Anniversary Post: Motion Picture Production Code

Motion Picture Production Code

On this date, 31 March, in 1930, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America agreed to abide by the Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC) or “Hays code.” It stayed in effect until 1968, by which time it was often circumvented anyway. This saw the rise of the MPAA rating system.


All of these efforts — in the US and abroad — to protect audiences from the contents of films are evil and stupid. They are evil because they stop people from seeing the films they want, which producers are willing to supply in a lawful way.

We aren’t talking about kitty porn here. One of the final straws for the MPPC was its denial of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up. Why? Because it had nudity!

(Now the MPAA effectively has the ability to dictate what can be seen in a theatrical release because of the lack of competition in the theater business. And the MPAA uses this not to stop consumers from seeing love scenes, but rather same-sex love scenes. Think what you will about such things but the MPAA is effectively censoring ideas in these cases.)

Stupid and Evil

But this censorious behavior is also stupid in that it does protect anyone from anything. Take, for example, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was banned by the British Board of Film Classification. But in 1999, this ban was reversed. So that’s the difference between a film so dangerous it can’t even be seen and one that can: 25 years. What happened? Did humans become different?

It’s clear that the MPPC and other censors are not working in the interests of film viewers but of themselves. They don’t want to see the films so no one can. But after a bit of time, the censors get used to the films and allow others to see them. No one is made safer as a result of this.

Now, with so many films being released directly to consumers, the MPAA and others don’t have the power they once did. But they continue to have a pernicious effect on film. See Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

Also on 31 March

Actor Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) was born on 1922,

William Daniels (A Thousand Clowns) is 93, Richard Chamberlain (The Three Musketeers) and Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family) are 86, Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone) is 77, Gabe Kaplan (Welcome Back, Kotter) is 75, Rhea Perlman (Canadian Bacon) is 72, Paul Mercurio (Dark Planet) is 57, William McNamara (Natural Enemy) is 55, Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) is 49, and Andrew Bowen (Conjurer) is 48.

Directors Robert Stevenson (The Love Bug) was born in 1905, Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) in 1918, and Nagisa Oshima (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence) in 1932.

Director Adam Green (Hatchet) is 45.

Hays Code image taken from a copy of Bride of Frankenstein under Fair Use.

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