Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
27 February 1947

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR,

French author (pictured), writes in her journal about

a stay in Los Angeles:

"We are invited to lunch by George Stevens [co-founder of Liberty Films]. He has reserved a table at Lucy's, a restaurant situated between the three big studios: Warner, RKO and Paramount. The elegance of the patrons is rather flamboyant; the platinum blondes are dressed in soft pink and pale blue, and as in New York, they're decorated with feathers. After martinis - which are to martinis in Paris what the ideal circle is to circles drawn on a blackboard - the meal is delicious. George has asked two scriptwriters to join us, a man and a woman. They repeat to me that censorship has become increasingly harsh in the past two years, which makes coming up with a subject more and more difficult. They think of making a film from the latest John Steinbeck book, Wayward Bus, but there's a respectable young woman in it who sleeps with the driver, purely for pleasure. It is impossible to include such an episode in a movie, yet it's essential to the story. It will have to be replaced by a sentimental drama of the usual moral and touching sort, which will distort the characters and remake the plot so drastically that nothing will be left of the original novel. They hesitate. They tell me they constantly find themselves hamstrung in this way. The scripts are becoming increasingly stupid and monotonous, and the public is beginning to notice. Hence the success of English and Italian films, and even French films."

4 March 1817

ELIZABETH FRY,

Quaker prison reformer, writes in her journal:

"I have just returned from a most melancholy visit to Newgate prison, where I have been at the request of Elizabeth Fricker, previous to her execution [for robbery] tomorrow morning, at eight o'clock. I found her much hurried, distressed, and tormented in mind, her hands cold, and covered with something like the perspiration preceding death, and in a universal tremor. Beside this poor young woman, there are also six men to be hanged, one of whom has a wife near her confinement, also condemned, and seven young children. Since the awful report came down, he has become quite mad, from horror of mind. A strait waistcoat could not keep him within bounds; he has just bitten the turnkey; I saw the man come out with his hand bleeding, as I passed the cell."

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