Gene Hackman’s Classic Crime Movie Gets Censored By Criterion

A short scene has been cut out of the Criterion Collection version of The French Connection because of the inclusion of ethnic slurs.

By Douglas Helm | Updated

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A censored version of Gene Hackman’s classic 1971 The French Connection is currently in the Criterion Collection, as reported by Word of Reel. The censored scene in question, which doesn’t appear in the version whatsoever, contains two ethnic slurs in dialogue spoken by Hackman’s Popeye Doyle character. In the scene, Doyle says “You dumb guinea,” and “Never trust a [slur].”

Although the cut scene is minor, it is an interesting choice to censor it considering the context it gives Gene Hackman‘s character. Hackman plays an NYPD detective in The French Connection, and Doyle is frankly an unsavory person, so it’s not surprising that a cop from the 1970s would be racist. Taking the scene out probably makes Doyle seem like more of a good guy than he actually is.

There are definitely plenty of films that use racial slurs haphazardly, but in this case, it definitely seems like Gene Hackman’s character should be recognized as a bigot since his character is more of an anti-hero at best. Of course, this version of The French Connection could just be the one that The Criterion Collection has the rights to stream, so it may not necessarily be an intentional choice. Regardless, it is a pretty small thing and your experience watching the movie won’t likely change that much missing out on it, you might just miss out on a small bit of context for Doyle’s character.

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Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971)

If you’ve never seen the film, Gene Hackman stars as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle along with Roy Scheider as his partner Buddy Russo. The two NYPD detectives in the Narcotics Bureau uncover a heroine smuggling ring and must chase down a French smuggler. Along with Hackman and Scheider, The French Connection stars Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi, Bill Hickman, Frederic de Pasquale, Ann Rebbot, Harold Gary, Arlene Farber, Eddie Egan, Andre Ernotte, Sonny Grosso, Randy Jurgenson, and Alan Weeks.

Gene Hackman earned a Best Actor Oscar for his work in The French Connection and the film earned four additional Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Scheider, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Mixing. William Friedkin directed the film with a screenplay adapted by  Ernest Tidyman based on Robin Moore’s 1969 book of the same name.

Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider would also reprise their roles in the sequel The French Connection II, which was also well-received, though the original is widely considered one of the best films of all time. The film was also added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005 for cultural preservation. Along with all of these accolades, the film also notably features one of the best car chases in cinema history.

Of course, it is also considered one of Gene Hackman’s finest performances, which is high praise considering his illustrious career. As mentioned, the censored version of The French Connection isn’t significantly censored, so it’s still well worth the watch if you have access to The Criterion Collection. The sequel is also worth the watch if you’re willing to cough up the cash to rent it.