The Motion Picture Production Code with Its Revisions

During the thirty-seven years that the Code governed Hollywood in name, many amendments and revisions were made to it. I invite you to compare this version of the Code with the original, unedited version from 1930, which is in a previous entry. One may notice that this version is more specific than the original Code. The amendments during the Breen era specify with greater detail what is unacceptable.  This was Mr. Breen’s response to the challenges he received from many directors, who searched ceaselessly for loopholes and vague areas in the rigid set of rules which they were forced to obey.

The Production Code of the Motion Picture Industry

(aka “The Hays Code”)

(1930-1967)

Foreword (December 1944 to January 1, 1949)
Motion pictures made in the United States are, with few exceptions, produced in accordance with the provisions of a Production Code. A majority of the foreign pictures, exhibited in theatres here, likewise conform to these self-imposed industry rules and regulations.
In Hollywood, there is a department of the Association, with an office also in New York, known as the Production Code Administration which was organized by the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America, Inc., and which is authorized and maintained by the producing companies using it.
The group which forms this Administration has been empowered by the Association and these same producing companies to make certain that the articles of the Production Code are uniformly and impartially interpreted and applied.
All the major producing and distributing companies in the United States, and ninety-nine per cent of the others, work with, and through, the Production Code Administration. Very few of the producers of English-dialogue motion pictures now being publicly exhibited in theatres in the United States fail to make use of the facilities of the Code Administration. This service is rendered and this work conducted on a purely voluntary basis. No one is compelled to produce motion pictures in accordance with the Code regulations. No attempt is made to force producers to accept the service of the Production Code Administration. As a result, however, of almost fifteen years of day-by-day operations, during which time more than six thousand feature-length motion pictures and twice as many short-subject films, have been serviced by the Code Administration, there is evident on all sides, a ready disposition to conform to the regulations of the Code and to be guided in large measure by the judgment and experience of its administrators. This effort to establish high principles of public responsibility for an art-industry has been singularly difficult and significant because of the newness, nature, and variety of this remarkable medium of expression which draws its raw material from all of drama, all of music, all of literature. and all of life; and because of the world-wide character of a consumer audience represented by an average of more than 85,000,000 admissions a week in the United States and, in normal times, an additional estimated 150,000,000 weekly in the rest of the world.
Industrial democracy can no longer be taken for granted. It must be defended. The problem of our national economy very properly has been stated to be the problem of maintaining, to the highest degree, initiative, enterprise and freedom in industry and in business. But these are rights that must be matched by equivalent responsibilities—moral, social and economic.
There is no real substitute for successful self-government in industry. There can be no permanent progress for a creative industry controlled in the interest of economic regimentation or political dictatorship. Yet, every error of judgment in the movies brings immediate criticism and inevitably jeopardizes the essential freedom of expression on which our democracy has been built. The motion picture industry in the United States is an important and significant case-study of the economic, artistic and social achievement of self-government in business.
The development of high moral and artistic standards in motion picture production has vastly improved the supply of popular entertainment and raised the artistic stature of the screen. To this result the vigorous and painstaking application of the Motion Picture Production Code to every process of film production, from the story to the finished production, has contributed immeasurably.
Our experience indicates clearly that self-regulation is wholly consonant with freedom of expression for the motion picture art. None of the objectives toward which the industry must strive, in carrying out its public responsibilities, is outside the framework of self-discipline.
An alive and responsible public opinion is the guiding force in this, as in all systems of self-government. The motion picture public is not millions more or less conditioned to the suggestive and sensational. It is a universal public attracted to the motion picture theatre by a vast variety of clean and artistic entertainment.
Foreword(1949)
Motion pictures made in the United States are, with few exceptions, produced in accordance with the provisions of a Production Code. A majority of the foreign pictures, exhibited in theatres here, likewise conform to these self-imposed industry rules and regulations.
In Hollywood, there is a department of the Association, with an office also in New York known as the Production Code Administration organized by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., and which is authorized and maintained by the producing companies using it.
The group which forms this Administration has been empowered by the Association and these same producing companies to make certain that the articles of the Production Code are uniformly and impartially interpreted and applied.
All the major producing and distribution companies in the United States, and the great majority of the others, work with, and through the Production Code Administration. Very few of the producers of English-dialogue motion pictures now being publicly exhibited in theatres in the United States fail to make use of the facilities of the Code Administration.
This service is rendered and this work conducted on a purely voluntary basis. No one is compelled to produce motion pictures in accordance with the Code regulations. No attempt is made to force producers to accept the service of the Production Code Administration. As a result, however, of more than 20 years of day-by-day operations, during which time eight thousand feature-length motion pictures and twice as many short-subject films have been serviced by the Code Administration, there is evident on all sides a ready disposition to conform to the regulations of the Code and to be guided in large measure by the judgment and experience of its administrators.
This effort to establish high principles of public responsibility for an art-industry has been singularly difficult and significant because of the newness, nature, and variety of this remarkable medium of expression which draws its raw material from all of drama, all of music, all of literature, and all of life; and because of the world-wide character of the consumer audience estimated at upwards of 75,000,000 admissions a week in the United States and, in normal times, an additional estimated 150,000,000 weekly in the rest of the world.
Industrial democracy can no longer be taken for granted. It must be strengthened. The problem of our national economy very properly has been stated to be the problem of maintaining, to the highest degree, initiative, enterprise and freedom in industry and in business. But these are rights that must be matched by equivalent responsibilities—moral, social and economic.
There is no real substitute for successful self-government in industry. There can be no permanent progress for a creative industry controlled in the interest of economic regimentation or political dictatorship. Yet, every error of judgment in the movies brings immediate criticism and inevitably jeopardizes the essential freedom of expression on which our democracy has been built. The motion picture industry in the United States is an important and significant case-study of the economic, artistic and social achievement of self-government in business.
The development of high moral and artistic standards in motion picture production has vastly improved the supply of popular entertainment and raised the artistic stature of the screen. To this result the vigorous and painstaking application of the Motion Picture Production Code to every process of film production, from the story to the finished picture, has contributed immeasurably.
Our experience indicates clearly that self-regulation is wholly consonant with freedom of expression for the motion picture art. None of the objectives toward which the industry must strive, in carrying out its public responsibilities, is outside the framework of self-discipline.
An alive and responsible public opinion is the guiding force in this, as in all systems of self-government. The motion picture public is not millions more or less conditioned to the Suggestive and sensational. It is a universal public attracted to the motion picture theatre by a vast variety of clean and artistic entertainment.

