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To the Motion Picture Production Code on its 75th Birthday


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I know. It's just so sad. You play with matches you're going to get burned.

 

And then when people realize all the crime and antisocial stuff isn't going to bring happiness, and they make a conscious decision to change and turn their lives around to things positive, they are ridiculed and laughed at.

 

A pity.

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> {quote:title=goldensilents wrote:}{quote}

> I already wrote previously I considered most precodes tame by comparison to today. So I'll leave it up to you, Prince, to obsess about sex scenes, and to change the thread title of this forum to "****", the last word of which is a filthy curse word, which is something I would never do. :)

>

> To each his / her own.

I don't buy the argument that the Code is responsible for no explicit sex in GWTW or CASABLANCA. That makes no sense at all.

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Well something was holding them back from showing gratuitous sex and violence in the old days, if not the Code, then what? Remember there was still a basic Code even during the Silent and Precode days, it was often ignored however. So some other moral "code" was in effect in those days to prevent films from being as "in your face" as they are today. Could you imagine Louis B. Mayer making Borat in 1939? Never.

 

There was a Christian-Judeo moral code in effect back then that held them back, even if they ignored any Code that was put on paper.

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> {quote:title=johnbabe wrote:}{quote}

> thanks to the motion picture code and hays, we have mangled and ruined pics such as MataHari (when it was reissued in 1936), and Two Faced Woman, plus many others, what hypocrits these code people were!

Thanks for a voice of reason, johnbabe. Some seem to actually think filmmakers like Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz would have produced pornography if not for the Code. Ninnies. What the Code did was prevent producers, directors and screenwriters from dealing with adult themes in a serious manner.

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> {quote:title=goldensilents wrote:}{quote}

> Well something was holding them back from showing gratuitous sex and violence in the old days, if not the Code, then what?

 

The silents had their fair share of gratuitous sex and violence. There's nudity, promiscuity and plenty of violence (including on-screen decapitations) in Griffith's *Intolerance*-a film considered by many to be a masterpiece. *Ben Hur* has nudity and violence, too, and is also considered a masterpiece (although not by me.) And what about Cecil B. DeMille? He practically invented salacious sex on the screen. Who else would open *The King of Kings* in a brothel? In color, too!

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The Hays Code, aka the production code, was instituted to prevent boycotts from the then-powerful Catholic Church; the film studios did not want profits negatively impacted, so they went along with the code, absurd as it was (portrayals of miscegenation were forbidden, scenes with married couples having separate beds, etc.)

 

"Edgier" pictures emerged after the war, when returning GIs - including filmmakers and actors, as well as audience members, wanted more realistic pictures. Especially after what they saw during the war in "real life."

 

I will say that the code did enable a tremendous amount of creativity and sophistication, (sorely lacking today.) However by the end of the forties even that formula was growing stale. MGM, which really abided by the code, suffered the most with their formulaic family-friendly pictures. Fox, mostly due to Daryl Zanuck, explored stronger themes and subjects in their post-war films and as a result survived pretty much intact and of course still makes films today.

 

The code collapsed when tv encroached on the studios profits in the late 1950's. So it really was about money, despite the rhetoric.

 

One final note: Re-watching certain films as an adult, has made me realize films I saw - and enjoyed - as a kid were not as innocent as I thought.

 

My all-time favorite example of how a filmmaker cleverly got past the code is found in the late 1950's MGM picture, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, when Hitchcock cuts to the train entering the tunnel.

 

 

No more need be said.

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I don't consider protecting young people from seeing evil or disturbing images hypocritical. It's what God would want you to do. He said if anyone harms a child it would be better for that person to have a millstone put around their necks and be thrown into the depths of the sea. That's capital punishment, a death sentence.

 

It comes down to whether you believe in God, or not. Even if the moguls and directors weren't the most godly people in the world they did care what the more conservative population thought back then and the majority in those days would not want to see filth. There was no rating system in those days and for the most part whole families could go to the movies together, resting easy that their sensibilities or their morals or their faith would not be ridiculed and attacked.

 

Sure, evil acts are described in the Bible, but so is eternal punishment for those who flout God's laws and gospel. And for those who malign and ridicule people of faith, those striving to do good in a world obsessed with evil.

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That?s not why the film wasn?t seen for so long.

