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Profanity and more to be found in uncensored 'From Here to Eternity' e-book


When James Jones published "From Here to Eternity" in 1951, his editors had pulled back some of the frank language and description in his original draft. The resulting novel, which chronicled the drinking, brawling and illicit affairs of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before Pearl Harbor -- was a titillating, critically acclaimed bestseller. The 1953 movie, which starred Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, got a similar reception, winning eight Oscars, including best picture.

Now, a new e-book edition of the novel will include the profanity and mentions of gay sex that were left out of the 1951 version. The uncensored "From Here to Eternity" is being published by Open Road Media and Jones' heirs, including daughter Kaylie Jones.

"It's been on my mind for quite a few years, and the right moment just hadn't come up yet," Kaylie Jones told the New York Times. “My father fought bitterly to hold on to every four-letter word in the manuscript. The publisher was concerned about getting through the censors."

In addition to the four-letter words, scenes that explicitly mention gay sex have been restored to the text. In one, Private Maggio (the character played in the film by Sinatra) mentions having oral sex with a man for money -- the kind of detail that must have been very difficult for an author to let go.

Though many books from the 1950s have gone out of print, "From Here to Eternity" has escaped that fate. The publication of an uncensored version as an e-book shows one of the ways that e-books can add to the cultural conversation -- a new print edition with these small yet telling bits restored might never have happened. Open Road will release nine other books by James Jones, including "The Ice Cream Headache," a collection of short stories, and the never-published book, "To the End of the War."

Jones' daughter Kaylie is herself an author, most recently of the memoir "Lies My Mother Never Told Me."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the film version of "From Here to Eternity." Credit: Columbia Pictures / Associated Press Photos

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The prudes are massing to attack ... just as they have with Huckleberry Finn.


Gosh, in the 1950s, all this bad stuff--sex-on-the-sand, male-to-male smooching, four-letter words--might have seemed novel in a novel. But today that kind of stuff seems quaint and boring. I'll pass.

Wow, imagine if Sinatra had to act the gay sex for money part!

I wish this was going to be reprinted as a regular book and not the e-book variety, because I'd love to read the full uncut version. Oh well, maybe someday...

Like Mark Twain, James Jones gave us an All American, reality based masterpiece. I used to regularly watch the movie with a friend, who compared me with Pruitt, a talented misfit, and who predicted I would meet a similar, untimely end due to my "bad attitude." It was he who did so, due to a knifing (as well as his own attitude and some bad luck, no doubt), but I take pride in his characterization of me--I'll take "the treatment" rather than sell out against myself and those important to me. I wouldn't have it any other way--"Eternity" is an inspiring work of art.

I finally read the whole, long, slow novel a year or so ago and it's one of the best I've read. I found the gay references (that Jones insisted be left in) intriging, accurate and compassionate. I know of where I speak on this point. This is not the usual pre-Stonewall, fearful, ignorant nonsense--Jones knew what he was writing about, when he was writing about it. Later I heard of the publisher's excisions and now look foward to reading the (finally) unabridged version, as fully intended by its author.

Erwin..it wasnt the prudes that managed to publish a censored Huck Finn.

I can remember when the movie first came out. That scene shown above was considered so sexual that Catholics were forbidden to see the movie. Now people look at it and it probably would only make PG13 because of the smoking and violence. How times have changed! But change is both good and bad. In 1953 the south was still segregated and even in the north, polite society referred to black people as "Negroes," and even though it wasn't officially segregated, segregation was practiced. My father had a derogatory term for every group imaginable and some groups he had several derogatory terms for, and the interesting part of it from this point in time, is that he didn't see anything wrong with it. Everyone he knew used the same derogatory terms, including some for white northern Europeans. If you were a foreigner or a minority, there was a derogatory term for you.

Oh good . . . more sex, filth and smut.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the very homophobic Sinatra (who had become friends with Monty Clift during the making of the movie but reportedly dropped him when he saw Clift hitting on another man at a party) had been behind the censoring of the passage from the book in the first place. That's how powerful Sinatra was in later years.

The famous scene on the beach, shown in this article, was filmed not in Hawaii, but just up the coast from Los Angeles, at Leo Carrillo State Park.

This is news? In James Jones' published version of "From Here to Eternity", Private Angelo Maggio was a 20-year-old malcontent and misfit, and it was very strongly intimated by the author that Maggio spent a good portion of his off-duty hours as a male hustler who hooked up with the queens of Waikiki. In fact, he introduced his buddy Robert E. Lee Pruitt to his gay friends, telling him that it was an easy way to earn some quick bucks.

Small wonder they toned that down for the film, given that Frank Sinatra was pushing 40 when he played Maggio onscreen (which is a wee bit old for a male hustler). And if preview audiences back then had a hard time with George "Superman" Reeves playing one of Sgt. Milt Warden's noncom contemporaries, one can only imagine what they would've thought of Sinatra playing Waikiki rent-boy.

Regarding the censored gay references in From Here to Eternity... I used to know a guy who was a World War II vet -- long deceased, of natural causes.

He used to talk about how many soldiers processed out of the US to the war fronts, boarding troop ships for the overseas voyage. Two of the most important ports of embarkation were New York and San Francisco. Then when the war was over, a lot of troops came back and again passed through NY and SF.

Thing is, the soldiers and sailors included a share of gay guys, many from cities and towns in the heartland of the US. A lot of these guys figured out that they were better off staying in NY or SF... so instead of going home, they put down roots, got jobs, went to school on the GI Bill, etc.

This demographic movement and sociological phenomenon had much to do with the rise of gay communities in NY and SF.

Of course, wherever they were, a lot of gay people still stayed in the closet for many years. That closet door didn't really start cracking open until the 1970s, 1980s... the rest is history.

The point is that there were many gay guys who served in the US armed forces during WWII. I don't doubt that a lot of them were killed or wounded, heroically and tragically, fighting the country's battles.

The restored references to gay activities in the original Here to Eternity book is likely a reflection of what it was really like back then... not some "cleaned up" portrayal.

“My father fought bitterly to hold on to every four-letter word in the manuscript." gee, what an aspiration!

"The publication of an uncensored version as an e-book shows one of the ways that e-books can add to the cultural conversation -- a new print edition with these small yet telling bits restored might never have happened." Books are reprinted all the time. Why couldn't a new uncensored print edition happen?

I think some may have missed the point of the article. Many of these controversial details were censored in the original drafts of the first edition of the novel, which was subsequently made into the movie. Sinatra wouldn't have been asked to film scenes that were never in the book to begin with. It is only now, with the release of the novel as an e-book, that these details are re-entering the manuscript.

You've got it precisely wrong "Ironman Charmichael." Frank Sinatra, as everyone knows, was desperate to play this part. He was far from Harry Cohen's first choice for it. Ava Gardner herself intervened to allow Sinatra to audition. he got the part. And he became friends with Monty Clift as he asked the great actor for advice on doing the role and Clift freely offered it. Sinatra was a great many things and a very complicated man, but he was not homophobic. In fact one of his best late roles is "The Detective" where he plays a police investigator assigned to find the killer of an upper-crust gay man. It plays on the FOX cable channel quite frequently and is well worth seeing, particularly for Sinatra's very sensitive portrayal.

I'm guessing that 2% of the people in this country will want to (re) purchased this book.

Good. Another reason to avoid this book besides the overrated and boring movie.


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