Golden Age of Porn
The Golden Age of Porn, or porno chic, refers to a period in commercial American pornography that began in 1970 with the film Mona, produced by Bill Osco, the first adult erotic film depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the United States. Mona influenced the making, in 1972, of the film Deep Throat, directed by Gerard Damiano. Following mentions by Johnny Carson on his popular TV show, Deep Throat achieved major box office success, despite being rudimentary by mainstream standards. In 1973, the far more accomplished, but still low budget, film The Devil in Miss Jones, also directed by Damiano, was the seventh most successful film of the year, and was well received by major media, including a favorable review by film critic Roger Ebert. It became obvious that box office returns of very low budget pornographic films could fund further advances in the technical and production values of porn, making it extremely competitive with Hollywood films. There was concern that, left unchecked, the vast profitability of such films would lead to Hollywood being influenced by pornography.
Prior to the 'Golden Age of Porn', thousands of U.S. state and municipal anti-obscenity laws and ordinances held that participating in the creation, distribution or consumption of pornography constituted criminal action. Multi-jurisdictional interpretations of obscenity made pornographic films highly susceptible to prosecution and criminal liability for obscenity, thereby greatly restricting their distribution and profit potential. However, the US Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Miller v. California, narrowing the definition of obscenity, resulted in dramatically fewer obscenity prosecutions nationwide. Freedom in creative license, higher movie budgets and payouts, and a 'Hollywood Mindset' all intertwined to set the stage for the 'Golden Age' of American pornography.
Video supplanted film in the 1980s as the preferred medium for pornography, which quickly reverted to being extremely low budget and openly gratuitous. As a consequence, the era of theatrically released pornographic films with relatively high production values has since been called the adult industry's 'Golden Age'.
- 1 Background
- 2 The era
- 3 Feminist criticism
- 4 Golden Age stars
- 5 Second-wave stars
- 6 Producers
- 7 Films of the period
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Pornographic films were produced in the early 20th century as "stag" movies, intended to be viewed at male gatherings or in brothels. In the United States, social disapproval was so great that men in them sometimes attempted to conceal their face by subterfuge, such as a false mustache (used in A Free Ride) or even being masked. Very few people were ever identified as appearing in such films; and performers were often presumed to have been prostitutes or criminals. Vincent Drucci is said to have performed in a pornographic film made in 1924. Candy Barr, who appeared in the 1950s Smart Alec, was virtually unique among those appearing in stag films, having attained a degree of celebrity through her participation.
In the US, during the late 1960s, there was regular semi-underground production of pornographic films on a modest scale. After answering New York newspaper advertisements for nude models, Eric Edwards and Jamie Gillis, among others, appeared in these films, which were silent black and white 'loops' of low quality, often intended for peep booth viewing in the proliferation of adult video arcades around Times Square. The product of the New York porn industry was distributed nationwide by underworld figure Robert DiBernardo, who commissioned the production of much of the so-called 'Golden Age' era films made in New York. Although not the first adult film to obtain a wide theatrical release in the US, none had achieved a mass audience, and changed public attitude toward pornography, as Deep Throat did.
Boys In the Sand
Although Deep Throat is often credited as the starting point of the Golden Age, Boys in the Sand was released in December 1971, pre-dating the release of Deep Throat by almost a year. Boys In the Sand was the first pornographic film of any kind to be reviewed by Variety and opened in theaters across the United States and around the world.
The 'Golden Age' of heterosexual pornography continued in 1972 with Deep Throat. It officially premiered at the World Theater in New York on June 12, 1972 and was advertised in The New York Times under the bowdlerized title Throat. It was very profitable though, according to one of the figures behind the film, it became a box-office success only after Johnny Carson talked about it on his nationally top rated TV show. In its second year of release, Deep Throat just missed Variety's top 10, however, by then, it was often being shown in a double bill with the most successful of the top three adult erotic films released in the 1972–1973 era, The Devil in Miss Jones, which easily outperformed Deep Throat, while leaving Behind the Green Door trailing in third place.
The Devil in Miss Jones
The 1973 film The Devil in Miss Jones was ranked number seven in the Variety list of the top ten highest-grossing pictures of 1973, despite lacking the wide release and professional marketing of Hollywood and having been virtually banned across the country for half the year (see Miller v. California, below). Some critics have described the film as, along with Deep Throat, one of the "two best erotic motion pictures ever made". William Friedkin called The Devil in Miss Jones a "great film", partly because it was one of the few adult erotic films with a proper storyline. Roger Ebert referred to The Devil in Miss Jones as the "best" of the genre he had seen and gave it three-stars (of four). Ebert also suggested the film's box office receipts were inflated as a way of laundering the profits from illegal activities, although such a method would require organised crime paying taxes on their illegally obtained income.
