The Way of a Transgressor

Source: Negley Farson, The Way of a Transgressor (London: Victor Gollancz, 1935), pp. 328, 567

Text: We saw Marseilles at its very best as a colourful sink of iniquity. Cox’s were a bit obtuse in Marseilles (they hadn’t got on to the curves of the Temporary Gentleman yet), and they allowed every officer to draw £5 a day as long as he was in a Transition camp. As a result we saw a glittering riot of life as it is lived over by the harbour where the Mediterranean shipping ties up alongside the sidewalks, and we were broke in Egypt for months afterwards.

We saw Marie’s, the most famous brothel in the world, with its staggeringly obscene movie. In those days the star film was a French comedian, à la Charlie Chaplin, seducing a dairymaid in the barnyard. When I saw it again in 1930, on my way back from India, the style had changed. It was now strictly Lesbian and homosexual.

Jack and I both admitted that anything more calculated to take all the enthusiasm out of a man, than watching that movie in cold blood, could hardly have been devised.


Eisenstein dined with us several times in our rooms in the Grand Hotel, telling us about his new picture, The General Line. The night we went to its uncensored version for a private showing, I took the daughter of one of the ambassadors with me. She was a girl with a rare sense of humour; but when we saw ourselves watching Eisenstein’s unblushing reproduction of the love story of a bull — from where he first saw an attractive cow, all the way to baby bull — we did not know where to look. It was as hot as some of the movies I had seen down in Marie’s brothel in Marseilles.

But, my God, what a film!

Comments: James Negley Farson (1890-1960) was an American journalist, author and traveller, known in particular for his reporting of the Russian Revolution. The two sections quoted here from his memoirs date from 1918 and 1929, the former while he was serving with the American Air Force, the latter taking place in Moscow. Pornographic films were exhibited in brothels from the earliest years of cinema.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

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