Motion Picture Production Code

The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It is also popularly known as the Hays Code, after Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945. Under Hays' leadership, the MPPDA, later known as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the Production Code in 1930, and began rigidly enforcing it in mid-1934. The Production Code spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States.

From 1934 to 1954, the code was closely identified with Joseph Breen, the administrator appointed by Hays to enforce the code in Hollywood. The film industry followed the guidelines set by the code well into the late 1950s, but during this time, the code began to weaken due to the combined impact of television, influence from foreign films, controversial directors (such as Otto Preminger) pushing boundaries, and intervention from the courts, including the Supreme Court.[1][2] In 1968, after several years of minimal enforcement, the Production Code was replaced by the MPAA film rating system.

Motion Picture Production Code
1934 Motion Picture Production Code cover


In 1922, after several risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, the studios enlisted Presbyterian elder Will H. Hays to rehabilitate Hollywood's image. Hollywood in the 1920s was badgered by a number of widespread scandals, such as the murder of William Desmond Taylor and alleged rape of Virginia Rappe by popular movie star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, which brought widespread condemnation from religious, civic, and political organizations. Many felt the movie industry had always been morally questionable.[3] Political pressure was increasing, with legislators in 37 states introducing almost one hundred movie censorship bills in 1921. Faced with the prospect of having to comply with hundreds, and potentially thousands, of inconsistent and easily changed decency laws in order to show their movies, the studios chose self-regulation as the preferable option. Hays was paid the then-lavish sum of $100,000 a year (equal to $1,496,819 today).[4][5][6] Hays, Postmaster General under Warren G. Harding and former head of the Republican National Committee,[7] served for 25 years as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), where he "defended the industry from attacks, recited soothing nostrums, and negotiated treaties to cease hostilities".[4]

The move mimicked the decision Major League Baseball had made in hiring judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as League Commissioner the previous year to quell questions about the integrity of baseball in the wake of the 1919 World Series gambling scandal; The New York Times even called Hays the "screen Landis".[8] In 1924, Hays introduced a set of recommendations dubbed "The Formula", which the studios were advised to heed, and asked filmmakers to describe to his office the plots of pictures they were planning on making.[9] The Supreme Court had already decided unanimously in 1915 in Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio that free speech did not extend to motion pictures,[10] and while there had been token attempts to clean up the movies before—such as when the studios formed the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry (NAMPI) in 1916—little had come of the efforts.[11]

New York became the first state to take advantage of the Supreme Court's decision by instituting a censorship board in 1921. Virginia followed suit the following year,[12] with eight individual states having a board by the advent of sound film,[13][14] but many of these were ineffectual. By the 1920s, the New York stage—a frequent source of subsequent screen material—had topless shows, performances filled with curse words, mature subject matters, and sexually suggestive dialogue.[15] Early in the sound system conversion process, it became apparent that what might be acceptable in New York would not be so in Kansas.[15] Moviemakers were looking at the possibility that many states and cities would adopt their own codes of censorship, requiring a multiplicity of versions of movies made for national distribution. Self-censorship seemed a preferable outcome.

In 1927, Hays suggested to studio executives that they form a committee to discuss film censorship. Irving G. Thalberg of Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Sol Wurtzel of Fox, and E. H. Allen of Paramount responded by collaborating on a list they called the "Don'ts and Be Carefuls", which was based on items that were challenged by local censor boards. This list consisted of eleven subjects best avoided and twenty-six to be handled very carefully. The list was approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Hays created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to oversee its implementation;[16][17] however, there was still no way to enforce tenets.[8] The controversy surrounding film standards came to a head in 1929.[18][19]

Pre-code: "Don'ts" and "Be Carefuls", as proposed in 1927

The Code enumerated a number of key points known as the "Don'ts" and "Be Carefuls":[20]

Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:

  1. Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words "God", "Lord", "Jesus", "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell", "damn", "Gawd", and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
  2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity – in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
  3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
  4. Any inference of sex perversion;
  5. White slavery;
  6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
  7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
  8. Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
  9. Children's sex organs;
  10. Ridicule of the clergy;
  11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:

  1. The use of the flag;
  2. International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
  3. Arson;
  4. The use of firearms;
  5. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
  6. Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
  7. Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
  8. Methods of smuggling;
  9. Third-degree methods;
  10. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
  11. Sympathy for criminals;
  12. Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
  13. Sedition;
  14. Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
  15. Branding of people or animals;
  16. The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
  17. Rape or attempted rape;
  18. First-night scenes;
  19. Man and woman in bed together;
  20. Deliberate seduction of girls;
  21. The institution of marriage;
  22. Surgical operations;
  23. The use of drugs;
  24. Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
  25. Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy".

