Re: RARA-AVIS: Who put the benzedrine . . .

Date: 02 Aug 2005


Re your questions below:

> Not exactly book related, but I though someone here
> might know. I
> watched The Street With No Name over the weekend,
> featuring Richard
> Widmark as the bad guy. Several times, Widmark put
> a small tube to his
> nose and inhaled, and it weren't no nasal spray. I
> was kind of
> surprised to see a benzedrine inhaler in a movie,
> even if used by a bad
> guy. I thought the Motion Picture Code forbade the
> depiction of drug
> use. Was it okay if there were consequences for the
> character? Would
> contemporary (1948) audience members have recognized
> the inhaler as
> amphetamines? Were benzedrine inhalers still legal
> at that point?

It's been a year or two since I last saw the film, but my recollection is that Widmark's character was a hypochondriac. My inference was that the inhaler was a legit medication. THough maybe that was just a way around the Code.

You're right that drug use was verboten at that time. Pictures like TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH and THE PORT OF NEW YORK, which both fictionalized cases from the files of the DEA (or Federal Bureau of Narcotics as it was then called), had to get special permission to even MENTION narcotics traffic.

THE PORT OF NEW YORK has a scene in which three feds are interrogating a suspect who's going through withdrawal. Although the feds are narcotics agents, and the case they're working is about dope smuggling, the fact that the suspect is jonesing is only implied, never explicitly stated.

Years earlier, in THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, there's a similar scene in which the police interrogate a junkie, and the fact that he's going through withdrawal is made explicit, even though the dope aspect, in contrast to THE PORT OF NEW YORK, has only the most vestigial connection to the rest of plot. But THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM was made pre-Code. In the remake some 20 years later, HOUSE OF WAX, the suspect being interrogated was transformed from a pitiful, but Code-prohibited, junkie to an equally pitiful, but perfectly permissible, alcoholic pining for his next drink.

When THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, with Frank Sinatra as a heroin addict, was released, it was without the Code's approval. This was specifically because of the depiction of drug use.
> The other question I had is more print related. The
> movie started off
> with a teletype printout of a message by J Edgar
> Hoover which explains
> the title. How widely read were Hoover's press
> releases about crime in
> America? I know he also published more than a few
> books on the subject.
> How well did they sell? Finally, did he write them
> or, more likely,
> were they ghosted? If the latter, does anyone know
> who wrote them?
> Anyone well known?

PESONS IN HIDING, telling about the Midwest crime wave that put the Bureau on the map, was ghost-written by Courtney Riley Cooper. It was popular enough that four different movies, sturdy, unpretentious low-budget programmers all, were made from it, including PERSONS IN HIDING, QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD, and PAROLE FIXER. I haven't seen any of these films but William K. Everson in THE DETECTIVE IN FILM spoke well of them.

MASTER OF DECEIT, exposing the Red Menace, was supposedly ghosted by four of five of Hoover's FBI subordinates. I believe it was a best-seller. No movies however.

"The Crime of the Century," an article in READERS DIGEST about the Atomic spies, published under Hoover's byline, was also probably ghosted, though I'm not sure by whom. Louis de Rochemont, who made THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET and THE STREET WITH NO NAME, used the article as the source material for a third FBI film, WALK EAST ON BEACON, with George Murphy taking over from Lloyd Nolan as the FBI Inspector.

Hope that helps.


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