Hays Code Facts

Herbert Hoover

Hays Code Facts
This article continues the story of the Hays Code, or given its full title, the Code to Govern the Making of Talking, Synchronized and Silent Motion Pictures. Part One of the Hays Code and Censorship provides full details of the rules, regulations and standards stipulated in the code and the effect of censorship on Hollywood movies.

Hays Code Facts for kids
This article on Hays Code Facts provides interesting information on the background history of the Hays Code and the events in Hollywood and the United States that led to its creation.  

Hays Code
Herbert Hoover was the 31st American President who served in office from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933. One of the important events during his presidency was the emergence of the Hays Code a means of censorship in the Hollywood movie industry.

   
  

Hays Code Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts, background history and information on Hays Code and the events in Hollywood and in America that led to its creation.

Facts about the Hays Code for kids - Background History and Facts on the Hays Code

Hays Code Facts -  1: Many controversial Hollywood movies were made in the era of silent movies, the 1920's and the early 1930s before the Hays Code was adopted.

The reaction to the 1915 movie the 'Birth of a Nation' directed by D. W. Griffith brought the full realization of the power of the movies.

The inflammatory movie glorified the original Ku Klux Klan that resulted in the resurgence of the 1920s KKK and brought vehement protests by the NAACP with riots in Philadelphia and Boston.

Birth of a Nation 1915 movie

Hays Code Facts -  2: In 1921 legislators in 37 states introduced nearly 100 movie censorship bills. Throughout the 1920s political pressure increased to get Hollywood and the movie industry to "clean up its act".

Hays Code Facts -  3: The period referred to as the Roaring Twenties were aptly named. It was the age of automobiles, consumerism and the continuing rise in the popularity of the movies. It was also the age of the nonconformist Flappers who challenged the traditional ideas of behavior. Young women emulated the movie stars by wearing make-up, smoking in public, drinking prohibited liquor and acting in an unladylike fashion. The older generation were scandalized. Many Americans believed that the morals of the nation were in sharp decline in the 1920's as people cast aside old social conventions .

Hays Code Facts -  4: Movies in the 1920s had used nudity, profanity, blasphemy and immorality and appeared to endorse illegal drinking during the Prohibition Era. The lives of movie actresses, or "vamps", with their heavy makeup, scant clothing and loose morals brought Hollywood under close scrutiny and considerable criticism. Famous scandals involving stars such as "Fatty" Arbuckle, Clara Bow, Tallulah Bankhead, Mabel Normand, Wallace Reid and Barbara La Marr tarnished the Hollywood image even further.

Hays Code Facts -  5: Notorious Pre-Code Hollywood movies were made in a four year period, from March 31, 1930 to July 2, 1934, before the Hays Code was rigidly enforced. The names of many Pre-Code Hollywood films provides a fast insight into the subject matter of some of the movies that were being produced during the period. The names of the movies include Blackmail, The Godless Girl, Unashamed, Blonde Venus, She Done Him Wrong, Madame Satan, Her Private Life, Madame X, The Racketeer, Ladies Love Brutes, The Cheat, The Criminal Code, The Sin of Madelon Claudet, The Sin Ship and the Sign of the Cross.

Hays Code Facts -  6: The immoral content of so many Hollywood films and the scandals surrounding famous actors and actresses provoked a media frenzy and the outrage of many Americans.

Hays Code Facts -  7: The picture is a screen shot from the Cecil B. DeMille epic movie, the Sign of the Cross (1932) depicting a naked woman prepared for sacrifice in the Colosseum. The movie was released before the Hays Cod Code came into effect, and also included scenes of violent gladiatorial combat, the erotic "Dance of the Naked Moon" and featured Claudette Colbert bathing in asses' milk. The religious epic detailed the Christians against the Roman emperor Nero. The movie blended themes of religious spirituality with debauchery and also included scenes of orgies, homosexuality, mass murder and torture.

Sign of the Cross (1932)

Hays Code Facts -  8: The reaction to the movie led to the 1934 formation of the Catholic Legion of Decency that aimed to combat questionable content in motion pictures and strong objections and complaints from other religious organizations.

Hays Code Facts -  9: Children and the Movies: There were no federal government restrictions in place regarding the attendance of children at the movies.

