Remember those old-time cowboys in Westerns who would mosey up to the bar and order sarsaparilla? A lot of viewers assume that the character is refraining from ordering alcohol solely to preserve the movie's G-rating. But sarsaparilla was actually not so much a drink as it was a traditional medicine, and in the 19th century was mainly used as a treatment for syphilis. It's supposed to be an aphrodisiac, as well.
When Universal was producing its series of Sherlock Holmes movies in the 1940s, it was explicitly decided that any references to drug use, including Holmes' canonical use of cocaine, would be censored. However, the writers did manage to slip one reference in: in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Holmes, captured by Moriarty and stalling for time, suggests to Moriarty that instead of just shooting him, he should try something "more creative" — like inserting a needle into his vein and slowly drawing out all of his blood. Upon hearing this suggestion, Moriarty snidely quips:
Moriarty: The needle to the last, eh, Holmes?
The 1939 'Hound of the Baskervilles' closed with the line, "Oh Watson, the needle."
Similarly, cocaine is never mentioned in the 2009 movie. However, at one point Watson looks at some bottles, picks one up and says disgustedly, "You do know what you're drinking is for eye surgery." Cocaine was used as a topical anaesthetic in eye surgeries, an application first discovered in the late 1800's.
In the sequel, Mrs. Hudson mentions that Holmes has been chewing on coca leaves.
"If you want me, just dial. You know how to dial, don't you? You just put your finger in the hole and make tiny little circles..."
Not dirty so much as violent, but careful editing cuts down a lot of things in The Dark Knight that would otherwise have cranked up the rating to the levels of Gorn horror films. Take Two-Face's burn scars. At first they went with a down-to-earth look that scared the crap out of test audiences. They had to make the scars worse so they'd be so over-the-top as to not be horrifying.
The sequel also has the scene where Mia and her friend view slides of potential princes for her. First, Prince William makes an appearance — but the slide-giver notes he's not available. When Mia asks why he's there, then, she responds that she "Just loves to look at him." How does Mia's grandmother respond? With an enthusiastic "Me, too!"
For another of the perspective princes, Mia actually likes him, thinks he's handsome. Before she can say "yes", however, Joe says, "His boyfriend thinks so, too." Both Mia and Lily say, "Right on," and the scene moves on.
When Nathaniel first pops out of the manhole, the road workers, exasperated, ask him if he's looking for a beautiful princess like Edward was. Nathaniel's reply: "No. A Prince, actually." The stunned expressions on the roadworkers' faces are obvious.
The Not What It Looks Like scene is pretty much one long string of crap put past the radar — possibly Parental Bonus, since while the kids won't know what's implied, their parents will. For one thing, save for a towel, Giselle starts out naked on top of Robert. Nancy sarcastically asks if Robert was having some "grown-up girl bonding time." And when Giselle asks if Nancy thought they kissed, Robert replies: "Yeah. Something like that."
The scene immediately following the Crowd Song in which Nathaniel picks up Edward after he's fallen over. "You've fallen on your royal—" "I know, I know." But he fell forward, so "ass" seems unlikely. Royal jewels, perhaps?
The scene where Edward is looking for Giselle in the apartment building. Behind the one of the doors he knocks on, he finds a stereotypical biker... who grins mischievously at him. Edward politely excuses himself. The romantic-looking scenery of the room behind the biker just added to it.
In the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Mrs. Muir types Captain Gregg's autobiography for him. An argument over what euphemism to use for something he wants written ("What sort of word would you use if you wanted to express such a concept?" "I wouldn't!") ends with her irritatedly typing out the original word. Judging by how her fingers move when typing, the word is "shit".
In Beyond the Forest, when Bette Davis complains about her indolent maid not cleaning the dining room table she says, "I can write your name in the dust". She quite clearly spells out "S L U T". At the time this movie was made, "slut" referred to a woman who was lazy and didn't know how to clean or keep house. It didn't change into the definition of "woman who Really Gets Around" until much later.
In Bringing Up Baby, while David is taking a shower, Susan secretly takes away his clothes to get him to stay. He is forced instead to wear her frilly bathrobe and answers the door in this bathrobe. The following scene is arguably the first time the word "gay" was used in a film to mean "homosexual", and the meaning would have been lost on most audiences back when the film was made.
