One Vintage Photo That Broke Ten MPAA Rules

In 1930, the MPAA drafted the Motion Picture Production Code, also called the Hays Code – named after its creator, Postmaster General-turned-Hollywood-censor William Hays. The original text can be found here. “Sex perversion” (aka homosexuality) was forbidden, as were scenes of miscegenation, safe-cracking, “dances which emphasize indecent movements,” surgical operations, and “white slavery.” The Hayes Code went into effect in 1934, ending the brief, unregulated era of talking pictures that had started in 1927 and was known as Pre-Code Hollywood. (Two great Top 10 lists of Pre-Code films can be found here and here). Over at Sociological Images, Gwen Sharp has uncovered a photo from the era that intentionally incorporates the code’s top 10 banned items into one image. “The photograph, [taken by A.L. Shafer, head of photography at Columbia], was clandestinely passed around among photographers and publicists in Hollywood as a method of symbolic protest to the Hays Code.”

5 Responses to “One Vintage Photo That Broke Ten MPAA Rules”

  1. Tequila Says:

    It’s a great image.

    The MPAA still pushes for stuff like this though. The rules that separate a PG-13 from an R rating can be downright ridiculous. On the first Fast & The Furious DVD a segment about editing was tossed in that highlighted this beautifully. One got the impression this was less about the art of editing than it was a sly way by the director to show how silly the MPAA was even for a film that was already popcorn mass audience entertainment.

    TCM has some great box sets featuring Pre-Code films coupled with an excellent documentary. It was part of a special event the channel ran last year if I remember correctly.

  2. Adina Says:

    The musical “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine” has an entire tap number that lists the rules. It’s the only good thing about the show.

    Low-Res video:

  3. noire Says:

    all this *and* lethal bias-cut silk satin.

  4. Peyton Farquhar Says:

    Awesome find – great article!

  5. Cap Says:

    The staff who created Batman: The Animated series did one of these too, exhibiting all the restrictions that were put upon them. Can’t find the image online, but it’s in the “Batman: Animated” book.