● Children under 12 years old represented 20% of the audiences
● People called for censorship of scenes that were harmful to children
● Others called for laws prohibiting children attending movies unaccompanied by an adult
● Eight states introduced stringent laws that restricted the attendance of children at certain hours
● A few states introduced laws prohibiting the attendance of children at movies that had been identified as harmful to kids
● The problem was addressed to some extent by the introduction of children's matinees that were shown by some cinemas

Hays Code Facts -  10: The 1927 release of the Jazz Singer, the first talking movie, brought a new dimension to films. People could be influenced by the words, spoken by their screen idols as well as the subject of the film and its plot. Hollywood in the 1920s was changing fast and the advent of the "Talkies" gave even more power to the movies.

Facts about the Hays Code for kids - Background History and Facts on the Hays Code

Facts about the Hays Code for kids - Background History and Facts on the Hays Code
The following fact sheet continues with interesting facts, background history and information on Hays Code and the events in Hollywood and in America that led to its creation.

Facts about the Hays Code for kids - Background History and Facts on the Hays Code

Hays Code Facts -  11: In 1929 the mood of the nation changed from the exuberant mood of prosperity and revelry of the Roaring Twenties to the dark days and hard times of the Great Depression when 25% of Americans were unemployed.

Hays Code Facts -  12: The Power of the Movies in relation to the social and cultural effects on the nation, and as a vehicle for propaganda, was well recognized by politicians, movie moguls, movie stars and the public. The power of the movies, enhanced by the 'talkies' and could result in both positive and negative effects.

Positive Social and Cultural Effects

● Bring knowledge and information
● Increase awareness
● Challenge values
● Expose stereotypes and racism
● Provide different perspectives
● Promote responsible actions
● Create good role models

Negative Social and Cultural Effects

● Incite hatred and fear
● Encourage the use of profanity, blasphemy
● Trivialize immoral acts
● Desensitize reactions to important problems and issues
● Cause offence and corrupt children
● Promote crime, unacceptable violence and behavior
● Create bad role models

Hays Code Facts -  13: Movies in the 1920s had used nudity, profanity, blasphemy, immorality and appeared to endorse illegal drinking during the Prohibition Era. The lives of movie actresses, or "vamps", with their heavy makeup, scant clothing and loose morals together with a series of famous scandals had brought Hollywood under close scrutiny and mounting criticism. The Movie Industry really had to "clean up its act".

Hays Code Facts -  14: The public outcry against the lack of regulation and the questionable content of the movies, together with the loose morals of some movie icons, was so great that strong, conservative forces applied political pressure for the federal government to establish a National Censorship Board.

Hays Code Facts -  15: The movie industry obviously did not want the federal government to have the power to censor or ban their films. To prevent this happening the Hollywood moguls and the movie studios decided to voluntarily apply censorship to the movies themselves which led to the adoption of the Hays Production Code.

The "General Principles" of the Hays Code provide an overview of the regulations and standards and an indication to the level of censorship it provided.

For details of the rules, regulations and standards stipulated in the Hays Code and the effect of censorship on American movies refer to our article on the Hays Code and Censorship

The Hays Code - General Principles

Hays Code Facts -  16: Will Hays (November 5, 1879 March 7, 1954) was President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) and a former US Postmaster General (19211922). Will Hays had resigned from his cabinet position to take up this highly lucrative position in the movie industry. His appointment was a great public relations coup and considerable publicity was given to his political career and his roles as a Presbyterian deacon.

Hays Code Facts -  17: His main roles were to reduce studio costs, improve the movie industry's image and to persuade individual state censor boards not to ban specific movies outright. He was the perfect choice to head the censorship team to formulate the Hays Code.

Hays Code Facts -  18: He appointed tough, Irish Catholic Joseph Breen (October 14, 1890 December 5, 1965) as "chief" of the Production Code Administration (PCA) to impose the more rigorous standards in the movie industry. Joseph Breen was journalist and an influential layperson in the Roman Catholic community which met the approval of the Catholic Legion of Decency. Breen's appointment did not meet the approval of many members of the Hollywood Movie community.

Hays Code Facts -  19: Joseph Breen held strong anticommunist and anti-Semitic views which antagonized the (largely) Jewish movie moguls and studio heads. In 1936 Liberty Magazine, a popular general-interest magazine wrote that Joseph Breen's appointment had given him "more influence in standardizing world thinking than Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin."

Hays Code Facts -  20: The Hays Code was abandoned in 1965 when the MPPDA adopted the age-based rating system that is in force today.

Facts about the Hays Code for kids - Background History and Facts on the Hays Code

Facts about Hays Code for kids
For visitors interested in the history of Hollywood refer to the following articles:

Hays Code - President Herbert Hoover Video
The article on Hays Code Facts provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Herbert Hoover video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 31st American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933.

Hays Code Facts

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