 

I saw ?The Divorcee? on TV as a teenager in the late 1950s, including the scene about the ?the ledger is balanced? or ?the score is settled? (or whatever she said), and I saw the part about the drawing of the drapes when the two were in the apartment together while her husband was out of town, and I knew exactly what was going on.

 

There are plenty of old films that just were stored away and were forgotten for many decades. We see that on TCM all the time, including many films made after 1934 that no one has seen in many years, because more modern films made them obsolete.

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In 1934 when the Code was more strictly enforced, Paramount was unable to get Breen office approval to re-release TROUBLE IN PARADISE even with sever cuts, so it sat on the shelf unseen until the late 1960s. Which is why we can see it now uncut. unlike some other pre-code films that now only survive in a trucated form because of Code enfocrement.

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>because more modern films made them obsolete

 

Yes, that's how the business usually goes. Much of the oldies will never become obsolete in my heart, however. :)

 

Two days ago I read a news report about Hollywood's financial condition. It's on very shaky ground, they are just not doing well economically. They'll try and claim it's because of illegal online downloading or other dubious reasons but I think I know the real reason: they produce JUNK, junk for the movies, junk for TV, and many people are simply not going to spend hard earned money to see it.

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Jill,

 

 

I am very surprised that no one has mentioned the continual drove of so called "Director's Cut" or "Un-Rated Edition" DVD's of Modern films??? The very nature of these DVD's clearly implies that the dirtier, raunchier, more violent, and outright tasteless the better. And it's very clear that is what most current film-makers firmly believe that the overwhelming majority of the public wants to see.

 

Most studios seem to even take pride in their showing you something so morally wrong, or gruesome, that it can't even be screened in theaters? They advertise these DVD's on Television almost every single time a new DVD is released of some recent movie. No one complains, or if they do their voice is seldom if ever heard? As long as that is the prevailing mentality, and no one has any shame about anything, nothing will change. It will just continue to get worse. or at the very least remain the standard.

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>and no one has any shame about anything

 

Shame is a politically incorrect notion today, of course. ;) Hollywood doesn't admit sin exists, so there is no reason to feel shame. About anything.

 

I know there are ugly things that go on in the world all the time but why does Hollywood today concentrate on those ugly things so much. A little girl is raped and killed and they make a movie of the week about it. A family is murdered by men who break into their home and they make a big budget picture out of it. Politicians steal and lie and cheat and they make a glitsy top line film about it glamorizing them.

 

Whatever happened to positive themes? Positive things go on in life all the time too. Whatever happened to films that show tenderness, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, committment, wisdom, pure beauty, spirituality? Can no one make a Portrait of Jennie anymore? Or a Miracle on 34th Street? Or a Lassie, Come Home? Or a Little Women? Or It's A Wonderful Life?

 

Even when they try to make remakes today they cannot capture the charms of the original older motion pictures. They simply don't have the capability of writing these kinds of stories anymore. Now everything concentrates on sex, violence, bad language. They have seared their own consciences with a hot iron, to use a biblical phrase.

 

As far as I'm concerned films would IMPROVE if they brought back a Code.

 

>no one has mentioned the continual drove of so called "Director's Cut" or "Un-Rated Edition" DVD's of Modern films

 

A perfect example: Cinema Paradiso. The director's cut of that film is HORRIBLE! Even Robert Osborne admitted it when they first aired the film. I wish I had never seen it. The cut version that toured the states was 1000x more bittersweet and haunting and wistful than the "director's cut" which left nothing to the imagination.

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> {quote:title=PrinceSaliano wrote:}{quote}

> I'm wondering how many bluenoses caught VENUS IN FURS on TCM last month, and did they write frenzied letters to the programming department?

> In reference to DeMille, his entertaining excesses cannot compare to the sex and violence in the Bible.

So am I the only one who saw VENUS IN FURS?

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> {quote:title=gagman66 wrote:}{quote}

> Most studios seem to even take pride in their showing you something so morally wrong, or gruesome, that it can't even be screened in theaters?

 

I'm not sure that the stuff that doesn't get included in the movies when they're released in theaters is so "morally wrong, or gruesome" that it can't be shown there. From what I've heard, it's just that studios angle for whatever rating they think is best from a box-office perspective, whether it be an "R" or a PG-13. Leaving stuff out can become even more profitable because, as you mention, they can then release the "unrated" version on DVD and blu-ray, which generally guarantees bigger profits.

