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Boiling Sand
America Needs to See Spencer Tracy’s Butt!!

I set the DVR for this morning’s cablecast of Frank Borzage’s MAN’S CASTLE, a lyrical pre-Code film that represents the American version of Jean Vigo’s L’ATALANTE in its feathered duality of lusty reality and ethereal transcendence.

Early in the film, after Tracy takes in a starving and homeless Loretta Young, he brings her back to his riverside shanty, strips to the buff and dives in the river.   We hear another splash and Young, nude also, is swimming beside him. They swim a mating dance around each other and then swim off-screen; their destination, as Tracy puts it, is “to the Moon.”

That’s Frank Borzage’s art:   the creation of a divine and earthy realm where sex is transcendent.

When I saw the movie on TV as a kid in the 1960s, I saw Tracy’s ass as he ran across the dock and dove in the water.   The same was true of the screening I saw a few years ago as part of a lecture series at the Art Institute of Chicago.   Yet MAN’S CASTLE was re-released theatrically in the 1940s, after the Code was enforced, so to take out the nudity Columbia put in a reaction shot from another scene of a neighbor looking out his window.   [The irony of Censorship:   cutting twice to a shot of a grizzled old guy peeking out a window at the nude, frolicking lovers is far more creepy than letting us see the cracks in the rear-ends of Tracy and Young.]   This bowdlerized version was the one Sony Home Video licensed to TCM to air today.

C’mon, SONY.   Do the right thing.

Doug / PoMo Joan

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3 Comments to “America Needs to See Spencer Tracy’s Butt!!”

  1. That’s an image no self-respecting man of the arts can afford to be without! This sounds pretty intriguing, and I hope I can get a hold of this film soon!

  2. Gordon Flagg says:

    There was an excellent discussion of MAN’S CASTLE on Dave Kehr’s blog last year, prompted by TCM’s canceling a showing of it for a tribute to Cyd Charisse upon her death. Apparently Sony is searching for elements that were cut from the pre-Code version, holding up its DVD release : http://www.davekehr.com/?p=47

  3. Doug says:

    Thanks for the low-down. I remember Fred Camper screened the unexpurgated version when teaching a class at SAIC, but don’t know its source.

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