Snails and Oysters

With the movie version of Spartacus Kirk Douglas famously broke the blacklist by openly putting Dalton Trumbo’s name on the picture as the screenwriter, but right wing anti-Communist creeps like Hedda Hopper weren’t the only problems that the movie faced. The time was 1960, and the Catholic Church and other religious groups as well as the Hays Office still exercised way too much influence over what the American public was allowed to see in their movie theaters.

For example… 

As a favor to his friend, Kirk Douglas asked Trumbo to write a part for Tony Curtis in the movie, so the role of Antoninus, a character who hadn’t appeared in the novel, was created. Trumbo went all out and and wrote what became known as the snails and oysters scene, where Laurence Olivier as Crassus explains to his slave Antoninus that he has some varied tastes.

Alas, this would not do. The motion picture blue noses interpreted this as a “homosexual” scene, and they just could not allow any “perversion” in the movies, so that scene had to go. They were almost right; it was actually Crassus indicating that he enjoyed bisexuality, but never mind.

So the scene was cut.

When the film was restored in the early 90s, it was discovered that although the film for that scene was intact, the audio was no longer to be found. Tony Curtis was still around and could redo his lines, but Anthony Hopkins, who did a mean impersonation of Lord Olivier, was brought in to read Crassus’s lines. So that scene has been preserved for posterity.

I see two problems with it.

First of all, Crassus would not have bothered trying to seduce a slave in his household; if he lusted after someone that he owned, he would simply have raped them, male or female, if they weren’t so inclined.

Second, when Antoninus figures out what’s in Crassus’s mind, he hightails it out of there and runs to Spartacus’s camp. I think it might not have been quite so easy for a slave to escape; otherwise, what was to keep the rest of the slaves there? And how did he find Spartacus so easily?

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