Creation of the Code and its contents

In 1929, a Catholic layman, Martin Quigley (editor of the prominent trade paper Motion Picture Herald) and the Jesuit priest Father Daniel A. Lord created a code of standards[21] and submitted it to the studios.[4][22] Lord was particularly concerned with the effects of sound film on children, whom he considered especially susceptible to their allure.[21]

In February 1930, several studio heads—including Irving Thalberg of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)—met with Lord and Quigley. After some revisions, they agreed to the stipulations of the Code. One of the main motivating factors in adopting the Code was to avoid direct government intervention.[23] It was the responsibility of the SRC (headed by Colonel Jason S. Joy, a former American Red Cross Executive Secretary[16][24]) to supervise film production and advise the studios when changes or cuts were required.[25][26] On March 31, the MPPDA agreed it would abide by the Code.[27]The production code was intended to put a limitation on films which were distributed to a large audience, making it more difficult to appeal to all individuals in the audiences.[28]

The code was divided into two parts. The first was a set of "general principles" which prohibited a picture from "lowering the moral standards of those who see it", so as not to wrongly influence a specific audience of views including, women, children, lower-class, and those of “susceptible” minds, called for depictions of the "correct standards of life", and lastly forbade a picture to show any sort of ridicule towards a law or "creating sympathy for its violation".[29] The second part was a set of "particular applications", which was an exacting list of items that could not be depicted. Some restrictions, such as the ban on homosexuality or on the use of specific curse words, were never directly mentioned, but were assumed to be understood without clear demarcation. Homosexuals being included under the forbiddance of sex perversion.[30] Depiction of miscegenation (i. e., marital or sexual relations between different races) was forbidden. It also stated that the notion of an "adults-only policy" would be a dubious, ineffective strategy that would be difficult to enforce;[31] however, it did allow that "maturer minds may easily understand and accept without harm subject matter in plots which does younger people positive harm".[32] If children were supervised and the events implied elliptically, the code allowed "the possibility of a cinematically inspired thought crime".[32]

The code sought not only to determine what could be portrayed on screen, but also to promote traditional values.[33] Sexual relations outside marriage—which were forbidden to be portrayed as attractive or beautiful—were to be presented in a way that would not arouse passion or make them seem permissible.[34] Any act considered sex perversion, including any suggestion of same sex relationships, sex, or romance.[30] All criminal action had to be punished, and neither the crime nor the criminal could elicit sympathy from the audience,[8] or the audience must at least be aware that such behavior is wrong, usually through "compensating moral value".[29][35] Authority figures had to be treated with respect, and the clergy could not be portrayed as comic characters or villains. Under some circumstances, politicians, police officers, and judges could be villains, as long as it was clear that those individuals portrayed as villains were the exceptions to the rule.[36]

The entire document was written with Catholic undertones, and stated that art must be handled carefully because it could be "morally evil in its effects", and because its "deep moral significance" was unquestionable.[31] It was initially decided to keep the Catholic influence on the Code secret.[37] A recurring theme was "that throughout, the audience feels sure that evil is wrong, and good is right".[8] The Code also contained an addendum commonly referred to as the Advertising Code, which regulated advertising copy and imagery.[38]


Pre-Code Hollywood

The Kiss (1896), starring May Irwin, from the Edison Studios, drew general outrage from moviegoers, civic leaders, and religious leaders, as shocking, obscene, and immoral.
Great train robbery still
A famous shot from the 1903 film, The Great Train Robbery. Scenes where criminals aimed guns at the camera were considered inappropriate by the New York state censor board in the 1920s, and usually removed.[39]

On February 19, 1930, Variety published the entire content of the Code and predicted that state film censorship boards would soon become obsolete;[40] however, the men obliged to enforce the code—Jason Joy (head of the Committee until 1932) and his successor, Dr. James Wingate—were generally unenthusiastic and/or ineffective.[26][41] The first film the office reviewed, The Blue Angel, which was passed by Joy with no revisions, was considered indecent by a California censor.[41] Although there were several instances where Joy negotiated cuts from films and there were definite—albeit loose—constraints, a significant amount of lurid material made it to the screen.[42] Joy had to review 500 films a year with a small staff and little power.[41] He was more willing to work with the studios, and his creative writing skills led to his hiring at Fox. On the other hand, Wingate struggled to keep up with the flood of scripts coming in, to the point where Warner Bros.' head of production Darryl Zanuck wrote him a letter imploring him to pick up the pace.[43] In 1930, the Hays office did not have the authority to order studios to remove material from a film, and instead worked by reasoning and sometimes pleading with them.[44] Complicating matters, the appeals process ultimately put the responsibility for making the final decision in the hands of the studios.[26]

Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff)
Doctor Frankenstein's creation; actor Boris Karloff, the 1931 film, Frankenstein, in the famous monster make-up. By the time the film's sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, arrived in 1935, enforcement of the Code was in full effect, and the doctor's overt God complex was forbidden.[45] In the first picture, however, when the creature was born, his mad scientist creator was free to proclaim "Now I know what it feels like to be God!"[46]

One factor in ignoring the code was the fact that some found such censorship prudish, due to the libertine social attitudes of the 1920s and early 1930s. This was a period in which the Victorian era was sometimes ridiculed as being naïve and backward.[47] When the Code was announced, the liberal periodical The Nation attacked it.[40] The publication stated that if crime were never to be presented in a sympathetic light, then taken literally that would mean that "law" and "justice" would become one and the same. Therefore, events such as the Boston Tea Party could not be portrayed. If clergy must always be presented in a positive way, then hypocrisy could not be dealt with either.[40] The Outlook agreed, and, unlike Variety, The Outlook predicted from the beginning that the Code would be difficult to enforce.[40] The Great Depression of the 1930s led many studios to seek income by any way possible. Since films containing racy and violent content resulted in high ticket sales, it seemed reasonable to continue producing such films.[48] Soon, the flouting of the code became an open secret. In 1931, The Hollywood Reporter mocked the code and quoted an anonymous screenwriter saying that "the Hays moral code is not even a joke any more; it's just a memory"; two years later Variety followed suit.[26]

Breen era

On June 13, 1934, an amendment to the Code was adopted which established the Production Code Administration (PCA) and required all films released on or after July 1, 1934, to obtain a certificate of approval before being released. The PCA had two offices - one in Hollywood, and the other in New York City. The first film to receive an MPPDA seal of approval was The World Moves On (1934). For more than thirty years, virtually all motion pictures produced in the United States adhered to the code.[49] The Production Code was not created or enforced by federal, state, or city government; the Hollywood studios adopted the code in large part in the hopes of avoiding government censorship, preferring self-regulation to government regulation. The enforcement of the Production Code led to the dissolution of many local censorship boards.

Father Daniel A. Lord, a Jesuit, wrote: "Silent smut had been bad. Vocal smut cried to the censors for vengeance." Thomas Doherty, Professor of American studies at Brandeis University, has defined the code as "... no mere list of Thou-Shalt-Nots, but a homily that sought to yoke Catholic doctrine to Hollywood formula. The guilty are punished, the virtuous rewarded, the authority of church and state is legitimate, and the bonds of matrimony are sacred."[49] What resulted has been described as "a Jewish owned business selling Catholic theology to Protestant America".[50]

In 1934, Joseph I. Breen — a prominent Catholic layman who had worked in public relations — was appointed head of the new Production Code Administration (PCA). Under Breen's leadership of the PCA, which lasted until his retirement in 1954, enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious. (Even cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife's skirt.) Breen's power to change scripts and scenes angered many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls. Breen influenced the production of Casablanca, objecting to any explicit reference to Rick and Ilsa having slept together in Paris and to the film mentioning that Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants; however, both remained strongly implied in the finished version.[51] Adherence to the Code also ruled out any possibility of the film ending with Rick and Ilsa consummating their adulterous love, making inevitable the ending with Rick's noble renunciation, one of Casablanca's most famous scenes.[52]

The first major instance of censorship under the Production Code involved the 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate, in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for actress Maureen O'Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film.[53] Another famous case of enforcement involved the 1943 western The Outlaw, produced by Howard Hughes. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years, because the film's advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell's breasts. Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code, and the film could be shown.[54]

The PCA also engaged in political censorship. When Warner Bros. wanted to make a film about concentration camps in Nazi Germany, the production office forbade it—citing the above-mentioned prohibition on depicting "in an unfavorable light" another country's "institutions [and] prominent people"—with threats to take the matter to the federal government if the studio went ahead.[55] This policy prevented a number of anti-Nazi films being produced. In 1938, the FBI unearthed and prosecuted a Nazi spy ring, subsequently allowing Warner to produce Confessions of a Nazi Spy,[56] with the Three Stooges' short subject You Nazty Spy! (January 1940) being the first Hollywood film of any sort to openly spoof the Third Reich's leadership.[57]

Some films produced outside the mainstream studio system flouted the code. One example is Child Bride (1938), which featured a nude scene involving a twelve-year-old child actress (Shirley Mills). The Code began to weaken in the late 1940s, when the formerly taboo subjects of rape and miscegenation were allowed in Johnny Belinda (1948) and Pinky (1949), respectively. In 1951, the MPAA revised the code to make it more rigid; the 1951 revisions spelled out more words and subjects that were prohibited. In 1954, Breen retired, largely due to ill health, and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the Code.

