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O'Connor, T.P. (1848-1929)


Main image of O'Connor, T.P. (1848-1929)

T P O'Connor was the President of the British Board of Film Censors from 1916 to 1929, being appointed by the Cinematograph Trade Council following the death of George Redford.

A much higher profile figure than his predecessor, O'Connor had a long and distinguished career as a Liberal MP, entering the House of Commons in 1885. He was made Father of the House between 1918 and 1929 (a distinction conferred on its longest-serving member), and a Privy Councillor in 1924 - this latter appointment giving him direct access to senior Government figures and documents. He also brought considerable PR expertise to the Board, having also had extensive experience as a journalist and editor.

O'Connor played a significantly more active role at the BBFC than had Redford, and his surviving speeches show that he had given the issue of film censorship some considerable thought. In an undated speech believed to have been given in 1923, he claimed that he was as concerned with freedom of expression as he was concerned with issues of taste, decency and morality, and that:

So long as decorum is maintained, so long as the subject is not one that should be reserved for the study hall or the dissecting room or a special theatre, I deem it my duty to fight for the liberty of this new form of artistic expression.

Unsurprisingly, given his long experience in the art of political compromise, O'Connor's apparently open-minded attitude was not necessarily applied in practice, and he had particular difficulty with films deemed to be propaganda - either political (such as the revolutionary Soviet masterpieces of the 1920s) or social (films dealing with controversial moral and social issues), many distinguished examples of which were cut or banned.

T P O'Connor died in 1929, and was replaced by Edward Shortt.

Michael Brooke

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The organisation primarily responsible for film and video censorship in the UK

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