Preamble

Motion picture producers recognize the high trust and confidence which have been placed in them by the people of the world and which have made motion pictures a universal form of entertainment.

They recognize their responsibility to the public because of this trust and because entertainment and art are important influences in the life of a nation.

Hence, though regarding motion pictures primarily as entertainment without any explicit purpose of teaching or propaganda, they know that the motion picture within its own field of entertainment may be directly responsible for spiritual or moral progress, for higher types of social life, and for much correct thinking.

During the rapid transition from silent to talking pictures they realized the necessity and the opportunity of subscribing to a Code to govern the production of talking pictures and of acknowledging this responsibility.

On their part, they ask from the public and from public leaders a sympathetic understanding of their purposes and problems and a spirit of cooperation that will allow them the freedom and opportunity necessary to bring the motion picture to a still higher level of wholesome entertainment for all the people.

General Principles

1. No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin.

2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.

3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Particular Applications

I. Crimes Against the Law

These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation.

1. Murder

(a) The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.

(b) Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.

(c) Revenge in modern times shall not be justified.

(Addition of circa 1955)
(d) Mercy killing shall never be made to seem right or permissable.

2. Methods of crime should not be explicitly presented.

(a) Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.

(b) Arson must be subject to the same safeguards.

(c) The use of firearms should be restricted to essentials.

(d) Methods of smuggling should not be presented.

(Addition from 1930 to 1946)
#3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
(Modification of 1946 to 1951)
#3. The illegal drug traffic must not be portrayed in such a way as to stimulate curiosity concerning the use of, or traffic in, such drugs; nor shall scenes be approved which show the use of illegal drugs, or their effects, in detail.
(Modification of 1951 to 1956)
#3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.

4. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, will not be shown.

(Addition of 1956)
9. Drug addiction or the illicit traffic in addiction-producing drugs shall not be shown if the portrayal:(a) Tends in any manner to encourage, stimulate, or justify the use of such drugs; or

(b) Stresses, visually or by dialog, their temporary attractive effects; or

(c) Suggests that the drug habit may be quickly or easily broken; or

(d) Shows details of drug procurement or of the taking of drugs in any manner; or

(e) Emphasizes the profits of the drug traffic; or

(f) Involves children who are shown knowingly to use or traffic in drugs.