The Devil in Miss Jones was one of the first films to be inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame. The sound-recording, cinematography, and story-line of The Devil in Miss Jones were of a considerably higher quality than any previous porn film. The lead, Georgina Spelvin, who had been in the original Broadway run of The Pajama Game, combined vigorous sex with an acting performance some thought as convincing as anything to be seen in a good mainstream production. She had been hired as a caterer, but Gerard Damiano, the film director, was impressed with her reading of Miss Jones's dialogue, while auditioning an actor for the non-sex role of 'Abca'. According to Variety's review, "With The Devil in Miss Jones, the hard-core porno feature approaches an art form, one that critics may have a tough time ignoring in the future". The review also described the plot as comparable to Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit, and went on to describe the opening scene as, "a sequence so effective it would stand out in any legit theatrical feature." It finished by stating, "Booking a film of this technical quality into a standard sex house is tantamount to throwing it on the trash heap of most current hard-core fare." 
An influential five-page article in The New York Times Magazine in 1973 described the phenomenon of porn being publicly discussed by celebrities, and taken seriously by critics, a development referred to, by Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times, as "porno chic". Some expressed the opinion that pornographic films would continue to extend their access to US theaters, and the mainstream film industry would gravitate toward the influence of porn.
Supreme Court's 1973 Miller v. California
Supreme Court's 1973 Miller v. California decision redefined obscenity from "utterly without socially redeeming value" to lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value". Crucially, it made 'contemporary community standards' the criterion, holding that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment; the ruling gave leeway to local judges to seize and destroy prints of films adjudged to violate local community standards. The Miller decision stymied porn distribution.
The Devil in Miss Jones, as well as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, was prosecuted successfully during the latter half of 1973; the Supreme Court's Miller decision closed much of America to the exhibition of adult erotic films, and often led to it being banned outright. Porn films would never again feature so prominently in the mainstream movie business, until the emergence of the internet in the 1990s.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to have put mass box office returns beyond the reach of pornographic films, the leaps in the films' quality that had occurred between 1972 and 1973 was not sustained. With their relatively modest financial means, a predicted move of organised crime into Hollywood failed to materialise. Pornographic films continued to be a highly profitable business, and thrived throughout the rest of the 1970s, leading to the concept of porn 'stars' gaining currency. Ostracism of porn performers meant they almost invariably used pseudonyms. Being outed as having appeared in porn usually put an end to an actor's hope of a mainstream career. An indication of the returns still possible was that a 1976 release, Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy, reportedly grossed over $90 million globally. Some historians assess The Opening of Misty Beethoven as attaining a mainstream level in storyline and sets, though the novice female lead player was carefully choreographed.
In general, after 1973, adult erotic films emulated mainstream filmmaking storylines and conventions, merely to frame the depictions of sexual activity to prepare an 'artistic merit' defense against possible obscenity charges. The adult film industry remained stuck at the level of 'one day wonders', finished by participants hired for only a single day. The ponderous technology of the time meant filming a simple scene would often take hours due to the need for the camera to be laboriously set up for each shot. Repeated sustained performances might be required on cue at any time over the course of a day, which was an issue for men without the recourse to modern Viagra-type drugs. Production was concentrated in New York where organized crime was widely believed to have control over all aspects of the business, and to prevent entry of competitors. Although their budgets were usually very low, a subcultural level of appreciation exists for films of this era, which were produced by a core group of around thirty performers, some of whom had other jobs. Several were actors who could handle dialogue when required. However, some participants scoffed at the idea that what they did, qualified as "acting". By the early 1980s, the rise of home video had led to the end of the era when people went to movie theaters to see sex shot on 35mm film with production values, ultimately culminating with the rise of the internet in the 1990s.
The 'Golden Age' was a period of interactions between pornography and the contemporaneous second wave of feminism. Radical and cultural feminists, along with religious and conservative groups, attacked pornography, while other feminists were pro-pornography, such as Camile Paglia, who defined what came to be known as sex-positive feminism in her work, Sexual Personae. Paglia and other sex-positive or pro-pornography feminists accepted porn as part of the sexual revolution with its libertarian sexual themes, such as exploring bisexuality and swinging, free from government interference. The endorsement of female critics was essential for the credibility of the brief era of "porno chic".
