1961 December 27

Chicago Revises its Film Censorship Procedure


Chicago on this day passed an ordinance revising the powers of the police to censor films in the city. The “adults only” provision of the previous procedure had been held unconstitutional by a federal district court in 1959. The power to censor, however, remained within the police department and its film censorship unit. The ordinance did include a new appeal board composed of members appointed by the mayor of Chicago. Alderman Leon Despres, a strong foe of censorship, managed to exempt newsreels from any censorship and to eliminate wording he believed was too vague.

Chicago holds the distinction of having created the first movie censorship process in the country, in 1907. With the revised process created on this day, local officials continued the effort to preserve censorship in the face of court decisions expanding First Amendment protection for the movies. See the landmark Supreme Court decision, in Burstyn v. Wilson on May 26, 1952, which held that movies were a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

Learn more about the history of film censorship in Chicagohttp://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/453.html

Learn more about state and city-level movie censorship: http://moviehistory.us/introduction-to-state-movie-censorship.html

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

Learn more about the sexual revolution in the movies in the 1960s and 1970s: Robert Hofler, Sexplosion: From Andy Warhold to A Clockwork Orange — How a Generation of Pop Rebels  Brake All the Taboos (2014)

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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