Not a swell time in Atlanta

Compared with the rural nature of most of Georgia, Atlanta likely seemed a bed of vice, especially in the 1940s.

The city, however, kept some illicit things out of sight – literally.

Atlanta had a movie censor, keeping your eyes from seeing what it shouldn’t on the many, many theaters that existed in the city.

Miss Christine Smith held the post in 1947.

She  made the news in February of that year by banning Swell Guy, a Universal flick starring Sonny Tufts as the leading cad, Jim Duncan.

The wire story in the Waycross Journal-Herald described her reasoning as such: “the leading man has an illicit love affair[;] an affair with a thrice-married woman teaches his nephew to cheat and dies a hero’s death.”

Sounds rotten, eh?

It looks like, though, there was a bit more nuance than Smith saw in it.

Avoiding the spoilers (which can easily be discovered by searching for “Swell Guy” and “movie” in a search engine), the review from the New York Times said that not everyone was amazed by Duncan.

“This fact becomes very soon apparent as this new film at the Winter Garden unreels, but it takes some of the people quite a long time to catch on—and most of them never do. First to catch on is a local prom-trotter who falls in love with the fabulous gent. She gets caught in an age-old situation and roundly denounces him. Then his own sister-in-law, almost toppled by the character’s diabolic charm, discovers his evil disposition, but she doesn’t say anything because suddenly the character is offered an opportunity to die a hero—and he does.”

Universal was not thrilled about Atlanta’s denial, said Waycross, and had plans to go to court.

The Waycross article said Smith had also banned another Universal film, Scarlet Street.

Scarlet Street was a Fritz Lang film and was briefly banned in New York City before being released with cuts. It can be viewed freely at the Internet Archive. Though too scandalous for Atlanta, a listing for it at Tifton’s Tift Theatre was spotted in archives for 1953.

Sources: Waycross Journal-Herald – Feb. 18, 1947; New York Times – Jan. 27, 1947, Feb. 15, 1946.