Sex. Violence. Rebellion. While these are synonymous with success in today’s box office offerings, films containing allusions to—or, heaven forbid, actual examples of—such behavior were guaranteed a red light in Hollywood after the creation of the Production Code Administration in 1934. Thomas Doherty chronicles the film industry’s last-ditch effort to save itself from the censors’ scissors in his new book, Hollywood’s Censor, and in an excerpt published in Reason.
The Production Code Administration was tasked with upholding the film industry’s self-inflicted Decency Code. Producers and directors had generally ignored the code, but with a major boycott spearheaded by the Catholic Legion of Decency draining box office coffers, and with Roosevelt’s New Deal regulatory paroxysms pointing west, Hollywood producers knelt at the feet of censorship and kissed the insipid ring of values-based entertainment by agreeing to self-regulate film content.