‘An almost continuous picture of sordid vice’: The Keeler Affair, the Profumo Scandal and ‘Political’ Film Censorship in the 1960s

Richard Farmer

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In 1963, the Profumo affair brought Christine Keeler to public attention and transformed her, briefly, into one of the most talked about women in the world. Seeking to exploit her notoriety, Topaz Films entered into an agreement with Keeler to make a cinematic version of her life story, The Keeler Affair. This article explores some of the controversies surrounding The Keeler Affair, especially in terms of the way in which the British Board of Film Censors dealt with the film. The Keeler Affair was submitted to the BBFC on two occasions – once when it was completed and then again in 1969 when Keeler's memoirs were serialised in the News of the World – and was rejected both times. On the second occasion, The Keeler Affair was also submitted to, and rejected by, the Greater London Council. The article seeks to establish some of the political factors that shaped the BBFC's and the GLC's attitudes towards politically contentious films, and demonstrates that the decisions made by the censors were guided not simply by the content of The Keeler Affair, but also by personal relationships, shared Establishment attitudes, concerns about public perceptions of the film industry and a desire not to be drawn into political controversies. Consequently, the article serves to reinforce the idea that censorship is best understood as a dynamic process shaped by a host of determining factors, many of which might best be described as extra- or para-cinematic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-251
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

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