the letter, Harrison argued that, despite Wingate's former position, he "does not possess purgatorial powers" and was guilty of passing pictures which "millions of American citizens considered demoralizing." Harrison went on to say that is was unfair to exhibitors who are bound by contract to distribute Paramount films to be forced to act against "their own conscience and moral upbringing." "Don't you realize," Harrison continued, "the harm that you will do to this nation, not to mention the industry, by putting this book into a picture?" Harrison further pointed out George Raft's refusal to appear in the picture, questioning Zukor's reasoning that Raft turned down the part not because he objected to the material, but because he wanted more money.
On March 20, 1933, the Hays Office gave Paramount a list of recommended cuts. The two so-called "danger scenes" were the scenes at Miss Reba's "house" and the rape scene, which originally took place in a corn crib. [In Faulkner's novel, a corncob rape takes place.] On 16 Mar, Zukor received a letter from the Hays Office warning him against including shots in which a corncob is picked up and looked at following the scene of the rape. The shots were allegedly meant to be shown only in the rushes and not in the final release, but, after viewing the shots, the Hays Office forced Paramount to change the location of the rape to a barn instead of a corn crib, and no shots in which corncobs were shown and no references to the corn crib or corncobs were allowed. In May, the Hays Office tried to remove a phallic symbol from the Fox film The Warrior's Husband (see below), which was left in the preview, and Paramount producer Emanuel Cohen reportedly backed that effort because he had been forced to remove the phallic symbol from this film. Regarding Miss Reba's place, the Hays Office felt that the location was "portrayed too graphically as a house of assignation." The line itself referring to the brothel as "Miss Reba's place" was objected to, and a pan of a hat rack filled with men's hats was cut as well as Miss Reba's line, "I got some of the biggest people in town right here in this house spending their money like water," and the line, "Just got back from church myself." Reba's use of the word "chippie" (a young woman of low moral character) was covered up with a clap of thunder. Also, a line in which "Ruby" insinuates that she can only pay "Lee's" lawyer with sexual favors was cut. On 24 Mar, Cohen wrote to Will H. Hays objecting to recommended cuts of "Temple" confessing on the witness stand that she was kept a voluntary prisoner. Cohen wrote that the elimination of the line "No, I wasn't a prisoner" would "destroy the dramatic value of her confession and, in fact, cause the picture to lose all of the moral force of the girl's redemption." The Hays Office insisted, however, and before the revised version was sent to New York at the end of Apr, the line was cut.
In the final version, when Temple admits on the witness stand that she stayed at Miss Reba's place, the judge interjects, "a prisoner, you mean," and her response is an ambiguous stare. Breen and Wingate objected to Temple's motivation for telling the truth, claiming that it was for the sake of "ancestral integrity" rather than conscience, the sanctity of her oath in court, or repentance for her actions. In the film, "Benbow" appeals to the honor of the Drake family, who had been in Dixon since before the Civil War, as a last resort to get Temple to save Lee. The appeal works, but Temple's motivations are apparently mixed. During the censorship process, an epilogue was suggested in which Temple, following the trial, is engaged in welfare work in China. The Hays Office insisted that she not be portrayed as a missionary and that it should be clear that she is not a fugitive from justice, but that the law has been satisfied in the matter of "Trigger's" death. It is unclear whether the epilogue was ever shot, but it does not appear in the film. According to modern sources, John Carradine played a trial spectator. Faulkner's novel was also the source of the 1961 Twentieth Century-Fox film Sanctuary, directed by Tony Richardson, and starring Lee Remick, Yves Montand and Bradford Dillman (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.4224).