Mrs. Random: Well, who are you? David: I don't know. I'm not quite myself today. Mrs. Random: Well, you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes. David:These aren't my clothes. Mrs. Random: Well, where are your clothes? David: I've lost my clothes. Mrs. Random: But why are you wearing these clothes? David: Because I just went gay all of a sudden! Mrs. Random: Now, see here young man, stop this nonsense. What are you doing? David: I'm sitting in the middle of 42nd street waiting for a bus.
In his book Gay New York, George Chauncey mentions that the comment about 42nd Street confirms the double entendre was intentional. Before WWII, 42nd Street was one of the main spots in New York for gay men to look for "trade".
Of course, it's entirely possible that he meant "silly or frivolous", the commonplace meaning of "gay" at the time of the film's release. It is certainly what the audience assumed he meant; however, in the gay community of the time, the word "gay" meant exactly the same thing that it does today. It's worth noting that the line in question was improvised by Cary Grant. It's also worth noting that Cary Grant was probably... well... silly or frivolous.
Bollywood has been known to do this on occasion due to the country's censorship policy regarding sexuality. The ban on kissing in films was actually implemented by the British, and was lifted a while back.
Karan Arjun has a great example: Sonia and Vijay literally roll in the hay together, then sing a very suggestive song which ends with them kissing. The next scene is Sonia coming home, wearing the same clothes, on what seems to be the same afternoon... but a throw-away line tells us it's actually the next day and she's been gone all night.
Ghostbusters, a PG-rated movie that kids enjoy, has subtle innuendo. For instance, the one scene where a siren unzips Ray's pants in the middle of the night to do what would be implied as fellatio.
Not so much implied as directly stated - the next shot after the zipper going down is Ray's eyes crossing and falling back on the pillow with a silly grin.
On a related note, Last Action Hero, also PG-13, toed the line with the word "fuck" in a manner that made failure at Getting Crap Past the Radar a plot point. Attempting to prove to Jack Slater that his world is a movie, his kid fan writes something (not shown) and asks Jack to say it aloud, then cites Jack's intense resistance as proof that they're in a PG-13 movie.
The W.C. Fields film The Bank Dick features its title character ("dick" was the popular street term for "detective" at the time) frequenting a bar called The Black Pussy, complete with a few shots of him entering it.
Fields' colorful euphemisms are barely disguised substitutes for more colorful words (much like Mae West's innuendo). When his little daughter socks him on the head he growls "Godfrey Daniel! Mother of Pearl!"
In the 1994 film adaptation of The Little Rascals, Froggy boasts that he "whipped out my lizard" in front of a girl. He may hate girls at the tender age of 8, but in about seven years, he will probably be using that phrase with a whole new meaning.
Also, at the end when the girls are allowed into the club, Froggy brings out the lizard again. one of the girls is seen looking at it and saying "wow, cool!" Considering the double entendre above, doesn't take a genius to figure this out.
In Night at the Museum, the Teddy Roosevelt character has from his hips to the bottom of his chest flattened by a mail coach. Sacajawea uses a lit candle to soften and pour the wax to re-mold the damage to his midsection. The "oh boy" moan could have been bracing himself for the pain, but let's pretend that it's not.
The 1934 pre-code film Wonder Bar featured a rare instance of homosexual humor that came very close to getting the film banned altogether. During a dance, a gentleman approaches a dancing couple and asks if he can cut in; when the woman accepts, however, he dances away with the man instead. Al Jolson responds to this by waving a limp wrist and musing, "Boys will be boys!"
This 1952 film contains this sequence: "You wanna bite somebody?" "Yeah..." "Well, pick your spot!" He glances at her rear. And smiles.
Also this dialogue snippet too: "Why is that every time he [The great Sebastian] passes by, I'm always wet?" "In more ways than one."
This trope can be witnessed in (of all places) the classic Casablanca. At one point in the movie, police captain Renault escorts a female refugee to Rick Blaine's nightclub, hoping Blaine can give her the money she needs to purchase travel visas for herself and her husband. When Blaine and the young woman meet for the first time, they have the following exchange:
Blaine: How did you get in here? You're under age. Annina: I came with Captain Renault. Blaine:(rolling his eyes) I should have known. Annina:My husband is with me, too. Blaine: He is? Well, Captain Renault's getting broadminded.
