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33 years later, ‘Ulysses’ film gets OK for Ireland

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The Film Censor has lifted a 33-year ban on U.S. director Joseph Strick’s film of James Joyce’s novel "Ulysses" and it is now expected to get a cinema screening for the first time.

The film censor, Sheamus Smith, described the film as "innocent stuff now." He has granted a certificate for showing to audiences aged 15 and older.

Under the censorship laws, a rejected or cut film may be resubmitted after seven years.

"The reason the ban is being lifted now it that nobody thought to bring it back before," Smith said. "I’m sure that if it had been resubmitted to me 14 years ago, when I first became censor, I would have made the same decision."

The 33-year ban may be a record. Last year, Smith passed Stanley Kubrick’s "A Clockwork Orange" for viewing. It had been banned for 26 years.

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The "Ulysses" film was first banned in Ireland in 1967 and was also refused a certificate by the Censorship Appeals Board the same year.

It also caused worldwide controversy. It was banned in Australia, was only shown to audiences segregated by sex in New Zealand, and was withdrawn from the 1967 Cannes Film Festival by Strick after a row.

In 1968, a personal appeal was made to then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch in an attempt to get the film a limited showing in one Irish cinema with the proceeds donated to a James Joyce-related charity.

The film’s distributor, the New Jersey-based Walter Reade Organization, told Lynch it was "completely frustrated" by efforts to get "Ulysses" screened in Ireland and appealed directly to him for advice and guidance and for "special consideration."

The company’s president, Walter Reade Jr., told Lynch a screening would recognize that Ireland "could truly be a base for the making of fine motion pictures."

Justice Minister Micheal O Morain ordered the secretary of his department to go and see it.

He reported he had "do doubt at all" that if the film were cleared for showing to "any class" of Irish audience, it would bring "discredit" on the government.

The film was again resubmitted to the Irish Censor in 1975 and the ban was reaffirmed. Two years later, the Censorship Appeals Board also turned it down again.

The novel deals with 24 hours in Dublin and was made in the city in 1966. The cast of the film reads like a who’s who of Irish actors.

Now regarded as a classic, the novel was also turned down by reputable publishers and was suppressed worldwide.

It was first published in Paris in 1922 and a U.S. ban was not lifted until 1933 when a judge ruled the "dirty words" were appropriate in context and not gratuitous.

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