Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood

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Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood

Release: TV Movie 3 March 2008

Director: N/A

Stars: Valerie Spencer, John Landis, Jonathan Kuntz

Genre: Documentary

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Synopsis

Various film historians, film makers, and cultural commentators discuss the cultural, political, economic and religious reasons for what is known as the pre-code era of Hollywood movie making in the early 1930s, and those same factors which resulted in the drastic turn to working under the code for the twenty or so years starting in 1934. The "code" is the Hollywood Production Code of 1930 (also known as the Hays Code, so named for Will H. Hays, the first head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America), which was developed in order for movie making in Hollywood to run smoothly in the face of increased outside censors. The code was largely ignored until 1934, when its enforcement was overseen by Joseph I. Breen who took over from Hays and who had a different agenda of moral purity. During those four years, pre-code Hollywood movies are characterized by their rawness and pushing the envelope of sexuality and moral ambiguity (with the depraved side often winning), which were not allowed under the code. What happened to the distribution of pre-code movies during the years that the code was enforced, the reasons for the slow breakdown of the code in the early to mid 1950s, and the reasons for renewed interest in pre-code movies later in the century are also discussed.

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