The Publications Control Board of South Africa, 1970

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“In 1960, [the government’s chief censor] Kruger said, he and the ten other board members had been forced to decide South Africans should not read 622 books, magazines, and pamphlets. They ranged from Playboy to Karl Marx. There were forty-six films completely banned. Among the records unfit for South Africa was the cast album for Hair. The Board kept black South Africans from seeing more than 100 films passed for whites and cleared expensive hardback editions of books on politics and sex while banning cheap paperback editions that might have been within range of Africans.

Kruger said the increasing frankness of movies– and sexy movies appeared to be as popular with Afrikaners as the rest of the world in 1970– made film screening the hardest part of his job. Sex, violence, and ‘objectionable intermingling of the races’ were the three main troublesome subjects. It took seven sessions for the Board to chop The Wild Bunch down to South African size. Bonnie and Clyde, another film of stylized bloodiness, was banned completely. So were Easy Rider (although Kruger could not recall what the film was about) and Belle de Jour.  (That one, Kruger recalled. ‘Two thirds of it takes place in a brothel. We weren’t about to pass it.’) The Graduate made it into South Africa after two years of rejection, but it was slashed. Dustin Hoffman was not allowed to say incredulously, ‘Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.’ And Sidney Poitier did not come to dinner in South Africa. ‘Social integration is not allowed here, and it cannot be allowed on films,’ Kruger said.

‘Why don’t they make more films like True Grit?’ Kruger asked me. ‘That was a splendid film, and we could pass it right away. Rolling grass, and a good fellow like John Wayne.’ I gathered that Kruger looked on John Wayne as a sort of honorary Afrikaner.”

South Africa: Civilizations in Conflict, Jim Hoagland, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1973

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