1921 August 1

New York Motion Picture Commission Begins Work: Censorship Ahead


The newly created New York State Motion Picture Commission approved its first film on this day. The Supreme Court had declared that movies were items of commerce and not protected by the First Amendment in Mutual v. Ohio on February 23, 1915. Decades of censorship resulted. It did not begin to end until 1952 in a case involving the film The Miracle, Burstyn v. Wilson, in which the Supreme Court held that movies were a form of expression protected by the First Amendment, on May 26, 1952.

Following the 1915 Mutual decision, five states and a number of cities maintained censorship boards. The states were New York, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Kansas. The most serious censorship of films from the 1920s through the 1960s, however, was not done by government agencies but though self-censorship by the film industry itself. See the pernicious 1934 Motion Picture Production Code, created on June 13, 1934, which imposed strict self-censorship on Hollywood films through the mid-196s.

Learn about the history of the New York Motion Picture Commission:

Learn about the review and censoring process in New York state: http://moviehistory.us/the-process-of-getting-a-movie-reviewed-for-release.html

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)


Watch clips of pre-1934 Code films: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3-XCvlTkK4

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

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