What’s wrong with the modern American cinema? Out of 2015’s top 20 films, why were 12 rated R, six rated PG-13 and none rated G? The reason is, films are rated but not censored. 

It’s hard to believe there was a time when everyone could see every film. A look at past films, however, reassures one’s faith in proper entertainment. Surprisingly, films in the ’20s and early ’30s contained immoral elements similar to those in the 1960s. Why were films so wholesome only slightly later? 

The answer is simple: From 1934 to 1954, Joseph Breen strictly enforced the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. But what is this code and how did it produce films that adhere to strong moral principles? 

Read on to learn about loose early films, Hollywood’s Golden Age, its tragic demise, and the hope it gives for the future.

In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment excludes motion pictures. Individual states

immediately began censorship. Hollywood realized the need for self-censorship since different states were making various cuts to films and government censorship was being threatened. All attempts at self-censorship failed until Quigley and Father Lord wrote the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (Hays Code). Hollywood officially adopted it, but the administrators lacked authority to enforce it. 

In 1934, an amendment to the Hays Code was adopted, requiring all films to be approved by the production code administration before release. Breen became the director and the code was strictly enforced. 

When Breen retired and Geoffrey Shurlock replaced him, the code and the cinema suffered. Shurlock lacked Breen’s strength and succumbed to the directors’ pressure. In 1968, Shurlock retired, the rating system replaced the code and Hollywood’s Golden Age was over.

For two decades, Hollywood was conscious of its strong moral influence. Everyone could go to the theater without concerns. Filmmakers think obscenity sells tickets, but audiences will accept anything from Hollywood, adapting their lifestyles accordingly. 

With films getting worse annually and American immorality increasing rapidly, something must be done. If America is going to change, Hollywood must change first. The taboo subjects in the code still exist, still are wrong and still corrupt audiences.

 What can Americans do to invoke change? Visit https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.word
press.com to help us bring back the code, clean up films, and make America again, as our founding-fathers named it, “a city on a hill.”

Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan


Editor’s note: The 1915 U.S. Supreme Court case relied upon in the above letter was overturned on this point 65 years ago in The U.S. Supreme Court case Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson (1952) 343 U.S. 495, 502 and Footnote 12.