10. Stories on the kidnapping or illegal abduction of children are acceptable under the Code only when

(a) when the subject is handled with restraint and discretion and avoids details, gruesomeness and undue horror; and

(b) the child is returned unharmed.

(Addition of 1956)
II. BrutalityExcessive and inhuman acts of cruelty and brutality shall not be presented. This includes all detailed and protracted presentation of physical violence, torture, and abuse.

 

 

II. Sex

The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.

1. Adultery and illicit sex, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated or justified, or presented attractively.

2. Scenes of passion

(a) These should not be introduced except where they are definitely essential to the plot.

(b) Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures are not to be shown.

(c) In general, passion should be treated in such manner as not to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.

3. Seduction or rape

(a) These should never be more than suggested, and then only when essential for the plot. They must never be shown by explicit method.

(b) They are never the proper subject for comedy.

(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
(Modification of 1956)
4. The subject of abortion shall be discouraged, shall never be more than suggested, and when referred to shall be condemned. It must never be treated lightly, or made the subject of comedy. Abortion shall never be shown explicitly or by inference, and a story must not indicate that an abortion has been performed, the word “abortion” shall not be used.
(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
5. White slavery shall not be treated.
(Modification of 1956)
5. The methods and techniques of prostitution and white slavery shall never be presented in detail, nor shall the subjects be presented unless shown in contrast to right standards of behavior. Brothels in any clear identification as such may not be shown.
(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
6. Miscegenation (sex relationship between the white and black races) is forbidden.
(Modification from 1956 to 1961)
6. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
(Modification of 1961)
6. Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations.
(Addition from 1934 to 1951)
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not proper subjects for theatrical motion pictures.
(Modification from 1951 to 1956)
7. Abortion, sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not proper subjects for theatrical motion pictures.
(Modification of 1956)
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not proper subjects for theatrical motion pictures.
(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
8. Scenes of actual childbirth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.
(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
9. Children’s sex organs are never to be exposed.
(Modification of 1956)
8. Children’s sex organs are never to be exposed. This provision shall not apply to infants.

 

III. Vulgarity

The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should be guided always by the dictates of good taste and a proper regard for the sensibilities of the audience.

IV. Obscenity

Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke or by suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is forbidden.

V. Profanity

(Addition of 1934 to 1939)
Pointed profanity (this includes God, Lord, Jesus, Christ—unless used reverently—Hell, S.O.B., damn, Gawd), or other profane or vulgar expressions, however used, is forbidden.
(Modification of 1939 to 1956)
Pointed profanity and every other profane or vulgar expression, however used, is forbidden.(1) No approval by the Production Code Administration shall be given to the use of words and phrases in motion pictures including, but not limited to, the following:

Alley cat (applied to a woman); bat (applied to a woman); broad (applied to a woman); Bronx cheer (the sound); chippie; cocotte; God, Lord, Jesus, Christ (unless used reverently); cripes; fanny; fairy (in a vulgar sense); finger (the); fire, cries of; Gawd; goose (in a vulgar sense); “hold your hat” or “hats”; hot (applied to a woman); “in your hat”; louse; lousy; Madam (relating to prostitution); nance, nerts; nuts (except when meaning crazy); pansy; razzberry (the sound); slut (applied to a woman); SOB.; son-of-a; tart; toilet gags; tom cat (applied to a man); traveling salesman and farmer’s daughter jokes; whore; damn; hell (excepting when the use of said last two words shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore, or for the presentation in proper literary context of a Biblical, or other religious quotation, or a quotation from a literary work provided that no such use shall he permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste).

(Modification of 1956)
Vulgar expressions and double meanings having the same effect are forbidden. This shall include but not be limited to such words and expressions as chippie, fairy, goose, nuts, pansy, S.O.B., son-of-a. The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should be guided always by the dictates of good taste and a proper regard for the sensibilities of the audience.
(Addition of 1939 to circa-1945)
(2) The following words and phrases are invariably deleted by political censor boards:Bum (in England)
Bloody (in England)
“Cissy” or “Sissy” (in England)
Gigolo (in England)
Poisons (specific names of) (in United States)
Punk (in England)
Sex appeal (in England)
Sex life (in England)
Shag (in British Empire)
Shyster (in England)
“Stick ‘em up” (in United States and Canada)

(3) The following words and phrases are obviously offensive to the patrons of motion pictures in the United States and more particularly to the patrons of motion pictures in foreign countries and, therefore, should be omitted:

