June 24, 2009

Smoking and the $93,000 stamp.

The print run was destroyed — but a few stamps escaped — because Audrey Hepburn's son did not like that cigarette holder in her mouth.

That happened in Germany. Here in America we just airbrush the cigarette out of the old celebrity photos:

Roger Ebert:
Depriving Bette Davis of her cigarette reminds me of Soviet revisionism, when disgraced party officials disappeared from official photographs. Might as well strip away the toupees of Fred Astaire and Jimmy Stewart. I was first alerted to this travesty by a reader, Wendell Openshaw of San Diego, who wrote me: "Do you share my revulsion for this attempt to revise history and distort a great screen persona for political purposes? It is political correctness and revisionist history run amok. Next it will be John Wayne holding a bouquet instead of a Winchester!"

IN THE COMMENTS: Sofa King picks up on the cue to photoshop:

And kristinintexas found this startling revelation that Bette Davis was not holding a cigarette in the original photograph. (Her fur coat, however, was downgraded to cloth.)

But, of course, Bette Davis was big on smoking, and so Chip Ahoy gives us "Bette Restored:


al said...

It was done with E.T. Shotguns became walkie-talkies. Political Correctness sucks.

Bob said...

And don't forget it even extends to toys: Mr. Potato Head hasn't had his pipe in over 2 decades now.

Aaron said...

um, now, this might be an uncomfortable point, but in the case of Hepburn's pic, i suspect the issue is less that it is a cigarette in her mouth (because if i wasn't told i wouldn't have known what the hell the thing was), but because some dirty minds might imagine it as something else.

I'm just saying i suspect that the real appeal of this pic is the innuendo. I know, i know, sometimes a cigar(ette) is just a cigar(ette), but sometimes it really isn't.

ironrailsironweights said...

but in the case of Hepburn's pic, i suspect the issue is less that it is a cigarette in her mouth (because if i wasn't told i wouldn't have known what the hell the thing was), but because some dirty minds might imagine it as something else

That would be the world's longest and thinnest Something Else.


rhhardin said...

It's the bureaucratic mind more than political correctness that's at work.

Ann Althouse said...

All I know is I do *not* want to see Aaron naked.

Maguro said...

I don't suppose the post office would ever consider this image for a stamp.

Tibore said...

Rolling Stone did that back in the '80s, well before photoshop, to remove a gun from a cover photo on the show Miami Vice. Reportedly it was because the then editor was "an ardent foe of handguns".

I agree with Ebert: You cease making it a photograph when you alter elements like that. It's one thing to bring out shadow detail, tone down excessive highlights, or change contrast or color balance; film and now digital photography does not capture images in the same way the eye sees it, so such manipulations are a way of assisting fidelity. But removing things because you disagree with their presence in the photograph is the opposite; at that point, you cease practicing photography. You might still be creating art - there's nothing wrong with the practice if you're honest and upfront about deliberately manipulating elements in order to achieve a certain aesthetic effect - but you're no longer "photographing" the scene. Instead, you're even more strongly forming it than you would be had you left the original image alone. You're (at best) idealizing the scene. And while there's nothing wrong with that artistically, there's also nothing objective or accurate about it. Objective accuracy is one of the strengths of photography as an art medium, and you throw that away when you impose your own judgements on what the camera should have captured, well above and beyond what you do when you selectively frame elements. You might as well be painting or drawing if you select to photoshop things out.

InternetFred said...

Where are the photoshoppers when we need them!

I want to see John Wayne with a bouquet! The gun could also be a symbol of Something Else. A six-shooter no less!

Aaron said...


lol true. but i think my point stands. its visual innuendo. And of course her son wouldn't be happy with that.


i have shocking footage that suggests that Han Solo actually shot first.


A few years ago i tried to get a toy gun for a little boy. couldn't do it. none of the stores would sell it. Now that was before 9-11, and suddenly after that they started selling them again, but i swear in toys r us, target, even walmart, you couldn't find a single toy gun. Although that might have been less about political correctness than the fear that if a cop shoots someone thinking they have a real gun, when it is a toy, that the seller might be sued.

Arturius said...

Depriving Bette Davis of her cigarette reminds me of Soviet revisionism

It does dovetail nicely with the federal takeover of GM and the banks.

Fred4Pres said...

Smokers are pariahs. They should be sent to camps and punished...by being given unlimited amounts of things to smoke.

Fred4Pres said...

I sometimes volunteer for Toys for Tots. No guns. No G.I. Joes (and not because he is Army). The Marines got too much flack from critics claiming they were using the program for propaganda purposes and to up recruitment.

Aaron said...


> All I know is I do *not* want to see Aaron naked.

Its a wise attitude to take. You know how they say in greek myths that if a mortal saw a god in their true form they would literally go blind at the glorious sight?

Same exact thing. :-P

(sorry, i HAD to have some kind of come back)

traditionalguy said...

Is the goal of these revisionists really public health? No one had to do what they were asked to do to these icons. The actions taken suggest a need to soften the sexually available female image of these two Hollywood movie stars. Maybe the Perez Hilton wing of designers wanted to tone down the competition's appeal.

chickenlittle said...

More on this stamp here.

What I find interesting is the 0.26 euro surcharge for "welfare relief" over and above the 0.56 euro price. That's a hefty 50% surcharge!

