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A Question About the Code

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I have a question about the Hayes code. Hopefully, there are a few movie historians on this forum who can answer this.

When the Hayes office came into effect, weren't there any voices that criticized it? I mean, weren't there people who said, "This is censorship! This is a violation of our basic 1st ammendment right to free speech!"

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The "Hays Office" was created as a self censorship board by the major hollywood studios to keep the government from stepping in and censoring their films. The producers created a production code of conduct that was not strictly enforced until 1934, when Joseph Breen took control.

Sometime around 1915 or so, the United States Supreme Court had ruled that motion pictures were not covered by the first amendment. This decision was not overturned until sometime in the 1950s.

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Censorship for ?decency? purposes IS allowed by the US Constitution. It is allowed on the state and city level in the 9th and 10th Amendments. Look them up.


The 1st Amendment covers only the US Federal CONGRESS. It says that CONGRESS can?t pass any censorship laws. Look it up. Don?t rely on rumors you hear. Conduct some actual research and see what the Constitution says. The Constitution is the main and overall basic first law of the land.


The early FCC established a ?decency? code for early radio in the 1920s and later for TV, because the FCC is a Federal Commission under control of the Executive branch of government, so it is not part of ?Congress?.


A vast number of parents around the 1915-?20 era were disturbed by more and more vulgarity and nudity they were beginning to see in early movies, so they lobbied various states to pass state-wide ?decency? censorship laws. Their kids usually had no other access to such vulgarity or nudity, since all the burlesque shows and strip joints in big cities and other areas did not allow kids to go into them. The age limit was usually restricted to 18 or older. But there was no age limit for getting into movie theaters.


By the early to mid-1920s, about 8 US states had state-wide "decency" censorship laws regarding movies. Hollywood was afraid that eventually most of the states would have such ?decency? laws regarding movies, so in the 1920s it established its own ?decency code? through a Hollywood organization called the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, which all the major studios and distributors belonged to. That code was frequently violated, and later, in mid-1934 the MPPDA established a more strict code. So, the ?pre-code? movies people talk about were made between the late ?20s and mid-1934 with the most extreme examples being made from about 1930 to mid-1934.

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