John Trevelyan (censor)

John Trevelyan, CBE (11 July 1903 – 15 August 1986) was Secretary of the Board of the British Board of Film Censors from 1958 to 1971.

Trevelyan was born in Beckenham, Kent, England, the son of a parson,[1] and had been involved in educational administration. In 1951 he joined the British Board of Film Censors as an examiner, and in 1958 became Secretary.

He brought a more liberal approach to the role of Chief Censor than his predecessors, claiming: "We are paid to have dirty minds". His Times obituary said that he "never shrank from using his scissors, especially when it came to protecting the young." He passed the 1969 Ken Russell film Women in Love (adapted from the D. H. Lawrence novel) with minor cuts, and received a complaint about the nude wrestling scene between the two male stars which claimed that the actors were "displaying their genials" (sic).

However, his approach was harshly criticised by some. According to film director Roy Ward Baker:

"Trevelyan had that schoolmasterly habit of pigeon-holing people. If you were in the box marked 'art cinema' you could tackle anything, however controversial: sex, violence, politics, religion — anything. If you were in 'commercial cinema' you faced obstruction and nit-picking all the way. He chose these categories and allocated everyone according to his estimation of them. He was a sinister mean hypocrite, treating his favorites with nauseating unctuousness."

Trevelyan wrote a book on his experiences entitled What the Censor Saw, which was published in 1973.

Trevelyan was a critic of the early Bond films; when GoldenEye was released in 1995, the villain of the film was named Alec Trevelyan, allegedly in reference to John Trevelyan.

In an episode of the British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus, an animated sketch shows a hand removing a fig leaf from a representation of Michelangelo's David, only to reveal the cartoon face of Trevelyan, who informs the viewer: "We're not about to allow this sort of smut to be shown on screen."

Trevelyan was married four times. He was appointed a CBE in 1971.

Trevelyan died in Croydon, Greater London, aged 83.[2]


  • Obituary Mr John Trevelyan, Film Censor with the diplomatic touch in The Times, London of 18 August 1986 page 12.


  • Roy Ward Baker (2000) The Director's Cut. London: Reynolds and Hearn.

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