Censor guarantees film festival sellout

The Ontario film censors made In Praise of Older Women the talk of the town in 1978.

In Praise of Older Women was cut by 36 seconds -- but opening night audience saw it all

The Ontario film censors made In Praise of Older Women the talk of the town in 1978. 1:52

Forty years ago, Toronto's Festival of Festivals — now known as the Toronto International Film Festival — became a victim of its own success.

Karen Black (right), star of In Praise of Older Women, turns up for the film's premiere at the 1978 festival. (CBC Archives/Saturday Report)

And it had the Ontario film censor to thank for it.

For the 1978 edition of the festival, the opening night film was In Praise of Older Women, and the censor demanded that 36 seconds be scissored out.

That practically guaranteed a full house for the fledgling festival, then in its third year. 

Projectionist Tommy Sharp recounted a visit from the censor, who, he said, was determined to "make sure there's no hanky-panky switcheroo" between the cut and uncut versions.

'Lukewarm reviews'

Then as now, photographers swarmed the opening night film gala at the 1978 Festival of Festivals in Toronto. (CBC Archives/Saturday Report)

But according to Brian D. Johnson's book Brave Films, Wild Nights, organizers did find a way to switch prints and show the uncensored version at the first, sold-out screening. However, for the overflow second screening at The New Yorker cinema, the censored version ran.

It was all irresistible for the press, who turned up in force to cover the screening, the censorship and "all the beautiful people and the people who like to be with beautiful people."

Cheers became boos and 450 latecomers were shunted off to another theatre for a screening an hour later.

After all that, said reporter Dan Bjarnason, In Praise of Older Women got "lukewarm reviews."