Forbidden Cinema: Infamous Pre-Code Classics

Saturday 1 September – Sunday 18 November 2012

It seems like a glimpse into an alternate universe, but there was a brief, glorious moment in early cinema history during which Hollywood censorship was all but vanquished.

Thanks to a gentlemen’s agreement by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, studios promised to police their own content and abide by the Production Code. For four years, from March 31, 1930 when the formal pledge of the Code was made, until the Production Code Administration’s strict enforcement of it began on July 2, 1934, Hollywood gave itself a free pass to produce and promote whatever morally ambiguous material it dared. Often salaciously advertised, hyping the bawdy or violent content promised within, Pre-Code films were the epitome of everything the Catholic League despited about Hollywood. When MPPDA president Will H. Hays finally brought the hammer down and appointed the zealously administrative Joseph I. Breen to chair the PCA, Hollywood’s wild ride was over.

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