Some of Hollywood’s creative class managed to find positives in the Code’s limitations. In the Film Noir episode of the 1995 PBS documentary series American Cinema, director Edward Dmytryk said the Code “had a very good effect because it made us think. If we wanted to get something across that was censorable… we had to do it deviously. We had to be clever. And it usually turned out to be much better than if we had done it straight.”[58]

Decline of the Production Code

Hollywood continued to work within the confines of the Production Code throughout the 1950s, but during this time, the movie industry was faced with very serious competitive threats. The first threat came from a new technology, television, which did not require Americans to leave their house to watch moving pictures. Hollywood needed to offer the public something it could not get on television, which itself was under an even more restrictive censorship code. In addition to the threat of television, there was also increasing competition from foreign films, such as Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), the Swedish film One Summer of Happiness (1951), and Ingmar Bergman's Summer with Monika (1953). Vertical integration in the movie industry had been found to violate anti-trust laws, and studios had been forced to give up ownership of theaters by the Supreme Court in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948). The studios had no way to keep foreign films out, and foreign films were not bound by the Production Code. Some British films — Victim (1961), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Leather Boys (1963) — challenged traditional gender roles, and openly confronted the prejudices against homosexuals, all in clear violation of the Hollywood Production Code. In keeping with the changes in society, sexual content that would have previously been banned by the Code was being retained.

In 1952, in the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio) and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York State Board of Regents could not ban The Miracle, a short film that was one half of L'Amore (1948), an anthology film directed by Roberto Rossellini. Film distributor Joseph Burstyn released the film in the U.S. in 1950, and the case became known as the "Miracle Decision" due to its connection to Rossellini's film. That reduced the threat of government regulation, which had formerly been cited as justification for the Production Code, and the PCA's powers over the Hollywood industry were greatly reduced.[2] By the 1950s, American culture also began to change. A boycott by the National Legion of Decency no longer guaranteed a film's commercial failure, and several aspects of the code had slowly lost their taboo. In 1956, areas of the code were re-written to accept subjects such as miscegenation, adultery, and prostitution. For example, the re-make of a pre-Code film dealing with prostitution, Anna Christie, was cancelled by MGM twice, in 1940 and in 1946, as the character of Anna was not allowed to be portrayed as a prostitute. By 1962, such subject matter was acceptable, and the original film was given a seal of approval.[59]

Some directors found ways to get around the Code guidelines; an example of this was in Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film, Notorious, where he worked around the rule of three-second-kissing only by having the two actors break off every three seconds. The whole sequence lasts two and a half minutes.[1]

By the late 1950s, increasingly explicit films began to appear, such as Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1961). The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, although not until certain cuts were made. Due to its themes, Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) was not granted a certificate of approval, but it still became a box office smash, and, as a result, it further weakened the authority of the Code.[60]

At the forefront of contesting the Code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the Code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film The Moon Is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was released without a certificate of approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder (1959), which dealt with murder and rape. Like Some Like It Hot, Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code, and their success hastened its abandonment.[61] In the early 1960s, films began to deal with adult subjects and sexual matters that had not been seen in Hollywood films since the early 1930s. The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, although again not until certain cuts were made.[62]

In 1964, the Holocaust film The Pawnbroker, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rod Steiger, was initially rejected because of two scenes in which the actresses Linda Geiser and Thelma Oliver fully expose their breasts, as well as due to a sex scene between Oliver and Jaime Sánchez described as "unacceptably sex suggestive and lustful". Despite the rejection, the film's producers arranged for Allied Artists to release the film without the Production Code seal, with the New York censors licensing the film without the cuts demanded by Code administrators. The producers appealed the rejection to the Motion Picture Association of America. On a 6-3 vote, the MPAA granted the film an exception, conditional on "reduction in the length of the scenes which the Production Code Administration found unapprovable". The requested reductions of nudity were minimal; the outcome was viewed in the media as a victory for the film's producers.[63]

The Pawnbroker was the first film featuring bare breasts to receive Production Code approval. The exception to the code was granted as a "special and unique case" and was described by The New York Times at the time as "an unprecedented move that will not, however, set a precedent". In Pictures at a Revolution, a 2008 study of films during that era, Mark Harris wrote that the MPAA approval was "the first of a series of injuries to the Production Code that would prove fatal within three years".[64]

In 1966, Warner Bros. released Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the first film to feature the "Suggested for Mature Audiences" (SMA) label. When Jack Valenti became President of the MPAA in 1966, he was faced with censoring the film's explicit language. Valenti negotiated a compromise: the word "screw" was removed, but other language remained, including the phrase "hump the hostess". The film received Production Code approval despite the previously prohibited language.[29]