Golden Age stars
Major pornographic film actors of the first part of the 'Golden Age', the "porno chic" era, included:
- Annette Haven
- Annie Sprinkle
- Bambi Woods
- Candida Royalle
- Desireé Cousteau
- Casey Donovan
- Eric Edwards
- Georgina Spelvin
- Gloria Leonard
- Harry Reems
- Herschel Savage
- Jamie Gillis
- Jennifer Welles
- Joey Silvera
- John C. Holmes
- John Leslie
- Johnny Keyes
- Juliet Anderson (aka "Aunt Peg")
- Kay Parker
- Linda Lovelace
- Little Oral Annie
- Marc Stevens
- Marilyn Chambers
- Mike Horner
- Paul Thomas
- Rene Bond
- Rhonda Jo Petty
- Rick Cassidy
- Robert Kerman (aka "R Bolla")
- Ron Jeremy
- Samantha Fox
- Vanessa del Rio
A number of the 'Golden Age' stars have taken part in The Rialto Report, an online oral history initiative that preserves and archives the memories of the industry's early participants.
At the time of the maturation of the second wave, movies increasingly were being shot on video for home release.
As their popularity rose, so did their control of their careers. John Holmes became the first recurring porn character in the "Johnny Wadd" film series directed by Bob Chinn. Lisa DeLeeuw was one of the first to sign an exclusive contract with a major adult production company, Vivid Video, and Marilyn Chambers worked in mainstream movies, being one of the first of a rare number of crossover porn actors.
Major producers during the first wave of the 'Golden Age', the "Porno Chic" era, include:
Films of the period
Some of the best-known pornographic films of the period include:
- A Dirty Western (USA, 1975)
- Alice in Wonderland (USA, 1976)
- A Night at the Adonis (USA, 1978)
- Behind the Green Door (USA, 1972)
- Boys in the Sand (USA, 1971)
- Café Flesh (USA, 1982)
- Caligula (USA, 1979)
- Debbie Does Dallas (USA, 1978)
- Deep Throat (USA, 1972)
- El Paso Wrecking Corp. (USA, 1978)
- Flesh Gordon (USA, 1974)
- Jack and Jill (USA, 1979)
- Insatiable (USA, 1980)
- Inside Désirée Cousteau (USA, 1979)
- Inside Jennifer Welles (USA, 1977)
- Kansas City Trucking Co. (USA, 1976)
- L.A. Tool & Die (USA, 1979)
- Memories Within Miss Aggie (USA, 1973)
- Mona the Virgin Nymph (USA, 1970)
- Nightdreams (USA, 1981)
- Pretty Peaches (USA, 1978)
- Reel People (USA, 1984)
- Resurrection of Eve (USA, 1973)
- Sensations (NL, 1975)
- Spirit of Seventy Sex (USA, 1976)
- Taboo (USA, 1980)
- Talk Dirty to Me (USA, 1980)
- The Bigger the Better (USA, 1984)
- The Cheerleaders (USA, 1973)
- The Devil in Miss Jones (USA, 1973)
- The Opening of Misty Beethoven (USA, 1976)
- The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (USA, 1974)
- The Story of Joanna (USA, 1975)
- Through the Looking Glass (USA, 1976)
- "Pornography". Pornography Girl. Archived from the original on May 6, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
The first explicitly pornographic film with a plot that received a general theatrical release in the U.S. is generally considered to be Mona (Mona the Virgin Nymph)...
- "Sex in Cinema: 1970 Greatest and Most Influential Erotic / Sexual Films and Scenes". Film Site. p. 21. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
The storyline in the film Mona was later borrowed, to some degree, by Gerard Damiano in his film Deep Throat in 1972.
- Ebert, Roger (June 13, 1973). "The Devil In Miss Jones - Film Review". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- From a 1970s interview with Linda Lovelace, shown in the documentary Inside Deep Throat.
- New York Police Department's organized crime division quoted in Daytona Beach Morning Journal - Oct 12, 1975, Mafia Money Infiltrates Pornos Movie Business
- Lehman, Peter (2003). Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil, and Slime on Screen. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. pp. 79–88. ISBN 978-0791459409.
- Thompson, Dave (2007). Black and White and Blue: Adult Cinema from the Victorian Age to the VCR. ECW Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9781554903023.
- Thompson 2007, p. 39.
- http://www.myalcaponemuseum.com/id111.htm, My Al Capone Museum "Vincent 'The Schemer' Drucci", Mario Gomes, accessed 14/6/14
- Martin, Douglas (January 4, 2006). "Candy Barr, 70, Stripper and Star of 1950's Stag Film, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Bratton, William J.; Andrews, William (Spring 1999). "What We’ve Learned About Policing". City Journal (Manhattan Institute for Policy Research). Retrieved February 3, 2009.
- Kelling, George L.; Wilson, James Q. (March 1982). "Broken Windows". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
- "Times Square New York City". Streetdirectory.com. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
- Heidenry, John (2002). What Wild Ecstasy. Simon & Schuster. p. 323. ISBN 978-0743241847.
- Schlosser, Eric (2004). Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. Mariner Books. p. ???. ISBN 978-0618446704.