This was not a first for Humphrey Bogart. The year before, when he played Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, he repeatedly referred to the young gunman Wilmer as "the gunsel". Not many people knew that "gunsel" was prison slang for a passive partner (a.k.a "a prison bitch") and thought "gunsel" meant "a gun-toting criminal or hitman". Keep in mind, in the original novel, those characters were written explicitly as gay. For instance, Joel Cairo was called "queer" and a "fairy". The film, aside from his mannerisms, had him suggestively kiss his cane to telegraph he was gay.
Groucho Marx was a master of this. (OK, George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind wrote the stuff, but Groucho made it work.)
One example, from Animal Crackers, has Captain Spaulding (Groucho) talking about his expedition to Africa: "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed."
Also, in Horse Feathers, Groucho is a college professor giving a biology lecture. When the diagram he's using gets replaced by a poster of a horse, Groucho points to the back of it, does a brief double-take, and says, "That reminds me, I haven't seen my son all day."
When renting a canoe: "I wanted to get a flat bottom, but the girl in the boathouse didn't have one."
Groucho: (on why he was at the dorm) I'm the plumber. I'm just hanging around in case something goes wrong with her pipes. (to the audience) That's the first time I said that joke in twenty years.
In Go West, Chico and Harpo repeatedly steal dollar bills from Groucho's pockets. Groucho says "There's something corrupt going on around my pants and I want to get to the bottom of it."
In the 1968 family film Yours, Mine and Ours, Colleen's boyfriend tries to pressure her into sex, although it's handled with appropriate subtlety until this exchange:
Frank: The same idiots were passing the same rumors when I was your age, but if all the girls did, how come I always ended up with the ones who didn't? Colleen:But it's all different now!
In 1946, the Hays Code said that villains HAD to pay for their crimes in movies. However, It's a Wonderful Life gives us one of the most famous Karma Houdinis in cinematic history, when Mr. Potter completely gets away with his deeds. It was probably not noticed because of the otherwise very happy ending.
The preternaturally clean-cut AIP studio Beach Party movie series has a running gag with buffoonish bad guy Eric Von Zipper trying to master a mystical paralyzing finger-touch fighting technique — he inevitably paralyzes himself every time, and a lackey says "He's given himself the finger again!"
Mike mouths the words "What the fuck?" upon seeing the Tall Man lift a heavy casket easily by himself. There's no audible dialogue in the scene, and the censors evidently didn't lip-read well enough to object to a twelve-year-old's potty mouth. Then again, Phantasm may have broken the radar by having a topless woman stab a guy to death during sex. In a graveyard. In the first five minutes. Phantasm was rated R and had a rather wide release in 1979.
The 1939 film version of The Women alluded to a certain five-letter word (which was used in the original play, but couldn't be said in the movies, as language like that wasn't allowed...yet) this way:
Crystal Allen: There is a name for you, ladies, but it isn't used in high society...outside of a kennel.
There's also this line from Mariam Aarons: (referring to cowboy Buck Winston): Why he's plum loco for you countess! He likes you even better than his horse! And it's such a blasted big horse too!
The 1934 film version of The Merry Widow, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, had minor cuts imposed on it as the Hays Code was starting to come into effect. Left in was the close-up during the trial scene of Danilo's handcuffs, which are personally engraved.
The Hays Code would allow especially lurid material, only if there were some kind of "value" to the film, educational or otherwise. So, lurid exploitation films could game the code by purporting to carry a moral warning. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the "moral" message to films like Reefer Madness looks so boneheaded: it's completely cynical and artificial, and is present solely for the purpose of getting all the other crap in the film past the radar.
In The Three Stooges' You Nazty Spy as well as Malice in the Palace' and Rumpus in a Harem'' the boys discuss going "over the Giva Dam". Not bad for the time periods of the films.
In one short, Curly tells a women they should play "Post Office," she replies, "That's a kid's game." Curly says "Not the way I PLAY it..."
The end credits of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are done in the style of the Marauder's Map, including various pairs of feet representing people. At one point there are two pairs of feet in the corner◊... overlapping. It also helps that if you look close the *ahem* outside pair of feet clearly squeeze in and out.
Speaking of Harry Potter, in Half-Blood Prince Ron and Lavender bump into Harry and Hermione in a deserted room. Lavender says, "Oops, this room's taken." Later we see Lavender leading Ron upstairs and kissing him on the way. Since she kisses him every chance she gets, what else could she be planning?
