Bad Girl (1931)

In pre-20s Hollywood, little effort was made to impose restrictions upon either the content of films or the ways in whicl they were advertised. Although censors existed, it had very little influence when set against the power of the major studi Later, during the 20s and early 30s, the industry came under increasing pressur from both the churches and political leaders who were eager to rein in a Hollywood which they considered to be setting the country an appalling exampl with its debauchery and moral bankrupt Their arguments gained both strength and publicity as a result of a number of notorious Hollywood scandals. Two of t most shocking concerned the death of Wallace Reid from influenza, brought on by drug-abuse, and Fatty Arbuckle's arr« for the alleged rape and murder of a young actress who had been a participa in an all-night alcohol- and drug-fuelled 'orgy' he was hosting (he was later cleared of all charges). The critics were further provoked by Hollywood's continuing preference for giving its films titles like Bad Girl and The Brat. and its use of equally suggestive posterj to promote them.

• 1896. The Irwin Rice Kiss is the first fil criticized for its content, which included close-up of a prolonged kiss.

• 1906. The mayor of New York closes a cinemas on the grounds of 'safety' and refuses to show any films of dubious moral value.

• 1907. The first motion picture censorship law is passed in Chicago, where a police permit is required before any film can be shown to the public.

• 1911. Pennsylvania is the first state to establish a censorship board.

• 1921. The 'Thirteen Points' are introduced in Hollywood in an attempt to provide a moral framework for the film industry.

• 1927. The 'Don'ts And Be Carefuls' set of moral guidelines are introduced in Hollywood as a precursor to the

Hays Code.

• 1929. Over 2500 cities have adopted some form of censorship law.

• 1930. The Hays Code is introduced.

• 1934. The Hays Code is strictly enforce

The Brat (1931)

The Hollywood establishment made its first attempt at self-restraint at the beginning of the 20s, when William H. Hays (1879-19541 was hired as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. He introduced, successively. Thirteen Points Of Standard' (1921), The 'Don'ts And Be Carefuls' (1927) and the 'Production Code' (1930). Although these rules did have some limited effect, they were largely ignored or bypassed by the studios. Moreover, since the promotional activities of the industry were not subject to any form of code or scrutiny, it was always possible to make up for any lack of explicit content in the films themselves by using poster imagery that was often extremely suggestive; similarly, film titles and taglines loaded with sexual innuendo were regularly used to attract audiences to movies that often promised a good deal more than they actually delivered.

Ultimately, it was the placing of a particularly provocative billboard poster outside a church that brought matters to a head. The complaints of the priest concerned encouraged the formation of a pressure group, The Catholic Legion of Decency, which boycotted the industry until it cleaned up its act. Belatedly recognizing that the pressure for censorship was becoming irresistible, Hollywood bowed to the inevitable and agreed to abide by the rules of the new Hays Code, which became mandatory rather than simply advisory and was applied not only to the content of films but also to the advertising material used to promote them. Joseph L. Breen was hired as director of the Production Code Administration which had to give every film a seal of approval before it could be released. Almost overnight, Hollywood abandoned its carefree, anything-goes attitude and was forced to accept a system in which its products were subjected to censorship of the most rigorous and nit-picking kind.

Fast And Loose (1930) US 41 x 27 in. <104 x69 cm)

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