The movie’s alteration, which appears about 10 minutes into the film, involves a racial slur in a scene between characters Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle played by Gene Hackman and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo played by veteran actor Roy Scheider. Both were cast as tough narcotics detectives and it’s during a sequence as the two exchange dialog, the character of Doyle says the N-word after Scheider’s character is slashed by a black drug pusher.
Later, other commenters on the site noted the absence of the line of dialog when the film was screened at Hollywood’s American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre on May 12. Still, additional Hollywood Elsewhere users said that Turner Classic Movies also broadcasted a censored version and that the purchased version on iTunes is also changed. Both Criterion and TCM didn’t notify audiences of the change. Another version recorded off of Fox Movies was uncensored, according to one person.
Said Joseph Wade, founder and editor of @thefilmmagazine, wrote in a tweet: “Disney Censor ‘The French Connection’ in cases such as this, “Censor” takes the place of “Vandalise”. They have vandalised a piece of art. This is corporate vandalism no matter how said corporation spins the language.”
The Epoch Times reached out to both Disney and Criterion Channel for comment.
Made more than half a century ago, The French Connection was directed by William Friedkin and is based on a true story. The R-rated picture centers around a pair of NYPD detectives who encounter a heroin smuggling ring based in Marseille. The movie won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Friedkin, Best Actor for Hackman, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing. Scheider was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Both Hackman and Scheider would go on to reprise their roles in the film’s sequel The French Connection II.
As described in a 12 bullet-point summary on Hollywood Elsewhere, the movie “has always been a fairly coarse, occasionally crude, hard-hitting film when focusing upon Doyle and Cloudy, which is at least 80 or 85 percent of the time. Diluting the crudeness constitutes a serious wounding or mangling of the film’s original organic nature.”
The discussion also noted the character of Doyle as “a pushy and obstinate lead character who not only uses the N-word (once) but racially harasses the drug dealer who stabbed Cloudy.”
The overall consensus by those pondering the deletion was that the film is hard-hitting and occasionally crude to portray the story authentically—that The French Connection presents a portrayal of real-life.
Others noted that while the slur may have been offensive, censoring any kind of art, especially a Best Picture Academy Award-winning one, is wrong. In general, commenters were adamant that cutting scenes that are racially insensitive is a slippery slope.
“If in fact Disney is responsible for deleting the nine seconds of footage, they owe an explanation to the film’s fans as well as the industry at large why this was done, and whether or not they consulted Friedkin before doing so, and if they intend to delete other portions of other films that feature the N-word,” wrote Wells.