Friday, October 31, 2014

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930

After movie stars dying of drug overdoses, murders and crime happening in Hollywood, it's no wonder people created local censorship boards and cut out parts of movies to be more suitable to watch in their communities. Hollywood studios and Will Hays joined together to form a list of "don'ts and be carefuls." 

As there was no punishment, official government censorship was needed. So a new code was created.

"The code sets up high standards of performance for motion-picture producers," Hays proclaimed about the new code. "It states the considerations which good taste and community value make necessary in this universal form of entertainment."

The full code is here.

A brief overview of the code:
The major principles governing the code from 1930 onward:

No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin.
Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Prohibitions on:
- Suggestive dances
- Discussions of sexual perversity
- Nudity
- Superfluous use of liquor
- Ridicule of religion
- Miscegenation
- Lustful kissing
- Scenes of passion

The code was mandatory for filmmakers, if they wanted their film to play in theaters. "Howard Hughes threw a well-publicized fit when his western The Outlaw was kept out of theaters — not for its content alone but because the film's advertising focused attention on Jane Russell's cleavage." - Bob Mondello, NPR

Hitchcock's film, Notorious (1949), found a loophole in the Production Code. One of the rules was that an on-screen kiss could not last longer than three seconds. In Notorious, Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant kiss, then stop, then kiss again, while staying intimately close to one another. This scene made the film known for having "the longest kiss in cinema history." Watch it below:

In 1959, the man who enforced the rules of the Production Code said that if a "moral conflict" provided "the proper frame of reference," a Code-approved film could deal with any topic except homosexuality. The next year, Some Like It Hot came out. With Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, disguised as women and fending off male suitors, the production code disintegrated. And the number of attendees at the theaters proved they did not mind.

About a year later, the MPA realized a rating system for audience awareness would work better than a censorship system. 

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