Chink (Chinese)
Dago (Italian)
Frog (French)
Greaser (Mexico and Central America)
Hunkie (Hungarian)
Kike (U.S. and England)
Nigger (U.S.)
Spic (Mexico and central America)
Wop (Italian)
Yid (U.S. and England)(Modification of circa-1945 to 1956)

Pointed profanity and every other profane or vulgar expression, however used, is forbidden.No approval by the Production Code Administration shall be given to the use of words and phrases in motion pictures including, but not limited to, the following:

Alley cat (applied to a woman); bat (applied to a woman); broad (applied to a woman); Bronx cheer (the sound); chippie; cocotte; God, Lord, Jesus, Christ (unless used reverently); cripes; fanny; fairy (in a vulgar sense); finger (the); fire, cries of; Gawd; goose (in a vulgar sense); “hold your hat” or “hats”; hot (applied to a woman); “in your hat”; louse; lousy; Madam (relating to prostitution); nance, nerts; nuts (except when meaning crazy); pansy; razzberry (the sound); slut (applied to a woman); SOB.; son-of-a; tart; toilet gags; tom cat (applied to a man); traveling salesman and farmer’s daughter jokes; whore; damn; hell (excepting when the use of said last two words shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore, or for the presentation in proper literary context of a Biblical, or other religious quotation, or a quotation from a literary work provided that no such use shall he permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste).

In the administration of Section V of the Production Code, the Production Code Administration may take cognizance of the fact that the following words and phrases are obviously offensive to the patrons of motion pictures in the United States and more particularly to the patrons of motion pictures in foreign countries:

Chink, Dago, Frog, Greaser, Hunkie, Kike, Nigger, Spic, Wop, Yid.

 

 

VI. Costume

1. Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any licentious notice thereof by other characters in the pictures.

2. Undressing scenes should be avoided, and never used save where essential to the plot.

3. Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden.

4. Dancing costumes intended to permit undue exposure of indecent movements in the dance are forbidden.

(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
VII. Dances1. Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passion are forbidden.

2. Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be regarded as obscene.

 
 

 

VIII. Religion

1. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.

2. Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.

3. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled.

(Addition of 1930 to 1956)
IX. LocationsThe treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste and delicacy.
(Addition of 1956)
IX. Special SubjectsThe following subjects must be treated with discretion and restraint within the careful limits of good taste:

1. Bedroom scenes.

2. Hangings and electrocutions.

3. Liquor and drinking.

4. Surgical operations and childbirth.

5. Third-degree methods.

 

X. National Feelings

1. The use of the flag shall be consistently respectful.

2. The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry of all nations shall be represented fairly.

(Addition of 1956)
3. No picture shall be produced that tends to incite bigotry or hatred among peoples of differing races, religions, or national origins. The use of such offensive words as Chink, Dago, Frog, Hunkie, Kike, Nigger, Spic, Wop, Yid should be avoided.

 

XI. Titles

(Addition of 1930 to 1947)
Salacious, indecent, or obscene titles shall not be used.
(Modification of 1947 to 1956)
1. Salacious, indecent, or obscene titles shall not be used.2. Titles which suggest or are currently associated in the public mind with material, characters, or occupations unsuitable for the screen.

3. Titles which are otherwise objectionable.

(Modification of 1956)
1. Titles which are salacious, indecent, obscene, profane or vulgar.2. Titles which violate any other clause of this code.

 

XII. Repellent Subjects

The following subjects must be treated within the careful limits of good taste.

1. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments for crime.

2. Third-degree methods.

3. Brutality and possible gruesomeness.

4. Branding of people or animals.

5. Apparent cruelty to children or animals.

6. The sale of women, or a woman selling her virtue.

7. Surgical operations.

Reasons Supporting Preamble of Code

I. Theatrical motion pictures, that is, pictures intended for the theatre as distinct from pictures intended for churches, schools, lecture halls, educational movements, social reform movements, etc., are primarily to be regarded as entertainment. Mankind has always recognized the importance of entertainment and its value in rebuilding the bodies and souls of human beings.

But it has always recognized that entertainment can be of a character either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race, and in consequence has clearly distinguished between:

(a) Entertainment which tends to improve the race, or at least to re-create and rebuild human beings exhausted with the realities of life; and

(b) Entertainment which tends to degrade human beings, or to lower their standards of life and living.

Hence the Moral importance of entertainment is something Which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the whole of their lives. A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work.

