Friday, January 1, 2016

Calss* (for Class* or Calls*)

The British Board of Film Classification (known before 1985 as the British Board of Film Censors) was founded on January 1, 1913. Much like the Motion Picture Production Code in Hollywood (established in 1930 and "strictly enforced" as of 1934), the BBFC was deemed necessary by the industry in order to avoid actual censorship by the government. One movie thereby made verboten in England was the seasonally (if apparently not socially) appropriate Red Hot Mamma starring Betty Boop. Wikipedia describes the plot perfectly, so I shall simply quote their summary here: "It's a snowy winter's night, and a shivering Betty is trying to sleep. Shutting all the windows isn't enough, so she lights a roaring fire in the fireplace and falls asleep on the hearthplace rug. The heat of the flames soon turns two roosting chickens into roasted chickens, and causes Betty to dream that her fireplace has become the gate to Hell itself. Betty explores the underworld, and sings 'Hell's Bells' for Satan and his minions. When Satan tries to put the moves on Betty, she fixes him with a (literally) icy stare, freezing him and all of Hell. When she falls through a hole and onto an icy surface below, Betty wakes up to find the fire out with the windows open and her bed frozen, and she goes to bed, this time under a pile of warm quilts." The cold-hearted censors banned this charming cartoon for depicting the underworld in a facetious and "blasphemous" manner. Six different actresses played Betty during the 1930s; the last of these, Bonnie Poe, was the voice of "Red Hot Mamma." Originally conceived as an "anthropomorphic French poodle" in Dizzy Dishes), Betty Boop is often thought to have been based on Clara Bow, though she was actually a caricature of the singer Helen Kane. Her signature look was once described in a 1934 court case as one combining "the childish with the sophisticated—a large round baby face with big eyes and a nose like a button, framed in a somewhat careful coiffure, with a very small body of which perhaps the leading characteristic is the most self-confident little bust imaginable." I made a self-confident little bust myself today when I picked up eighteen cases of Calss* (for class*) in OhioLINK, and (Boop-oop-a-doop!) a whopping 1,077 in WorldCat. Which classifies our little typo here as one of "high probability" on the Ballard list.

(Betty Boop patent figure, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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