In the 1950s crime movie The Big Heat, the main character asks his wife how his daughter was that day. Their exchange goes something like this:
"She's so sweet during the day but at night she turns into a holy terror." "You know, I could say the same thing about you."
Leni Riefenstahl's Olympiad has nudity. Though since it's showing eugenic perfection, the Nazis probably didn't mind.
Nah, to them it would be like Greek gods.
Metropolis. The gentlemen's club is named Yoshiwara, after Tokyo's red light district.
Top Gun with its infamous homosexual innuendo, its pretty obvious sex scene (with pretty obvious TONGUES involved), and a certain photograph snuck into a pilot's locker room at the end is rated PG. I bet that makes you feel like Maverick just did a fly-by of your tower.
After watching Preston Sturges' classic comedy The Miracle Of Morgans Creek, reviewer James Agee wrote, "The Production Code must have been raped in its sleep." How else do you explain a movie about a young woman who goes out with a bunch of soldiers, gets drunk, and can't remember what she did, except it turns out she's both married and pregnant? Not to mention the fact she has tries to trick the man who's been in love with her since they were kids into marrying her, so there's also bigamy involved. And that's not even mentioning the fact the whole movie is basically a satire on the Nativity story.
Strangers On A Train had no shortage of themes that pushed the limits of the Hays Code, but a particularly shocking line occurs just after the protagonist's cheating wife has been through the Tunnel of Love with her two dates; as they're climbing out of the boat she stumbles and one of them says (paraphrased) "Don't break your leg, we've got a use for you later."
James Bond's famous one-liners originated as a way to get the violence and nudity, which was sometimes quite shocking at the time, past the radar so as to secure U.S distributors. For instance, a brutal hearse crash is mellowed with the line "I think they were on their way to a funeral", not to mention the "You've had your six" line, which dulls Bond shooting an unarmed man in cold blood.
Diamonds Are Forever features the most flamboyantly gay yet still just subtle enough characters yet seen. One of them squeals in delight when Bond rams a bomb up his ass.
When 1941 was broadcast on television (in the golden days before cable), there was this little exchange between Captain Kleinschmidt (Christopher Lee) and Slim Pickens*
who had swallowed a compass the I-boat's crew needed to return to Japan. Pickens had been force-fed prune juice and is seated on the head when Lee speaks
. One of the very few lines of foreign dialogue that does not come with subtitles.
Kleinschmidt: "Mach mit dem Scheiss! Das ist ein Befehl!" Literally, "Make with the shit! That's an order!"
The 1948 Alfred Hitchcock film Rope managed to depict gay characters at a time when the depiction of homosexuality was verboten according to the Hays Code. The two leading murderers Phillip and Brandon, are lovers (the two are based on Leopold and Loeb, who were also gay). The homoeroticism between the two is rather subtle and might fly past most viewers.
The last two shots in Hitchcock's 1959 film "North By Northwest" show Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant kissing on a train car and then the train entering a tunnel. Captain Obvious strikes again!
The 1935 film "Dracula's Daughter" features a steamy scene where Dracula's daughter, who is artistically talented, attacks and bites the female model she had hired for a head and shoulders portrait. The model is just wearing her bra with the straps pulled down, and the attack is quite intense, with lots of "No, don't touch me!" Maybe no one in the Hays Office wanted to admit that the first lesbian-vampire movie had just been made.
One of the most infamous scenes in Spartacus (1960) has this little exchange between Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and his slave Antoninus (Tony Curtis):
Crassus: Do you eat oysters?
Antoninus: When I have them, master.
Crassus: Do you eat snails?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn't it?
Antoninus: Yes, master.
Crassus: And taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals.
Antoninus: It could be argued so, master.
Crassus: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters.
All of this scene happens while Curtis is bathing Olivier. They're talking about sexual preference, not seafood. Apparently this metaphor seemed so obvious to Universal executives that the scene was cut after its premiere to avoid the wrath of the censors. It was not put back into the film until 1991.
The Avengers is rated PG-13, but the amount of language is pretty light. And then Loki, baiting Natasha, calls her a "mewling quim", a rather archaic term pretty much equivalent to Country Matters.
A Christmas Story does this, kind of. Just remember Flick crying "Stuck" with his tongue impeded.