So correct entertainment raises the whole standard of a nation.

Wrong entertainment lowers the whole living conditions and moral ideals of a race.

Note, for example, the healthy reactions to healthful sports, like baseball, golf; the unhealthy reactions to sports like cockfighting, bullfighting, bear baiting, etc.

Note, too, the effect on ancient nations of gladiatorial combats, the obscene plays of Roman times, etc.

II. Motion pictures are very important as art. Though a new art, possibly a combination art, it has the same object as the other arts, the presentation of human thought, emotion, and experience, in terms of an appeal to the soul through the senses.

Here, as in entertainment,

Art enters intimately into the lives of human beings.

Art can be morally good, lifting men to higher levels. This has been done through good music, great painting, authentic fiction, poetry, drama.

Art can be morally evil in its effects. This is the case clearly enough with unclean art, indecent books, suggestive drama. The effect on the lives of men and women is obvious.

Note: It has often been argued that art in itself is unmoral, neither good nor bad. This is perhaps true of the thing product of some person’s mind, and the intention of that mind was either good or bad morally when it produced the thing.

Besides, the thing has its effect upon those who come into contact with it. In both these ways, this is, as a product of a mind and as the cause of definite effects, it has a deep moral significance and an unmistakable moral quality.

Hence: The motion pictures, which are the most popular arts for the masses, have their moral quality from the intention of the minds which produce them and from their effects on the moral lives and reactions of their audiences. This gives them a most important moral quality.

1. They reproduce the morality of the men who use the pictures as a medium for the expression of their idea and ideals.

2. They affect the moral standards of those who, through the screen, take in these ideas and ideals.

In the case of the motion pictures, this effect may be particularly emphasized because no art has so quick and so widespread an appeal to the masses. It has become in an incredibly short period the art of the multitudes.

III. The motion picture, because of its importance as entertainment and because of the trust placed in it by the peoples of the world, has special moral obligations:

A. Most arts appeal to the mature. This art appeals at once to every class, mature, immature, developed, underdeveloped, law abiding, criminal. Music has its grades for different classes; so has literature and drama. This art of the motion picture, combining as it does the two fundamental appeals of looking at a picture and listening to a story, at once reached every class of society.

B. By reason of the mobility of a film and the ease of picture distribution, and because of the possibility of duplicating positives in large quantities, this art reaches places unpenetrated by other forms of art.

C. Because of these two facts, it is difficult to produce films intended for only certain classes of people. The exhibitor’s theatres are built for the masses, for the cultivated and the rude, the mature and the immature, the self-respecting and the criminal. Films, unlike books and music, can with difficulty be confined to certain selected groups.

D. The latitude given to film material cannot, in consequence, be as wide as the latitude given to book material. In addition:

(a) A book describes; a film vividly presents. One presents on a cold page; the other by apparently living people.

(b) A book reaches the mind through words merely; a film reaches the eyes and ears through the reproduction of actual events.

(c) The reaction of a reader to a book depends largely on the keenness of the reader’s imagination; the reaction to a film depends on the vividness of presentation.

Hence many things which might be described or presented in a book could not possibly be presented in a film.

E. This is also true when comparing the film with the newspaper.

(a) Newspapers present by description, films by actual presentation.

(b) Newspapers are after the fact and present things as having taken place, the film gives the events in the process of enactment and with apparent reality of life.

F. Everything possible in a play is not possible in a film:

(a) Because of the large audience of the film, and its consequential mixed character. Psychologically, the larger the audience, the lower the moral mass resistance to suggestion.

(b) Because through light, enlargement of character, presentation, scenic emphasis, etc., the screen story is brought closer to the audience than the play.

(c) The enthusiasm for and interest in the film actors and actresses, developed beyond anything of the sort in history, makes the audience largely sympathetic toward the characters they portray and the stories in which they figure. Hence the audience is more ready to confuse actor and actress and the characters they portray, and it is more receptive of the emotions and ideals presented by their favorite stars.

G. Small communities, remote from sophistication and from the hardening process which often takes place in the ethical and moral standards of groups in large cities, are easily and readily reached by any sort of film.

H. The grandeur of mass settings, large action, spectacular features, etc., affect and arouses more intensely the emotional side of the audience.

In general, the mobility, popularity, accessibility, emotional appeal, vividness, straightforward presentation of fact in the film make for more intimate contact with a larger audience and for greater emotional appeal.

Hence the larger moral responsibilities of the motion pictures.

