Click here for more fun at RinkWorks!
 Main      Site Guide    
All Movie Talk

Welcome to All Movie Talk! In this audio podcast, Samuel Stoddard and Stephen Keller talk about old and new movies, famous directors, historical film movements, movie trivia, and more.

All Movie Talk

All Posts



Vintage: The Hays Organization

For the last three weeks in the podcast, we've been talking about the history of Ratings and Censorship in America. We mentioned how William Hays was appointed to establish some kind of means by which film content would be regulated as part of an effort to "clean up" Hollywood's scandalized image with the public.

The Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code, would be put into effect in 1934 and last for a few decades until it eventually suffered from social obsolescence. It was replaced with the MPAA ratings system we know today in 1968. But the Hays Organization had a hand in regulating film content well before 1934, albeit with less power. Here's a little glimpse at the Hays Organization in 1927.

The Hays Organization
The MPPDA here can be seen as more or less the same institution we now know as the MPAA. The MPPDA/MPAA is a representative organization of the major motion picture studios that looks out for the collective interests of the industry, including ratings, piracy, and so on.

The main subject discussed here, in the opening and the first four paragraphs of fine print, is something weird and strange today. The idea is, if some book or play is deemed unsuitable to adapt as a film -- for example, because it's too violent or racy -- then the author of the work can essentially create a derivative of his own work with the offending scenes taken out, and the resulting work can be adapted as a film and marketed as an original work. There are no issues of plagiarism or intellectual property theft, because it's the original author doing the adapting, and there are no issues of "reputation" because the derivative work will not be marketed as an adaptation of the original work.

What does this say about the mindset of the times? That film studios were at least equally interested in the reputation of the industry, if not more so, than the actual content of the films themselves. So if there were some racy book out there, adapting it into a film -- even with all the racy bits cut out -- could still potentially incite controversy amongst the media and the public. If somebody on a soapbox cried out about MGM making a movie out of a controversial play, that message could well have carried weight, especially since information was not as free and readily accessible then as now. You couldn't just hop onto the IMDb and find a review of somebody who has already written about how squeakily the movie cleans up the source material.

What Hollywood had to do was clean up its image or potentially face the intrusion of the federal government to do the job. Here is a policy that circumvented controversy before it got started, while still offering writers a way to feed their material into the hungry movie industry.

The next section, on Medical Films, would seem to be a precursor to those surgery shows they air on TLC and the Discovery Channel. I bet in 1927, it hadn't even occurred to anybody that maybe there would be a niche market for stuff like that within the general public.

Click here for more fun at RinkWorks!