‘The Outlaw’ outlawed by cleavage

The Howard Hughes’ Western movie ‘The Outlaw’ was completed in 1941 but Hollywood censors demanded that parts of the film be cut because of Hughes’ obsession with newcomer Jane Russell’s breasts.

Hughes reluctantly removed about half a minute of footage but it wasn’t enough to satisfy the censors. The movie company 20th Century Fox backed out of the project. Hughes, faced with losing millions of dollars, cooked up a scheme to create a public outcry over the banning of the movie.

He had his people call women’s clubs and church ministers warning them about the ‘lewd picture’ he was about to release. Public protests demanded that the film be banned, but First Amendment advocates demanded the right to see the movie.

The wily billionaire’s reverse psychology paid off and ‘The Outlaw’ was released into theaters for one week in 1943, but then yanked due to further production code violations. The movie was ultimately released widely in 1946 by RKO Radio Pictures and became a box-office hit.

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