Reasons Underlying the General Principles

1. No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of the crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin.

This is done:

(1) When evil is made to appear attractive or alluring, and good is made to appear unattractive.

(2) When the sympathy of the audience is thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil, sin. The same thing is true of a film that would throw sympathy against goodness, honor, innocence, purity, or honesty.

Note: Sympathy with a person who sins is not the same as sympathy with the sin or crime of which he is guilty. We may feel sorry for the plight of the murderer or even understand the circumstances which led him to his crime. We may not feel sympathy with the wrong which he has done. The presentation of evil is often essential for art or fiction or drama. This in itself is not wrong provided:

a. That evil is not presented alluringly. Even if later in the film the evil is condemned or punished, it must not he allowed to appear so attractive that the audience’s emotions are drawn to desire or approve so strongly that later the condemnation is forgotten and only the apparent joy of the sin remembered.

b. That throughout, the audience feels sure that evil is wrong and good is right.

2. Correct standards of life shall, as far as possible, be presented.

A wide knowledge of life and of living is made possible through the film. When right standards are consistently presented, the motion picture exercises the most powerful influences. It builds character, develops right ideals, inculcates correct principles, and all this in attractive story form.

If motion pictures consistently hold up for admiration high types of characters and present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful natural force for the improvement of mankind.

3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

By natural law is understood the law which is written in the hearts of all mankind, the great underlying principles of right and justice dictated by conscience.

By human law is understood the law written by civilized nations.

1. The presentation of crimes against the law is often necessary for the carrying out of the plot. But the presentation must not throw sympathy with the crime as against the law nor with the criminal as against those who punish him.

2. The courts of the land should not he presented as unjust. This does not mean that a single court may not be represented as unjust, much less than a single court official must not be presented this way. But the court system of the country must not suffer as a result of this presentation.

Reasons Underlying Particular Applications

1. Sin and evil enter into the story of human beings and hence in themselves are valid dramatic material.

2. In the use of this material, it must be distinguished between sin which repels by its very nature, and sins which often attract.

a. In the first class come murder, most theft, many legal crimes, lying, hypocrisy, cruelty, etc.

b. In the second class come sex sins, sins and crimes of apparent heroism, such as banditry, daring thefts, leadership in evil, organized crime, revenge, etc.

The first class needs less care in treatment, as sins and crimes of this class are naturally unattractive. The audience instinctively condemns all such and is repelled.

Hence the important objective must be to avoid the hardening of the audience, especially of those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and fact of crime. People can become accustomed even to murder, cruelty, brutality, and repellent crimes, if these are too frequently repeated.

The second class needs great care in handling, as the response of human nature to their appeal is obvious. This is treated more fully below.

3. A careful distinction can be made between films intended for general distribution, and films intended for use in theatres restricted to a limited audience. Themes and plots quite appropriate for the latter would be altogether out of place and dangerous in the former.

Note: The practice of using a general theatre and limiting its patronage during the showing of a certain film to “Adults Only” is not completely satisfactory and is only partially effective.

However, maturer minds may easily understand and accept without harm subject matter in plots which do younger people positive harm.

Hence: If there should be created a special type of theatre, catering exclusively to an adult audience for plays of this character (plays with problem themes, difficult discussions and maturer treatment) it would seem to afford an outlet, which does not now exist, for pictures unsuitable for general distribution but permissible for exhibitions to a restricted audience.

I. Crimes Against the Law

The treatment of crimes against the law must not:

1. Teach methods of crime.

2. Inspire potential criminals with a desire for imitation.

3. Make criminals seem heroic and justified.

Revenge in modern times shall not be justified. In lands and ages of less developed civilization and moral principles, revenge may sometimes be presented. This would be the case especially in places where no law exists to cover the crime because of which revenge is committed.

(Addition of 1930 to 1934)
Because of its evil consequences, the drug traffic should not be presented in any form. The existence of the trade should not be brought to the attention of audiences.
(Modification of 1934 to 1946)
Because of its evil consequences, the drug traffic should not be presented in any form.
(Modification of 1946)
 

The use of liquor should never be excessively presented. In scenes from American life, the necessities of plot and proper characterization alone justify its use. And in this case, it should be shown with moderation.

II. Sex

Out of regard for the sanctity of marriage and the home, the triangle, that is, the love of a third party for one already married, needs careful handling. The treatment should not throw sympathy against marriage as an institution.

