1930 December 19

Catholic Priest Tells Theaters to “Clean Up or Face Censorship”


Catholic priest Rev. James M. Gillis, editor of the Catholic World, on this day warned the leaders of the American theater to “clean up” their plays or face a federal censorship law. He accused the playwrights, directors and producers who sought “more realism on the stage” of being “hypocrites,” and argued that their view that moral standards change with time was “wrong and heretical — a damnable bit of hypocrisy.” He called on members of the Catholic Actors Guild to “stand for plays that elevate the soul.”

The Catholic Church emerged as a powerful force for movie censorship in the 1930s. A boycott of films led by the Church (but with support from some Protestant groups) forced the Hollywood studios to adopt the Motion Picture Production Code on June 13, 1934, which exerted a heavy hand of censorship on American movies until the late 1960s.

Learn about “pre-Code” Hollywood films: Thomas Doherty, Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934 (1999)

Read: John H. Houchin, Censorship of the American Theater in the Twentieth Century (2003)

Learn more about the Catholic Church and the censorship of films: Frank Walsh, Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry (1996)

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