Hays code 1930 1968 and the crime movie
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Hays Code (1930-1968) and the Crime Movie. The start…. Hollywood’s scandals: Early 20’s: a murder, a drug overdose, and a manslaughter trial. Hollywood as “Sin City” 1922—Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association Slaps on the wrists and a lot of “tsk, tsk, tsk”.

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Hays Code (1930-1968) and the Crime Movie

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Hays code 1930 1968 and the crime movie l.jpg
Hays Code(1930-1968) and the Crime Movie


The start l.jpg
The start…

  • Hollywood’s scandals:

    • Early 20’s: a murder, a drug overdose, and a manslaughter trial.

    • Hollywood as “Sin City”

  • 1922—Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association

    • Slaps on the wrists and a lot of “tsk, tsk, tsk”


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Formal Enforcement : 1930-1934

  • Great Depression comes along, film makers want to make $$

  • Sex sells. Violence sells.

  • 1934: Production Code Administration

    • Films required a certificate of approval for showings and distribution


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What’s in the code…

  • specific restrictions on language and behavior:

    sex, violence, and crime = bad.

  • None of the following:


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Other Issues

  • No films that make audiences sympathize with criminals

  • Crime never pays (bad guys get bad ends)

  • Murder and violent scenes must not be shown to make it want to be imitated

  • Murder and violent scenes cannot be graphic, detail, or, in some cases, visible.


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What? More issues?

  • Sanctity of marriage and the home will be upheld (Huh?)

  • Adultery and sex cannot be shown

  • Granted, these may be necessary to plot

    • If so, they are to be off camera and not discussed.

    • Directors did find ways around them.


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Production Codes Tumble!

  • Golden Age of Hollywood goes

    Ah-buh-bye!

  • What happened to Hollywood?

    • TV! Fie and a pox on that squawk box!

    • Hollywood needed sex and violence to sell tickets

      There was none of that on TV!


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Hays Code and the administrators needed to change

  • Films were changing, becoming racier despite tougher regulations in 1951

  • Ticket sales were plummeting

  • MGM released Blow Up even though it was rejected. (Oh well. So much for the fun!)

    1968, Rating system was then formed by the Motion Picture Association of America.

  • No restrictions on what was filmed

  • No crazy stuff quite yet—slow to change.

I don’t like these here new dang-fidnagled movies


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The Crime Film.The original Gangstaz

  • 1920’s—a wild time with lots of colorful figures

    • Many came straight out of history: Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger.

  • 1930’s—Great Depression.

    • A time of unrest and turmoil

    • Allowed viewers to do what

      they could never do


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  • Once production codes came along, gangester films need to become more American

  • Crime film is American: hard work brings power, wealth and fame.


  • Slide11 l.jpg

    • Bad guys die dishonorably:

      • Gunned down in streets

      • Die in the gutter

      • Lovers die together but cannot touch each other

      • Falling from a height (literal and figurative fall)

      • Die a coward, begging and pleading

    James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces (Curtiz, 1938)


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    Some symbols to watch for:

    • Guns: used as a sense of power and prestige, also a charm to remain invinsible

    • Clothing: shows growth, from floppy hats and rags, to pin stripe suits and fedoras.

    Images from Public Enemy (Wellman, 1931)


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