1956 January 24

Restrictive Hollywood Code, Under Attack, To Be Re-Examined


Leaders of the Hollywood film industry on this day ordered a “thorough study” of the restrictive Motion Picture Production Code. The Code had been adopted on June 13, 1934, and had imposed a heavy hand of censorship on Hollywood films for over twenty years. The censorship of American films was being challenged from several directions. Public attitudes about sexuality were changing in the 1950s, and the public was demanding freer expression in movies, books, and the theater. Additionally, imported films with freer treatment of sexuality were increasing popularity (giving rise to the term “foreign films”).

Finally, some Hollywood producers were beginning to challenge the restrictive Code. The successful producer Otto Preminger, for example, had released “The Moon is Blue” in 1953 without a Seal of Approval from the Production Code Administration, and it had enjoyed commercial success (see July 8, 1953). Most recently, a major theater in New York City showed “The Man With the Gold Arm” despite its lack of a Code Seal of Approval. Portrayal of drug addiction was expressly forbidding by the Code.

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

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

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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