That same year, the British-produced, American-financed film Blowup was denied Production Code approval. MGM released it anyway, the first instance of an MPAA member company distributing a film that did not have an approval certificate. That same year, the original and lengthy code was replaced by a list of eleven points. The points outlined that the boundaries of the new code would be current community standards and good taste. Any film containing content deemed suitable for older audiences would feature the label SMA in its advertising. With the creation of this new label, the MPAA unofficially began classifying films.[29]

Production Code abandoned

By the late 1960s, enforcement had become impossible and the Production Code was abandoned entirely. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which film restrictions would lessen. The MPAA film rating system went into effect on November 1, 1968, with four ratings: G for general audiences, M for mature content, R for restricted (under 17 not admitted without an adult), and X for sexually explicit content. By the end of 1968, Geoffrey Shurlock stepped down from his post.[29][65]

In 1969, the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow), directed by Vilgot Sjöman, was initially banned in the U.S. for its frank depiction of sexuality; however, this was overturned by the Supreme Court. In 1970, because of confusion over the meaning of "mature audiences", the M rating was changed to GP, and then in 1972 to the current PG, for "parental guidance suggested". In 1984, in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG-13 rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R. In 1990, the X rating was replaced by NC-17 (under 17 not admitted), partly because of the stigma associated with the X rating, and partly because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA; pornographic bookstores and theaters were using their own X, XX, and XXX symbols to market products.[66]

Despite the name change from X to NC-17, this highest rating is very rarely issued due to its ongoing stigma. As the American Humane Association's Hollywood office depended on the Hays Office for the right to monitor sets, the closure of the Hays Office in 1966 corresponded with an increase in animal cruelty on movie sets. According to a writer for Turner Classic Movies, the association's access did not return to Hays-era standards until 1980.[67]

See also


  1. ^ a b McGilligan (2004), p. 376.
  2. ^ a b Sperling et al (1998), p. 325.
  3. ^ Encyc. of World Biog.: Suppl. (2001), "Will Hays" entry
  4. ^ a b c Doherty (1999), p. 6.
  5. ^ Gardner (2005), p. 92.
  6. ^ Leff & Simmons (2001), p. 3.
  7. ^ Siegel & Siegel (2004), p. 190.
  8. ^ a b c d Yagoda (1980), "Hollywood Cleans Up ..."
  9. ^ Prince (2003), p. 20.
  10. ^ Jowett (1989), p. 16.
  11. ^ Butters Jr. (2007), p. 149.
  12. ^ Butters Jr. (2007), p. 148.
  13. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 62.
  14. ^ Vieira (1999), pp. 7–8.
  15. ^ a b Butters Jr. (2007), p. 187.
  16. ^ a b Vieira (1999), p. 8.
  17. ^ Prince (2003), p. 31.
  18. ^ LaSalle (2002), p. 1.
  19. ^ Butters Jr. (2007), p. 189.
  20. ^ Lewis (2000), pp. 301–302
  21. ^ a b Smith (2005), p. 38.
  22. ^ Jacobs (1997), p. 108.
  23. ^ Prince (2003), p. 21.
  24. ^ Flinders Inst. profile.
  25. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 63.
  26. ^ a b c d Doherty (1999), p. 8.
  27. ^ Doherty (1999), p. 2.
  28. ^ Tratner, Michael (2003). "Working the Crowd: Movies and Mass Politics". Criticism. 45 (1): 53–73. doi:10.1353/crt.2003.0035. ISSN 1536-0342.
  29. ^ a b c d e Leff & Simmons (2001), pp. 270–271; 286–287.
  30. ^ a b Noriega, Chon (1990). ""Something's Missing Here!": Homosexuality and Film Reviews during the Production Code Era, 1934-1962". Cinema Journal. 30 (1): 20–41. doi:10.2307/1224848. ISSN 0009-7101. JSTOR 1224848.
  31. ^ a b Doherty (1999), p. 7.
  32. ^ a b Doherty (1999), p. 11.
  33. ^ Butters Jr. (2007), p. 188.
  34. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 65.
  35. ^ Black (1996), pp. 41–42.
  36. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 64.
  37. ^ Black (1996), p. 43.
  38. ^ Doherty (1999), p. 107.
  39. ^ Prince. pg. 24
  40. ^ a b c d Black (1996), pp. 44–45.
  41. ^ a b c Black (1996), pp. 50–51.
  42. ^ Jacobs (1997), p. 27.
  43. ^ Vieira (1999), p. 117.
  44. ^ Black (1996), p. 52.
  45. ^ Gardner (1988), pg. 66.
  46. ^ Teresi, Dick. "Are You Mad, Doctor?", The New York Times, September 13, 1988; accessed November 24, 2010.
  47. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 20.
  48. ^ LaSalle (2000), p. 77.
  49. ^ a b Doherty (2006), "The Code Before ...".
  50. ^ Scott (2004, 2010)
  51. ^ Univ. of Virginia (2000–01), "Censored"
  52. ^ Harmetz, pp. 162–166 and Behlmer, pp. 207–208, 212–13.
  53. ^ Vieira (1999), p. 188.
  54. ^ Mondello (2008), "Remembering ...",; accessed December 18, 2016.
  55. ^ The Brothers Warner (2007), written by Cass Warner
  56. ^ Holden (2008), p. 238.
  57. ^ Mushnik (2013), "Three Stooges ...",; accessed December 18, 2016.
  58. ^ "PBS American Cinema Film Noir". YouTube. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  59. ^ Schumach (1964), pp. 163–164.
  60. ^ Hirsch (2007)
  61. ^ Hirsch (2007)
  62. ^ Leff & Simmons (2001)
  63. ^ Leff (1996), pp. 353–76.
  64. ^ Harris (2008), pp. 173–76.
  65. ^ Doherty (2007), p. 334.
  66. ^ Fox, "X Film ...",, September 27, 1990; accessed May 28, 2017.
  67. ^ Arnold, "Jesse James" entry,; accessed May 28, 2017.


