1964 June 22

Pornography? Justice Stewart Knows It When He Sees It

 

In an important First Amendment case, the Supreme Court held in Jacobellis v. Ohio, that the French film, The Lovers (Les Amants, in French) was not obscene. The film had been seized by Ohio authorities at the Heights Art Theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on November 13, 1959.

For the Court, Justice William Brennan wrote: “We have viewed the film, in the light of the record made in the trial court, and we conclude that it is not obscene within the standards enunciated in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, which we reaffirm here.” He earlier noted that in fact “there is an explicit love scene in the last reel of the film, and the State’s objections are based almost entirely upon that scene.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Potter Stewart declined to define “hard core pornography,” but in what is the most famous quote from the case wrote: “But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Watch the trailer for The Lovers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0B8LqiReuQ

Learn more about the end of film censorship in the 1960s: http://moviehistory.us/the-end-of-movie-censorship.html

Learn more about the sexual revolution in the movies: Robert Hofler, Sexplosion: From Andy Warhold to A Clockwork Orange — How a Generation of Pop Rebels  Brake All the Taboos (2014)

Learn more about the director: Louis Malle, Malle on Malle (1992)

Learn more at the official Louis Malle website: http://www.louismalle.com/

Learn more about the myths and facts about pornography: Marcia Pally, Sense and Censorship: The Vanity of the Bonfires (1991), http://mediacoalition.org/files/Sense-and-Censorship.pdf

 

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