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I don't trust today's rating system to throw 'em.

 

I rented Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway at Netflix because my youngest expressed an interest in it. As I usually do before I let my children see anything I screened it first. It was rated PG but within the first five minutes they had a scene suggesting oral sex!!!

 

I turned the film off and didn't continue watching it and told Tina it wasn't an appropriate movie for her to watch. What a shame. Anne is known for those Princess Diary films and young girls like her. If they watch this film to see her they are going to be assaulted with that scene! (Yes, I consider it assault, a 12 year old girl doesn't need to see that).

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The kids should be kept away from the assault of such films. And Jane Austin novels, too. All of those inter-changing couples, disgusting. They should all be censored.

 

Now Gone With the Wind, which suggests and condones spousal rape and has a curse in its most famous line, and Casablanca, which suggests promiscuity, which is not code-enforced by doling out punishment, those are family-friendly films.

 

I also agree that actors who were in children's movies should never appear in anything other than a G-rated film. The absolute nerve of these actors!

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>

> I know there are ugly things that go on in the world all the time but why does Hollywood today concentrate on those ugly things so much. A little girl is raped and killed and they make a movie of the week about it. A family is murdered by men who break into their home and they make a big budget picture out of it. Politicians steal and lie and cheat and they make a glitsy top line film about it glamorizing them.

>

> Whatever happened to positive themes? Positive things go on in life all the time too. Whatever happened to films that show tenderness, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, committment, wisdom, pure beauty, spirituality? Can no one make a Portrait of Jennie anymore? Or a Miracle on 34th Street? Or a Lassie, Come Home? Or a Little Women? Or It's A Wonderful Life?

>

 

Good questions. Hollywood was never strong on guts, though, and now more than

ever it's run by insecure little numbers crunchers with the imaginations of very

ordinary 13 year old boys. But very ordinary. I'm afraid so-called "independent"

films rarely offer anything better, either.

 

At UCLA we had a guest in my post production course and the entire class was

wasted while they went on and on about how ridiculous it was for airline releases

to be censored for language, content, etc. It wasn't the censorship really that

bothered them, that was a cover. They were just going on like grimey little schoolboys

about how funny it sounded to substitute mild expletives for strong ones.

 

I tried to get in a question about how such words supported or advance the story,

how they illuminated character, etc. and hence were critical for the movie to be

intelligible...but I guess those things were of little consequence. That wasn't "the point".

 

I couldn't believe how completely out of touch these very successful professionals were

with a huge part of the audience. Their success, I'm afraid, was due to the fact there's

little choice and people care less and less that their desire for reasonably clean entertainment

is just not going to be addressed.

 

Goldensilents, I have no children but I admire you for how much love it shows you

have for yours that you look carefully into their entertainment. Good for you!

 

MissG

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Your points are moot. I don't allow my children to see GWTW or Casablanca either, though once they are of a more mature age if they express an interest I'll be glad to share the films with them.

 

I'll watch them because I am a grownup, but I am glad they don't show what happens between Rhett and Scarlett in their bedroom (besides it's not really a rape when Scarlett wakes up the next morning with a huge grin on her face) and I am glad that it seems that all Rick and Ilsa do in Rick's apartment is talk until morning; Ingrid's clothes are not even disheveled! :)

 

My main point, which is legit, is that the rating system in corrupt Hollywood cannot be trusted. Even PG films have elements that I believe should be in R rated films. They are LYING when they put a PG rating on a film showing oral sex in the first five minutes. Anyone who condones such lying, and thinks it's perfectly permissable to show an oral sex scene to a 12 year old, is as corrupt as Hollywood is.

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>I have no children but I admire you for how much love it shows you have for yours that you look carefully into their entertainment.

 

Thank you Miss Goddess. :) I'm certainly not a perfect parent but at least I try. Many parents do not today and that is sad for all of society. I remember how it was growing up and being able to go as a family to a drive in theater and watch films that were beautiful and inspiring, like Born Free. Those days are long gone. Occasionally I'll glance through the schedules in my local theaters and almost everything is R rated and filled with sex, violence, foul language. No thanks!

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