  • Arnold, Jeremy. "Jesse James". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  • Black, Gregory D. (1996). Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56592-8.
  • Butters Jr., Gerard R. (2007). Banned in Kansas: motion picture censorship, 1915–1966. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1749-4.
  • "Censored: Wielding the Red Pen". Exhibit at the University of Virginia Library, September 2000 – February 2001. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  • Doherty, Thomas Patrick (1999). Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema 1930–1934. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11094-4.
  • Doherty, Thomas (May 20, 2006). "The Code Before 'Da Vinci'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  • Doherty, Thomas Patrick (2007). Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-51284-8.
  • Flinders staff. "Col. Jason S. Joy profile". Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  • Fox, David J. (September 27, 1990). "X Film Rating Dropped and Replaced by NC-17". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  • Gardner, Eric (February 2005). "The Czar of Hollywood". Indianapolis Monthly, pp. 89–96. ISSN 0899-0328.
  • Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-59420-152-3.
  • Hirsch, Foster (2007). Otto Preminger, the man who would be king (1st ed.) New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307489210.
  • Holden, Henry M. (2008). FBI 100 Years. Zenith Press. ISBN 978-1-61060-718-6.
  • Jacobs, Lea (1997). The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928–1942. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-520-20790-4.
  • Jowett, Garth S. (1999) [1989]. "'A Capacity For Evil': The 1915 Supreme Court Mutual Decision". In Bernstein, Matthew. Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2707-4.
  • LaSalle, Mick (2000). Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25207-2.
  • LaSalle, Mick. "Pre-Code Hollywood", Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  • Leff, Leonard J. (1996). "Hollywood and the Holocaust: Remembering The Pawnbroker". American Jewish History, (84) 4: 353–376. Accessed March 9, 2009. doi:10.1353/ajh.1996.0045.
  • Leff, Leonard L. & Jerold L. Simmons (2001). The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Production Code. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-9011-2.
  • Lewis, Jon (2000), Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle Over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-5142-3.
  • McGilligan, Patrick (2004). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-098827-2.
  • Mondello, Bob (August 8, 2008). "Remembering Hollywood's Hays Code, 40 Years On". NPR. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  • Mushnik, Phil (July 14, 2013). "Three Stooges first to blast Hitler". New York Post. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  • Prince, Stephen (2003). Classical Film Violence: Designing and Regulating Brutality in Hollywood Cinema, 1930–1968. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3281-7.
  • Scott, Henry E. (2004, 2010). Shocking True Story, The Rise and Fall of "Confidential", America's Most Scandalous Magazine. Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42139-6.
  • Schumach, Murray (1964). The Face On The Cutting Room Floor: The Story Of Movie And Television Censorship. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 978-0-3068-0009-2.
  • Siegel, Scott & Barbara (2004). The Encyclopedia of Hollywood (2nd edition). Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4622-0.
  • Smith, Sarah (2005). Children, Cinema and Censorship: From Dracula to the Dead End Kids. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-2027-4.
  • Sperling, Cass Warner, Cork Millner, and Jack Warner (1998). Hollywood Be Thy Name. Prima Publishing. ISBN 1-55958-343-6.
  • Vieira, Mark A. (1999). Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-8228-5.
  • "Will Hays: America's Morality Czar". Encyclopedia of World Biography: 2001 Supplement. Gale Research, Inc., 2001. ISBN 978-0787652838.
  • Yagoda, Ben (February/March 1980). "Hollywood Cleans Up Its Act; The curious career of the Hays Office". American Heritage, 31(2): 12–21. Retrieved March 19, 2014.