- Rutledge (1989) p. 63
- Stevenson p. 113
- World Theater at CinemaTreasures.org
- Lewis, Jon (2000). Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle Over Censorship Created the Modern Film Industry. New York, New York: New York University Press. pp. 260–67. ISBN 978-0814751428. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Hollywood_v._Hard_Core" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Chuck Traynor, speaking in the documentary Inside Deep Throat (2005)
- Williams, Linda (1999). Hard core: power, pleasure, and the "frenzy of the visible". University of California Press. pp. 156–158. ISBN 0-520-21943-0.
- Robert J. Kelly, Ko-lin Chin, Rufus Schatzberg (1994). Handbook of organized crime in the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 301–302. ISBN 0-313-28366-4.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (January 21, 1973). Porno chic; "Hard-core" grows fashionable-and very profitable. The New York Times. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "pornochic" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Lewis, p.211-212
- Sutherland, John (1983). Offensive literature: decensorship in Britain, 1960-1982. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 136. ISBN 0-389-20354-8.
- Williams, Linda Ruth (2005). The erotic thriller in contemporary cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-253-34713-0.
- Roger Ebert (February 11, 2005). Inside Deep Throat. Chicago Sun-Times.
- Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, Eric Schlosser, p144
- "HALL OF FAME". Dirty Bob/X-Rated Critics Organization. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
- Lewis, p.211
- Dirks, Tim (n.d.). "History of Sex in Cinema: Porn Chic of the 1970s". AMC Filmsite (AMC Networks). Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- Sam Stall, Lou Harry, Julia Spalding (2004). The encyclopedia of guilty pleasures: 1001 things you hate to love. Quirk Books. p. 182. ISBN 1-931686-54-8.
- Pennington, Jody W. (2007). The history of sex in American film. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 56. ISBN 0-275-99226-8.
- Olson, James Stuart (1999). Historical dictionary of the 1970s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 125. ISBN 0-313-30543-9.
- Spelvin, Georgina (2008). The Devil Made Me Do It. Georginas World. p. ??. ISBN 978-0615199078.
- SF blogs, David-Elijah Nahmod Thu., Oct. 10 201 Forty Years After The Devil in Miss Jones: Georgina Spelvin's Happy Ending
- Green, Jonathon & Nicholas J. Karolides (2005). Encyclopedia of Censorship. New York, NY: Facts on File. p. 44. ISBN 978-0816044641.
- Tongue, Stewart. "Crowdsourcing Column: Mainstream vs. Adult". AVN.com. Adult Video News. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Nitke Barbara, in "American Ecstasy: The Photography of Barbara Nitke and The Golden Age of Pornography". AtomicLegdropZine.wordpress.com/. February 4, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Hollingsworth, Cristopher (2009). Alice Beyond Wonderland: Essays for the Twenty-first Century. Iowa City, IA: University Of Iowa Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-1587298196.
- "I was barely old enough to know what was doing" Constance Money quoted in, Playboy, July 1978
- Mathijs, Ernest; Mendik, Xavier (2007). The Cult Film Reader. Open University Press. p. ?. ISBN 978-0335219230.[page needed]
- Breslin, Susannah (November 25, 2013). "From Sexploitation Star to Porn Star: An Interview with Colleen Brennan". Susannah Breslin official site. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Corliss, Richard (March 29, 2005). "That Old Feeling: When Porno Was Chic". Time. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- Second wave: Feminism and porn's golden age. Radical Society Oct 2002 by Loren Glass[dead link]
- Glass, Loren (October 2002). "Bad Sex: Second Wave Feminism and Porn’s Golden Age.". Radical Society 29 (3): 55–66.
- Bailey, Cameron (February 2005). "Blow-by-blow accounts". NOW Toronto 24 (24). Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Weitzer p. 52
- Williams, Linda (2004). Porn studies. Duke University Press. p. 320. ISBN 0-8223-3312-0.
- West, Ashley, ed. "The Rialto Report". Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Connelly, Tim (May 2003). "It's Now Official: Hustler Acquires VCA; Deal Comes a Year After Vivid Pact, Cementing Hustler As...". AVN. Retrieved 2011-12-01.
- Jennings, David (2000). Skinflicks: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry. AuthorHouse. p. 125. ISBN 1-58721-184-X.
- McNeil, Legs, Jennifer Osborne, and Peter Pavia (2005). The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry. Regan Books. ISBN 0-06-009659-4.
- Rutledge, Leigh (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. New York: Alyson. ISBN 1-55583-164-8.
- Stevenson, Jack (2000). Fleshpot: Cinema's Sexual Myth Makers & Taboo Breakers. Critical Vision. ISBN 1-900486-12-1.
- Weitzer, Ronald John (2000). Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92294-1.
- "That old feeling: when porno was chic", Time, March 29, 2005
- The Rialto Report: Audio, photo, and documentary archives from the golden age of adult film