Scenes of passion must be treated with an honest acknowledgement of human nature and its normal reactions. Many scenes cannot be presented without arousing dangerous emotions on the part of the immature, the young, or the criminal classes.

Even within the limits of pure love, certain facts have been universally regarded by lawmakers as outside the limits of safe presentation. In the case of impure love, the love which society has always regarded as wrong and which has been banned by divine law, the following are important:

1. Impure love must not be presented as attractive and beautiful.

2. It must not be the subject of comedy or farce, or treated as material for laughter.

3. It must not be presented in such a way as to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience.

4. It must be made to seem right and permissible.

5. In general, it must not be detailed in method and manner.

III. Vulgarity; IV. Obscenity; V. Profanity; hardly need further explanation than is contained in the Code.

VI. Costume

General principles:

1. The effect of nudity or semi-nudity upon the normal man or woman, and much more upon the young and upon immature persons, has been honestly recognized by all lawmakers and moralists.

2. Hence the fact that the nude or semi-nude body may be beautiful does not make its use in the films moral. For, in addition to its beauty, the effect of the nude or semi-nude body on the normal individual must be taken into consideration.

3. Nudity or semi-nudity used simply to put a “punch” into a picture comes under the head of immoral actions. It is immoral in its effect on the average audience.

4. Nudity can never be permitted as being necessary for the plot. Semi-nudity must not result in undue or indecent exposures.

5. Transparent or translucent materials and silhouette are frequently more suggestive than actual exposure.

VII. Dances

Dancing in general is recognized as an art and as a beautiful form of expressing human emotions.

But dances which suggest or represent sexual actions, whether performed solo or with two or more; dances intended to excite the emotional reaction of an audience; dances with movement of the breasts, excessive body movements while the feet are stationary, violate decency and are wrong.

VIII. Religion

The reason why ministers of religion may not be comic characters or villains is simply because the attitude taken toward them may easily become the attitude taken toward religion in general. Religion is lowered in the minds of the audience because of the lowering of the audience’s respect for a minister.

IX. Locations

Certain places are so closely and thoroughly associated with sexual life or with sexual sin that their use must be carefully limited.

X. National Feelings

The just rights, history, and feelings of any nation are entitled to most careful consideration and respectful treatment.

XI. Titles

As the title of a picture is the brand on that particular type of goods, it must conform to the ethical practices of all such honest business.

XII. Repellent Subjects

Such subjects are occasionally necessary for the plot. Their treatment must never offend good taste nor injure the sensibilities of an audience.

(Addition of 1938)

Special Regulations on Crime in Motion Pictures

Resolved

, that the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., hereby ratifies, approves, and confirms the interpretations of the Production Code, the practices thereunder, and the resolutions indicating and confirming such interpretations heretofore adopted by the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc., effectuating regulations relative to the treatment of crime in motion pictures, as follows:

1. Details of crime must never be shown and care should be exercised at all times in discussing such details.

2. Action suggestive of wholesale slaughter of human beings, either by criminals, in conflict with police, or as between warring fractions of criminals, or in public disorders of any kind, will not be allowed.

3. There must be no suggestion, at any time, of excessive brutality.

4. Because of the increase in the number of films in which murder is frequently committed, action showing the taking of human life, even in the mystery stories, is to be cut to the minimum. These frequent presentations of murder tend to lessen regard for the sacredness of life.

 

(Addition of 1938 to 1951)
5. Suicide, as a solution of problems occurring in the development of screen drama, is to be discouraged as morally questionable and as bad theatre—unless absolutely necessary for the development of the plot.
(Modification of 1951)
5. Suicide, as a solution of problems occurring in the development of screen drama, is to be discouraged as morally questionable and as bad theatre—unless absolutely necessary for the development of the plot. It should never be justified or glorified or used to defeat the due process of law.
(Addition of 1938)
6. There must be no display, at any time, of machine guns, sub-machine guns or other weapons generally classified as illegal weapons in the hands of gangsters, or other criminals, and there are to be no off-stage sounds of the repercussions of these guns.7. There must be no new, unique or trick methods shown for concealing guns.