Further reading

External links

Code of the Secret Service

Code of the Secret Service is a 1939 film directed by Noel M. Smith and starring Ronald Reagan. It is the second of four films in the U.S. Secret Service Agent Brass Bancroft series, having been preceded by Secret Service of the Air (1939) and followed by Smashing the Money Ring (1939) and Murder in the Air (1940).

The series was part of a late 1930s effort by Warner Bros. to produce films depicting law enforcement in a positive light under pressure from Homer Stille Cummings (Franklin D. Roosevelt's Attorney General) and Will H. Hays (creator of the Motion Picture Production Code, the movie industry's censorship guidelines), due to the studio's part in producing early 1930s films glamorizing gangsters.The series also enabled Warner Bros. to create Reagan's screen persona, with Reagan even showing up to the set of Code of the Secret Service and asking director Noel M. Smith, "When do I fight and whom?"

Convention City

Convention City is a 1933 American pre-Code sex comedy film directed by Archie Mayo, and starring Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Dick Powell, Mary Astor and Adolphe Menjou. The film was produced by Henry Blanke and First National Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros.Due to its racy content, Convention City was held from circulation after the Motion Picture Production Code was enacted in 1934. Prints were subsequently ordered to be destroyed by studio head Jack L. Warner. The film is now considered lost and has become one of the more coveted lost films because of its reported racy content.

Doctor X (film)

Doctor X is a 1932 American Pre-Code two-color Technicolor horror/mystery film, produced jointly by First National and Warner Bros. Based on the play originally titled The Terror (New York, February 9, 1931) by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller, it was directed by Michael Curtiz and stars Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, and Lee Tracy.

The film was produced before the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced. Themes such as murder, rape, cannibalism, and prostitution are interwoven into the story. The film was one of the last films made, along with Warner Bros' near contemporary Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), in the early two-color Technicolor process. Black and white prints were shipped to small towns and to foreign markets, while color prints were reserved for major cities.


Ex-Lady is a 1933 American pre-Code comedy film directed by Robert Florey. The screenplay by David Boehm is based on an unproduced play by Edith Fitzgerald and Robert Riskin. It is a lightweight and modern version of a drawing room comedy. The film was made before the Motion Picture Production Code was in force, and it is risqué: in subject matter (people having affairs without shame), in staging (double beds) and in the fairly revealing negligees that Bette Davis's character wears.

George Weiss (producer)

George G. Weiss (born April 9, 1921) is an American film producer who specialized in independent 'road show' exploitation Z movies during the 1950s and sexploitation shockers in the 1960s that openly defied the motion picture production code of the day.

Heat Lightning (film)

Heat Lightning is a 1934 Pre-Code drama film starring Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak, and Preston Foster. It is based on the play of the same name by Leon Abrams and George Abbott.

The movie was one of the last to be released before the Motion Picture Production Code was rigorously enforced. According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, two months after its release, it was banned by the Catholic League of Decency.

Johnny Belinda (1948 film)

Johnny Belinda is a 1948 American drama film based on the 1940 Broadway stage hit of the same name, by Elmer Blaney Harris. The play was adapted for the screen by writers Allen Vincent and Irma von Cube, and directed by Jean Negulesco.

The story is based on an actual incident that happened near Harris's summer residence in Fortune Bridge, Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island. The title character is based on the real-life Lydia Dingwell (1852–1931), of Dingwells Mills, Prince Edward Island. The film dramatizes the consequences of spreading lies and rumors, and the horror of rape. The latter subject had previously been prohibited by the Motion Picture Production Code. Johnny Belinda is widely considered to be the first Hollywood film for which the restriction was relaxed, and as such was controversial at the time of its initial release.

The film stars Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead, Stephen McNally, and Jan Sterling. Wyman's performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

It was filmed on location in Fort Bragg, California.

Kathryn Scola

Kathryn Scola (1891–1982) was an American screenwriter. She worked on more than thirty films during the 1930s and 1940s. Scola worked in Hollywood for a multitude of prominent production companies during the studio era, including Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Scola’s career took place during the transition from unregulated Pre-Code films to the implementation of the Motion Picture Production Code, and was frequently involved in writing screenplays that were deemed too controversial by the Motion Picture Association of America. Three of Scola’s films were included in the Forbidden Hollywood film series, including Baby Face, Female and Midnight Mary.

Madame Bovary (1949 film)

Madame Bovary is a 1949 American romantic drama film adaptation of the classic novel of the same name by Gustave Flaubert. It stars Jennifer Jones, James Mason, Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan, Alf Kjellin (billed as Christopher Kent), Gene Lockhart, Frank Allenby and Gladys Cooper.

It was directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Pandro S. Berman, from a screenplay by Robert Ardrey based on the Flaubert novel. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa, the cinematography by Robert H. Planck and the art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith.

