John Trevelyan (censor)

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John Trevelyan, CBE (11 July 1903 – 15 August 1986) was Secretary of the Board of the British Board of Film Censors from 1958 to 1971.

Trevelyan was born in Beckenham, Kent, England, the son of a parson.,[1] and had been involved in educational administration. In 1951 he joined the British Board of Film Censors as an examiner, and in 1958 became Secretary.

He brought a more liberal approach to the role of Chief Censor than his predecessors claiming: "We are paid to have dirty minds".[citation needed] His Times obituary said that he "never shrank from using his scissors, especially when it came to protecting the young." He passed the 1969 Ken Russell film Women in Love (adapted from the D. H. Lawrence novel) with minor cuts, and received a complaint about the nude wrestling scene between the two male stars that the actors were "displaying their genials" (sic).

However his approach was harshly criticised by some. According to film director Roy Ward Baker:

"Trevelyan had that schoolmasterly habit of pigeon-holing people. If you were in the box marked 'art cinema' you could tackle anything, however controversial: sex, violence, politics, religion — anything. If you were in 'commercial cinema' you faced obstruction and nit-picking all the way. He chose these categories and allocated everyone according to his estimation of them. He was a sinister mean hypocrite, treating his favorites with nauseating unctuousness" (Baker 2000: 93)

Trevelyan wrote a book on his experiences entitled What the Censor Saw (1973).

Trevelyan was a critic of the early Bond films;[citation needed] when GoldenEye was released in 1995, the villain of the film was named Alec Trevelyan.

In a famous piece of Monty Python animation, a hand removes the fig leaf from a representation of Michelangelo's David, only to reveal the cartoon face of Trevelyan, informing the viewer that this type of 'smut' will not be allowed.

He was married four times. He was appointed a CBE in 1971.

Trevelyan died in Croydon, Greater London, aged 83.[2]


  • Obituary Mr John Trevelyan, Film Censor with the diplomatic touch in The Times, London of 18 August 1986 page 12.


  • Roy Ward Baker (2000) The Director's Cut. London: Reynolds and Hearn.