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Film Preservation Groups Silent on ‘French Connection’ Censorship

Scorsese's group, AFI and more won't comment on classic film's woke makeover

Martin Scorsese is more than just a world-class filmmaker.

The Oscar winner has used his clout to promote films across the culture, understanding how his voice can move the medium forward. He also helped create The Film Foundation in 1990, a group dedicated to “protecting and preserving motion picture history,” according to its mission statement.

Martin Scorsese and The Film Foundation

It’s one of several groups devoted to that cause, one that secures the legacy of not just specific films but maintains a valuable part of western culture.

Organizations like The Film Foundation would be the most obvious source of outrage for a recent case of film censorship. Multiple versions of 1971’s “The French Connection,” which won the Best Picture Oscar, have trimmed a sequence for airing racially insensitive slurs.

The scene doesn’t celebrate that ignorance. It’s the filmmaker’s way of describing why the film’s anti-hero, Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle, is such a complicated soul.

So far, few people have spoken out against the overt censorship. The mainstream Hollywood press has aggressively ignored the issue. Celebrities, so often vocal on social media, have stood down on the matter.


Tom Six, the director of “The Human Centipede,” is a rare exception.

One could argue the groups in question haven’t heard about the censorship given the lack of media coverage. Hollywood in Toto reached out to five film organizations to get their reaction to the censorship.

  • The Film Foundation
  • American Film Institute (AFI)
  • National Film Registry
  • National Film Preservation Foundation
  • The Sundance Film Festival

Are they concerned about the matter? Is it setting a dangerous precedent?

We’ve already seen “Sensitivity Readers” censor classic works of art by Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie.

Are beloved films next?

Four of the five groups ignored this site’s press request. AFI responded swiftly but said it couldn’t rally someone to respond to the queries in time for the story’s publication. The organizations were given nearly two days to respond. Each could have done so via email with a prepared statement.

Instead, they chose silence.

Leonardo DiCaprio, a frequent Scorsese collaborator, narrated a letter the director wrote in 1980 to his “friends and fellow film lovers” about the precarious state of film preservation.

“Everything we’re doing right now means absolutely nothing. All of our agonizing labor and creative effort is for nothing because our films are vanishing,” Scorsese wrote at the time.

Flash forward to 2023. Scorsese, like the vast majority of his peers, can’t spare a syllable as a classic film gets censored to appease modern sensibilities.


  1. Amazing to see this site gradually infested with liberal commenters, full of, “What’s the big deal?” when censorship involves something they conveniently hate, anyway: white males. This used to be a pretty cool site, but this kind of deliberate targeting is picking up steam at a lot of conservative-leaning sites. By the way, if you want to fall back on some phony, “Well, we have the right to say what we want, too, snowflake,” I suggest you try and post something conservative on ANY industry-backed or left-leaning entertainment site (which is 99% of them). You’ll get gangbanged in a heartbeat before the mods take down the comment.

  2. We’ve reached out to Criterion in an email. Here’s their response.

    “This is a 20th Century Fox film title that we have under license from Disney, its current owners. This is the only version that has ever been available to us for streaming. According to our licensor, this is a “Director’s Edit” of the film.
    We do not censor any content presented on Criterion Channel, though in some instances we include a content warning in the description of select films. We also frequently present films in directors’ cuts and other alternate versions as their makers and our licensors may require. “

    1. See! The cut of this film was sanctioned by the director. It is his right to change it any way he likes! Once again you folks have overreacted. Always ready to freak out over any perceived thought of possible wokeness. You always see wokeness when none is there. Snowflakes! All of you!

  3. The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about
    with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist,
    Zionist/Seventh-Day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will,
    the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse.

  4. IMO None of these films should be touched, retouched, or edited in any way except to preserve them.
    Yes Huck, some don’t express modern sentiments or sensibilities, but … please leave them alone.

  5. Who has the right to edit an artist’s work other than the artist or someone they’ve designated? The type of censorship that’s been done to the “French Connection”, for whatever reason, contradicts the supposed righteousness it’s supposed to promote. This is a freedom of expression issue, not a liberal or conservative soapbox for those who wish to edit the past to fit their respective ideologies. Art is a mirror, if you don’t like what you see, then change your world and leave the art alone.