The film was a project of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and Lana Turner was set to star, but when pregnancy forced her to withdraw, Jones stepped into the title role. Production ran from mid-December 1948 to mid-March 1949 and the film premiered the following August.The story of the adulterous wife who destroys the lives of many presented censorship issues with the Motion Picture Production Code. A plot device which structured the story around author Flaubert's obscenity trial was developed to placate the censors. The highlight of the film is an elaborately choreographed ball sequence set to composer Miklós Rózsa's lush film score.

The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration in 1950 for Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith, Edwin B. Willis and Richard Pefferle.

Martin Quigley (publisher)

Martin Joseph Quigley Sr. (May 6, 1890 – May 4, 1964) was an American publisher, editor and film magazine journalist. He founded Exhibitors Herald, which became an important national trade paper for the film industry. He was also the founder of Quigley Publishing.

New Morals for Old

New Morals for Old is a 1932 American pre-Code romance-drama film produced and distributed by MGM. It is based on the 1931 Broadway play After All, in which Humphrey Bogart had a significant role. Bogart's stage role is portrayed by David Newell in the film.The film is noteworthy for having elements that would later be forbidden under the Motion Picture Production Code. There is very brief nudity, albeit in shadows and by a non-speaking character (the model in the painters' studio). Also, one of the female characters is in a relationship with a married man, and this is portrayed sympathetically.

Pre-Code sex films

Pre-Code sex films refers to movies made in the Pre-Code Hollywood era between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934, which contained sexual references and images that were contrary to the yet to be enforced Hays Code. Pre-Code sex films explored woman's issues and challenged the concept of marriage, and aggressive sexuality was the norm. The sexual subject matter of the uncensored period was found within many movie genres, most especially in dramas, crime films, exotic-adventure films, comedies and musicals.

Private Number (1936 film)

Private Number is a 1936 American drama film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Loretta Young, Robert Taylor and Basil Rathbone. It is sometimes known by the alternative title of Secret Interlude. It was based on the play Common Clay by Cleves Kinkead which had previously been made into a film of the same name in 1930. Following the more rigorous enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code after 1934, many of the more salacious elements of the earlier film were left out.

Product code

Product code is a unique identifier, assigned to each finished/manufactured product which is ready, to be marketed or for sale.

Product code may also refer to:

Universal Product Code, common barcode used to identify packaged products

Electronic Product Code, an RFID code mainly applied as a packaging code for packaged products

Motion Picture Production Code (production code for short)

Product key, a number used to verify the authenticity of a software as a license code

Serial number, a number identifying an item per instance

Production Code Administration

The Production Code Administration (PCA) was established by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) in 1934 to enforce the Motion Picture Production Code. The PCA required all filmmakers to submit their films for approval before release.

Screened Out

Screened Out: Gay Images in Film was a June 2007 film festival broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. The festival, based on the book Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood by Richard Barrios, examined the history of homosexual images in American cinema. Screened Out's June schedule coincided with Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.The series focused not just on films in which homosexual themes or characters were obvious but on those which, because of the Motion Picture Production Code, were concealed or "coded". Screened Out sought out films that were rarely seen and not necessarily included in TCM's film library. The Library of Congress served as the source for one film, 1912's Algie the Miner.

She Shall Have Music

She Shall Have Music is a 1935 British musical comedy film directed by Leslie S. Hiscott and starring Jack Hylton, June Clyde and Claude Dampier. Hylton played himself in a story built around a millionaire shipowner who hires a band (led by Hylton) to publicise his ships. It was also released as Wherever She Goes.

The film was made at Twickenham Studios. The film's sets were designed by the art director James A. Carter.

For distribution in the United States, to comply with the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code scenes involving portions of two songs and a dance featuring "an undue amount of nudity" were removed.

Son of Sinbad

Son of Sinbad is a 1955 American film directed by Ted Tetzlaff. It takes place in the Middle East and consists of a wide variety of characters including over 127 women.

Initially, the film was shot in 1953 and planned to be released in 3D. Because of difficulties with the Motion Picture Production Code, studio mogul Howard Hughes shelved the film until 1955, when it was converted to the Tushinsky SuperScope process, in 2-D (flat). It is Vincent Price's fourth and final 3-D film.

Dale Robertson (as Sinbad) co-stars with Sally Forrest and Price, as well as Lili St. Cyr, a well-known stripteaser of the 1950s.

Victim (1961 film)

Victim is a 1961 British suspense film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Syms. It was the first English language film to use the word "homosexual". It premiered in the UK on 31 August 1961 and in the US the following February. On its release in the United Kingdom it proved highly controversial to the British Board of Film Censors, and in the U.S. it was refused a seal of approval from the American Motion Picture Production Code.

Media regulation
By country

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.