1930 February 19

Early Hollywood Censorship Code Adopted


Almost from the birth of the movies in America, films faced censorship efforts. Beginning in the early 1920s, leaders of the motion picture industry tried various methods to impose self-censorship on Hollywood films as a strategy to head off government censorship. One version was published in Variety magazine on this day. The 1930 Production Code spelled out specific restrictions on “offensive” language and behavior, particularly regarding sex and crime, and prohibited the ridicule of religion. It also forbade the depiction of illegal drug use, venereal disease, childbirth, and sexual relations between races.

Catholic religious leaders especially had turned up the heat on Hollywood, calling for strict moral standards and a Code of Conduct for movie content. On March 31, 1930, the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association formally adopted the Code that was published on this day. Four years later, on June 13, 1934, facing threats of boycotts of “indecent” films, Hollywood adopted the famous and puritanical Production Code that imposed rigid censorship on American movies that lasted until the 1960s.

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

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

Read: Frank Walsh, Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry (1996)

Watch clips of pre-Code (that is, pre-1934) Hollywood films: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81DwZgieHmg

Read: Leonard Leff and Jerold Simmons, The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Production Code from the 1920s to the 1960s (1990)

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