The Kiss , starring May Irwin , from the Edison Studios , drew general outrage from moviegoers, civic leaders, and religious leaders, as shocking, obscene , and immoral.
A still , from the Biograph film, The Temptation of St. Scenes where criminals aimed guns at the camera were considered inappropriate by the New York state censor board in the s, and usually removed. On the other hand, Wingate struggled to keep up with the flood of scripts coming in, to the point where Warner Bros. By the time the film's sequel, Bride of Frankenstein , arrived in , enforcement of the Code was in full effect, and the doctor's overt God complex was forbidden.
DeMille 's The Sign of the Cross One factor in ignoring the code was the fact that some found such censorship prudish, due to the libertine social attitudes of the s and early s. Therefore, events such as the Boston Tea Party could not be portrayed. If clergy must always be presented in a positive way, then hypocrisy could not be dealt with either. Since films containing racy and violent content resulted in high ticket sales, it seemed reasonable to continue producing such films.
In , The Hollywood Reporter mocked the code and quoted an anonymous screenwriter saying that "the Hays moral code is not even a joke any more; it's just a memory"; two years later Variety followed suit. For more than thirty years, virtually all motion pictures produced in the United States adhered to the code. The enforcement of the Production Code led to the dissolution of many local censorship boards.
Lord, a Jesuit, wrote: Vocal smut cried to the censors for vengeance. The guilty are punished, the virtuous rewarded, the authority of church and state is legitimate, and the bonds of matrimony are sacred.
Breen — a prominent Catholic layman who had worked in public relations — was appointed head of the new Production Code Administration PCA. Under Breen's leadership of the PCA, which lasted until his retirement in , enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious. Even cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife's skirt.
Breen's power to change scripts and scenes angered many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls. Breen influenced the production of Casablanca , objecting to any explicit reference to Rick and Ilsa having slept together in Paris and to the film mentioning that Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants; however, both remained strongly implied in the finished version. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years, because the film's advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell 's breasts.
Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code, and the film could be shown. January being the first Hollywood film of any sort to openly spoof the Third Reich's leadership. One example is Child Bride , which featured a nude scene involving a twelve-year-old child actress Shirley Mills.
The Code began to weaken in the late s, when the formerly taboo subjects of rape and miscegenation were allowed in Johnny Belinda and Pinky , respectively. In , Breen retired, largely due to ill health, and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the Code. The first threat came from a new technology, television , which did not require Americans to leave their house to watch moving pictures.
Hollywood needed to offer the public something it could not get on television, which itself was under an even more restrictive censorship code. In addition to the threat of television, there was also increasing competition from foreign films, such as Vittorio De Sica 's Bicycle Thieves , the Swedish film One Summer of Happiness , and Ingmar Bergman 's Summer with Monika Vertical integration in the movie industry had been found to violate anti-trust laws, and studios had been forced to give up ownership of theaters by the Supreme Court in United States v.
The studios had no way to keep foreign films out, and foreign films were not bound by the Production Code. Some British films — Victim , A Taste of Honey , and The Leather Boys — challenged traditional gender roles, and openly confronted the prejudices against homosexuals , all in clear violation of the Hollywood Production Code. In keeping with the changes in society, sexual content that would have previously been banned by the Code was being retained.
Wilson , the U. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its decision Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York State Board of Regents could not ban The Miracle, a short film that was one half of L'Amore , an anthology film directed by Roberto Rossellini.
Film distributor Joseph Burstyn released the film in the U. That reduced the threat of government regulation, which had formerly been cited as justification for the Production Code, and the PCA's powers over the Hollywood industry were greatly reduced. A boycott by the National Legion of Decency no longer guaranteed a film's commercial failure, and several aspects of the code had slowly lost their taboo.
In , areas of the code were re-written to accept subjects such as miscegenation , adultery, and prostitution.
For example, the re-make of a pre-Code film dealing with prostitution, Anna Christie , was cancelled by MGM twice, in and in , as the character of Anna was not allowed to be portrayed as a prostitute. By , such subject matter was acceptable, and the original film was given a seal of approval. The whole sequence lasts two and a half minutes. The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, although not until certain cuts were made. Due to its themes, Billy Wilder 's Some Like It Hot was not granted a certificate of approval, but it still became a box office smash, and, as a result, it further weakened the authority of the Code.
His film The Moon Is Blue , about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was released without a certificate of approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm , which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder , which dealt with murder and rape. Like Some Like It Hot, Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code, and their success hastened its abandonment.
The MPAA reluctantly granted the seal of approval for these films, although again not until certain cuts were made. Despite the rejection, the film's producers arranged for Allied Artists to release the film without the Production Code seal, with the New York censors licensing the film without the cuts demanded by Code administrators.
The producers appealed the rejection to the Motion Picture Association of America. On a vote, the MPAA granted the film an exception, conditional on "reduction in the length of the scenes which the Production Code Administration found unapprovable".
The requested reductions of nudity were minimal; the outcome was viewed in the media as a victory for the film's producers. The exception to the code was granted as a "special and unique case" and was described by The New York Times at the time as "an unprecedented move that will not, however, set a precedent".
In Pictures at a Revolution, a study of films during that era, Mark Harris wrote that the MPAA approval was "the first of a series of injuries to the Production Code that would prove fatal within three years". Valenti negotiated a compromise: The film received Production Code approval despite the previously prohibited language. MGM released it anyway, the first instance of an MPAA member company distributing a film that did not have an approval certificate. That same year, the original and lengthy code was replaced by a list of eleven points.
The points outlined that the boundaries of the new code would be current community standards and good taste. Any film containing content deemed suitable for older audiences would feature the label SMA in its advertising. With the creation of this new label, the MPAA unofficially began classifying films. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which film restrictions would lessen. G for general audiences, M for mature content, R for restricted under 17 not admitted without an adult , and X for sexually explicit content.
By the end of , Geoffrey Shurlock stepped down from his post. In , because of confusion over the meaning of "mature audiences", the M rating was changed to GP, and then in to the current PG, for "parental guidance suggested". In , in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , the PG rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R.
In , the X rating was replaced by NC under 17 not admitted , partly because of the stigma associated with the X rating, and partly because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA; pornographic bookstores and theaters were using their own X, XX, and XXX symbols to market products.
According to a writer for Turner Classic Movies, the association's access did not return to Hays-era standards until