The Sunday Intertitle: Sex Crushed to Earth

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“Art titles” from SEX, the sensation of 1920, with Louise Glaum as a showgirl seducing a wealthy New York stooge away from his wife. Nothing and no one is sexy in this film, despite the existence of many a sultry flapper in that era — it’s all terribly moralistic, and the Ince company’s idea of a wild party looks much like a toddler’s birthday bash only conducted by adults at 4 a.m.

Fred Niblo directs — his BEN-HUR was *much* sexier.

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A helpful historical note at the start informs us that the film was generally received favourably by censors except in Pennsylvania where the title was forcibly changed to SEX CRUSHED TO EARTH, which I guess was considered purer because less appealing. They might equally have gone with SEX FOLDED UP AND WEDGED UNDER A TABLE LEG or SEX WITH GRAVY STAINS ALL DOWN ITS FRONT.

The other weird, kind of good, thing about this movie is that the main title has its own establishing shot — we see a painting of a Broadway theatre at night, with illuminated sign yelling SEX in light bulbs, and then a dissolve takes us into a closer view which serves as the opening credits. Possibly a first?

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5 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Sex Crushed to Earth”

  1. A lot of the sexiness in Ben-Hur was provided by Ramon Novarro in various shades of undress. The MGM publicity department even released a photo of him naked, with the caption “This picture proves rather conclusively that he has no intention of entering a monastery or taking up the profession of concert pianist.” Later on Novarro did indeed contemplate taking orders; at other times he went on concert tours, to show off his singing.

    Niblo, his wife Enid Bennett, and Novarro had earlier made a fine film called The Red Lantern, which featured the stars as teenage sweethearts who journey from their french home-village to Paris and become corrupted and degraded; Novarro turning to crime, Bennett to prostitution (she gives a harrowing performance). The film has a few too many endings, but it’s directed with a sensitivity unusual to the otherwise pedestrian Niblo. The Warner Archives DVD was taken from an excellent source and is quite nice to look at.

  2. Must see that!

    Ben Hur also features topless Technicolor nymphets strewing petals. Something for everyone, in theory.

  3. Much to my embarrassment, I mangled the title–it’s the The Red LILY, not Lantern. Kudos on remembering the topless nymphets!

  4. Raise the Red Lily!

  5. Blake also produced a dictionary to assist us humans understand what the horse is
    aiming to interact to us. It’s remarkable.

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