    1. The copyright owner of any film has the right to edit that film anyway they’d like. The original negative of the French is not being altered. Eventually the uncut French Connection will be released again. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. This isn’t going to snowball into every single Hollywood film being deleted or altered. Most movies are still available in their original form. French Connection is an exception not a rule.

  6. Personally I am happy they cut the n word from the French Connection. I’ve never liked that word. Conservatives probably are upset with that word being censored because it is one of their favorite racial slurs.

    1. It’s more than just about a slur. It’s way more than that. You let them take that inch, they’ll easily take that mile.

      1. No they won’t. Movies are more uncensored now than they have ever been. You can say and do pretty much anything you want in modern film. The use of the word damn was controversial in Gone with the Wind back in the 30s. Today that word is everywhere in the media. The n word isn’t going anywhere either. It’s used in movies and rap music all the time. One small cut in The French Connection is not going to change that. Conservatives remind me of Chicken Little. LOL They are always afraid the sky is falling.

  7. We need to see more male on male kissing and [bleeping] on prime time television. Then Hollywierd will be appeased and no one will be watching except a few hundred queen bags.

  8. I love the French Connection in its original state . Stop censoring everything. We won’t remember what original art is supposed to convey and sound like. Could you imagine Scarface if they deleted all the shooting scenes, violence and cuss words or The Sopranos or anything for that matter. Mister Rodgers and Huell Howser are turning over in their graves as they were not for censorship.

    1. All the films you just mentioned have been censored for network broadcast in the past. It has already happened.

      1. Yeah, broadcast TV. That’s a completely different story. Film on disc and/or digital media shouldn’t be touched.

    2. The movie Patton, where General Patton cursed frequently, was edited to say things “Gosh Darn” and “Son oc a gun” to the point of hilarity.

      1. Yep, they have been censoring films for television broadcast for years, but the knuckleheads who write for this site think this is a new phenomenon. Same with the commenters.

  9. Anyone who changes a frame of french connection should, and will burn in hell . It is a perfect film.

    1. I refuse to see French Connection. The movie is too woke. Gene Hackman is a liberal. It takes place in New York which is a liberal city. It is and has always had an agenda driven message.

  10. Hmmm. I remember seeing the French Connection on network TV years ago. It was censored then. In fact most movies were edited for television back then. I don’t recall anyone crying woke back then. And yes the term existed then. This doesn’t seem to be as big a deal as some people are making this out to be.

    1. Hmmm. Network censorship involved (and involves) removing from a motion picture any objectionable four-letter words, racial epithets, graphic violence, and sexual activity, etc., in order to make the picture more appropriate for exhibition over PUBLIC airwaves.

      Such censorship cannot be considered “woke” as it does not concern itself solely with the protection (and fetishization) of historically oppressed racial & sexual minority groups.

      But that wasn’t the case here.

      This was a case of a motion picture that was NOT being broadcast over public airwaves or as an in-flight movie being bowdlerized in ONE specific area: The utterance of the N-bomb by what is supposed to be a sympathetic white character.

      Keep in mind, the film remained untouched for decades. It was available in its original unedited format on pay-cable, on VHS, on Beta, on laserdisc, on DVD, on Blu Ray, etc — but suddenly, in just the last couple of years, one particular word was mysteriously deleted from its dialogue: the n-word.

      And you’re telling me this wasn’t done for “Woke” reasons?

      Do you honestly believe that?

      1. DB, I think you are letting something bother you that when you think about is not really a big deal. If you hadn’t read this article you never would have even known the n word was cut from this film.

      2. DB, the owner of the film has the right to do whatever it wants to with it. It has been cut up for television for years. Who cares? It’s not a big deal to lose one word from one movie. The world will go on.

    2. If they’re censoring every original print, then it is definitely a big deal. They would literally be scrubbing history? Should they close down the holocaust museum because it depicts deplorable racism? Of course not. I’m appalled by this… and I’m black!

      1. I can’t figure out why conservatives think this is a new phenomenon? Are the writers of this site too young to know the history of movies being censored for television?

      2. It’s not being censored just for t.v. New DVD releases and paid cable t.v. releases are also being censored.

      3. For tv yes, but this is PERMANENT cutting up of classic films. There are actually few films that will escape this fate if we endorse and allow it. Already Gone with the Wind is being considered being removed from films we are allowed to watch.

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