8. The flaunting of weapons by gangsters, or other criminals, will not be allowed.

9. All discussions and dialogue on the part of gangsters regarding guns should be cut to the minimum.

(Addition of 1938 to 1951)
10. There must be no scenes, at any time, showing law-enforcement officers dying at the hands of criminals. This includes private detectives and guards for banks, motor trucks, etc.
(Modification of 1951)
10. There must be no scenes, at any time, showing law-enforcing officers dying at the hands of criminals unless such scenes are absolutely necessary to the development of the plot. This includes private detectives and guards for banks, motor trucks, etc.
(Addition of 1938)
11. With special reference to the crime of kidnapping—or illegal abduction—such stories are acceptable under the Code only when the kidnapping or abduction is (a) not the main theme of the story; (b) the person kidnapped is not a child; (c) there are no details of the crime of kidnapping; (d) no profit accrues to the abductors or kidnappers; and (e) where the kidnappers are punished.It is understood, and agreed, that the word kidnapping, as used in paragraph 11 of these Regulations, is intended to mean abduction, or illegal detention, in modem times, by criminals for ransom.

12. Pictures dealing with criminal activities, in which minors participate, or to which minors are related, shall not be approved if they incite demoralizing imitation on the part of youth.

 

(Addition of 1947)
13. No picture shall be approved dealing with the life of a notorious criminal of current or recent times which uses the name, nickname or alias of such notorious criminal in the film, nor shall a picture be approved if based upon the life of such a notorious criminal unless the character shown in the film be punished for crimes shown in the film as committed by him.
(Addition of 1939)

Special Resolution on Costumes

On October 25, 1939 the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., adopted the following resolution:

Resolved, That the provisions of Paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of sub-division VI of the Production Code in their application to costumes, nudity, indecent or undue exposure and dancing costumes, shall not be interpreted to exclude authentically photographed scenes photographed in a foreign land, of natives of such foreign land, showing native life, if such scenes are a necessary and integral part of a motion picture depicting exclusively such land and native life, provided that no such scenes shall be intrinsically objectional nor made a part of any motion picture produced in any studio; and provided further that no emphasis shall be made in any scenes of the customs or garb of such natives or in the exploitation thereof.

(Addition of 1940)

Special Regulations on Cruelty to Animals

On December 27, 1940 the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., approved a resolution adopted by the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc., reaffirming previous resolutions of the California Association concerning brutality and possible gruesomeness, branding of people and animals, and apparent cruelty to children and animals:

Resolved

, by the Board of Directors of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc., that

(1) Hereafter, In the production of motion pictures there shall be no use by the members of the Association of the contrivance or apparatus in connection with animals which is known as the “running W,” nor shall any picture submitted to the Production Code Administration be approved if reasonable grounds exist for believing that use of any similar device by the producer of such picture resulted in apparent cruelty to animals; and

(2) Hereafter, In the production of motion pictures by the members of the Association such member shall, as to any picture involving the use of animals, invite on the lot during the shooting and consult with the authorized representative of the American Humane Association; and

(3) Steps shall be taken immediately by the members of the Association and by the Production Code Administration to require compliance with these resolutions which shall bear the same relationship to the sections of the Production Code quoted herein as the Association’s special regulations re: Crime in Motion Pictures bear to the sections of the Production Code dealing therewith; and it is

Further resolved

, That the resolutions of February 19, 1925 and all other resolutions of this Board establishing its policy to prevent all cruelty to animals in the production of motion pictures and reflecting its determination to prevent any such cruelty be and the same hereby are in all respects reaffirmed.

 

Resolutions for Uniform Interpretation

as amended June 13, 1934

1. When requested by production managers, the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., shall secure any facts, information or suggestions concerning the probable reception of stories or the manner in which in its opinion they may best be treated.

2. That each production manager shall submit in confidence a copy of each or any script to the Production Code Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (and of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc., California). The Production Code Administration will give the production manager for his guidance such confidential advice and suggestions as experience, research, and information indicate, designating wherein in its judgment the script departs from the provisions of the Code, or wherein from experience or knowledge it is believed that exception will be taken to the story or treatment.

3. Each production manager of a company belonging to the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., and any producer proposing to distribute and/or distributing his picture through the facilities of any member of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., shall submit to such Production Code Administration every picture he produces before the negative goes to the laboratory for printing. Said Production Code Administration, having seen the picture, shall inform the production manager in writing whether in its opinion the picture conforms or does not conform to the Code, stating specifically wherein either by theme, treatment, or incident, the picture violates the provisions of the Code. In such latter event, the picture shall not be released until the changes indicated by the Production Code Administration have been made; provided, however, that the production manager may appeal from such opinion of said Production Code Administration, so indicated in writing, to the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., whose finding shall be final, and such production manager and company shall be governed accordingly.

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