Coming soon to the US too?

NKVD said...

Good thing that the free press in America never whitewashes anyone's smoking.

John Burgess said...

The US Postal Service removed a cigarette from a Robert Johnson stamp back in 1994.

Patrick said...

I hate this kind of thing.

kristinintexas said...

I went looking for the original image of Bette Davis with the cigarette, and found this.

al said...

i have shocking footage that suggests that Han Solo actually shot first.

No rules in a gunfight so I'm ok with that.

Randy said...

Wasn't there some relatively recent controversy over air-brushing of a photo of FDR with his cigarette holder, etc?

Aaron said...


there is one rule in a gunfight. don't bring a knife.

Aaron said...


well, i think more about the controversy over whether his memorial should show FDR in a wheelchair or not.

i say this. in life he of course hid his disability out of fear of discrimination. but i think we should show his handicap in a manner of fact way, by puting him in a wheelchair, for two reasons.

First, i believe his handicap was relevant in this respect. i think it made it easier for him to recognize the evil of hitler. after all, before hitler said kill all jews he said kill all cripples.

Second, for those handicapped children growing up today, he is a role model. Its exactly the same thing as we have with Obama. African American children can uniquely take inspiration from his choice as president, and handicapped children, can, too. i can tell you having handicaps of my own and having a niece who is handicapped, it is so important to have positive examples of success to look to. that niece once was losing hope. her mother (my sister) told her that she could do whatever she set her mind to, but heartbreakingly she said "i don't think that's true." so i came down there asap, and i sat her down one day, and told her i had just about the same disabilities as her. i pointed at my own success and told her that she can do whatever she wants with her life. and she said, God bless her, "I think that's true."

(Btw, i say all that above even believing at the same time that Obama isn't a particularly good president, so far, and hoping and praying he turns it around and soon.)

Randy said...

I agree Aaron.

KristininTexas: Thanks for the link. Solves that controversy. Or does it? Unfortunately, I imagine the meme will spread and few will update their posts with the true story. Be that as it may, it is interesting that professional journalists didn't bother calling the artist to find out the facts before publishing speculation/

kristinintexas said...

Yeah, Randy, I double checked Ebert's article and was a little surprised not to find a correction posted. It's dated October 11, 2008, and the letter is dated October 27, so if a correction was going to be made it would have been done by now.

I thought it was interesting, however, that even though the missing cigarette was never actually there, a different un-PC element was removed - the mink coat. Maybe we can file this particular protest against PC editing under "fake but accurate." :)

Sofa King said...

Where are the photoshoppers when we need them!

I want to see John Wayne with a bouquet!

Ahhh, it's sacrilegious but what the hell:

PC John Wayne

Chip Ahoy said...

That does it!

Bette restored. Revising the revisionists (with vengence).

Aaron said...

minor correction. i see that i accidentally made it sound like handicapped children would take inspiration from obama. i meant FDR.

which is part of what that special olympics crack offended me so much.

Aaron said...

On the topic of inspiration, this is interesting. Black students do better on standardized tests when they are reminded of the achievements of obama. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/09/obama-effect/

Here's my question. is it because he raises their aspirations. Or is it because Obama is a rebuke to the idea that education and all of that is a "white thing" which is unfortunately prevalent in some places? maybe a little of both.

Oh well, whatever it is, good for them. i am not thrilled with obama as president, but i can be genuinely glad to see this sort of thing. i have long suspected that the psychological after effects of discrimination held back the average african american more than actual discrimination. I don't mean that in a blame the victim sort of way. i ain't blaming. But we can hope that this election will be a death blow to those baleful effects.

If you are convinced you have no chance at winning in the game of life, you have already lost.

Cedarford said...

A lot of the Stalinist revisionism comes from special interest groups who believe it is "enobling" to rid past figures of bad habits. Or by people claiming that truthful pictures, videos, even behavior/bio would "offend" victims. So sanitization happens in America more than we care to admit.

Thus all media showing people jumping off the WTC or people on the ground recoiling from spatter - what was a central part of the horror of 9/11 - was censored into nonexistance in short order. Pictures of MLK, a heavy drinker and womanizer and cigarette smoker, hanging with his NYC communist advisors - pics showing him engaged in any of those activities - were altered or destroyed by his image makers. And left out of the "Approved MLK Narrative" taught in school or in endless hagiographic documentaries. And also early pictures of King with a gun and in a group sporting guns (before Bayard Ruskin, his gay secretary, convinced him to 'go Gandhi' as a image and tactic..)
Same with the "senseless tragedy" of celebrity AIDs victims, talked about as if they were hit by lightning bolts rather than hit by "buggery by anonymous stranger hookup #59 of the year 1987".

FDR is a very difficult case. His image-makers and a complicit media did everything possible to conceal his handicap from the public. So when you honor FDR in memorial, do you show him as he was or as voters were manipulated to see him?

Me, I tend to lean in the "perception is the true reality" camp for FDR. No statue of him in a wheelchair...

kristinintexas said...

Woohoo, frontpaged! I'm honored to be in such good company.

Alex said...

Big Brother would so approve! Orwell was a fucking prophet I tell you.

Kirby Olson said...

The next president should authorize one of Obama smoking: perhaps ganga.