1920 December 6

Pennsylvania Bans Films Glorifying Crime, Criminals


Pennsylvania Board of Censors on this day banned movies that glorified crime and criminals. State and local censorship of the movies received legal justification when the Supreme Court ruled on February 23, 1915, in Mutual v. Ohio Industrial Commission, that movies were not a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court finally reversed itself in Burstyn v. Wilson on May 26, 1952, ruling the movies were a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

Probably even more important than government censorship in the years between the two Supreme Court decisions was the practice of voluntary censorship by the Hollywood film producers. In the 1920s and early 1930s, there were several voluntary censorship codes. See especially, the list of “Don’ts and Be Carefuls,” adopted on October 15, 1927. The notorious Motion Picture Production Code was adopted on June 13, 1934, and it exercised a heavy hand of censorship on American films through the 1960s. All of the various codes restricted the “glorification” of crime and criminals, as was the case in the Pennsylvania action on this day.

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

Watch a short documentary on film censorship in the 1920s and 1930s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYOm6ar716w

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

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!