Censor Joseph Breen took issue with Ellen Berent, the lead character in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), terminating her pregnancy by dramatically throwing herself down a flight of stairs, even though the Production Code would not explicitly forbid on-screen abortions until 1951. Yet the abortion ultimately made it into the final print because, by Breen’s logic, an abortion is unrecognizable as such so long as it is not named. However, archival research suggests that Breen was wrong on both counts. Considering a wide array of archival records—Production Code Administration files and correspondence, early script drafts, audience preview screening responses, reviews, and more—this article argues that the discrepancies between Leave Her to Heaven’s censorship history and its reception illustrate popular morality eclipsing prescribed morality. The film was both a catalyst of the 1951 Code amendment banning abortion and an early harbinger of the dissolution of the PCA’s stranglehold over abortion as taboo.

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