1955 October 24

Can We Say “Virgin”? Supreme Court Okays “The Moon is Blue”


Based on a Broadway play, The Moon is Blue was a light comedy that not only used the word “virgin” but also made fun of a young woman for remaining a virgin. The film was released without a seal of approval by the Hollywood Production Code Administration, thus marking an early challenge to the production code system of censorship. It was unclear whether it was because of the word “virgin” or because it made fun of virginity. On this day, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Holmby v. Vaughn, overturned a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court and ended a ban on the film in the state.

The Kansas State Board of Review had originally banned the film, citing “too frank bedroom dialogue” and “many sexy words.” The Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas interpretation of the term obscene was unconstitutionally vague.The Court based is per curium decision on its decision in Burstyn v. Wilson, May 26, 1952), which held for the first time that movies were a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

See the New York City premier of the film on July 8, 1953.

The director of the film, Otto Preminger, defied both the motion picture censorship code and the Hollywood blacklist of screenwriters who had been unable to work in the industry because of their political views. See his courageous decision to defy the blacklist by hiring the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to work on the film Exodus on January 20, 1960;

Learn about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046094/

Read Director Preminger’s autobiography: Otto Preminger, Preminger: an Autobiography (1977)

Learn more at a timeline on film censorship: https://www.aclu.org/files/multimedia/censorshiptimeline.html

Read: Foster Hirsch, Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King (2007)

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