How did early censorship in Hollywood lead to the formation of the Motion Picture Association of America?

Long before Netflix's "Blonde" was controversially rated above seventeen, the Motion Picture Association of America in Hollywood Movies like "Baby Doll" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) gave it an "adults only" rating to appease parents and reformers. , has been strained, discussion and debate are held in news headlines and conversations in social media. But, throughout history, the giants of this industry have often taken the wrong path in order not to excite and engage their audiences, both domestic and foreign. This is how the Motion Picture Association of America was born exactly one hundred years ago.

BingMag.com How did early censorship in Hollywood lead to the formation of the Motion Picture Association of America?

Long before Netflix's "Blonde" was controversially rated above seventeen, the Motion Picture Association of America in Hollywood Movies like "Baby Doll" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) gave it an "adults only" rating to appease parents and reformers. , has been strained, discussion and debate are held in news headlines and conversations in social media. But, throughout history, the giants of this industry have often taken the wrong path in order not to excite and engage their audiences, both domestic and foreign. This is how the Motion Picture Association of America was born exactly one hundred years ago.

This association, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, was born in 1922 as the Association of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors. Association advisor, C.C. Pettyjohn once said at a public relations conference in 1929 that the motion picture industry was early known as a three-legged stool consisting only of production, distribution and exhibition; But the Association of Film Producers and Distributors allows people to play the role of the fourth pillar of the industry; The foundation that can make or break it.

The event that led to the formation of this association is related to the time when popular American actress Mary Pickford divorced her husband Owen Moore in 1920. This upset his millions of Catholic fans at the time, who were enamored with his positive and perfect image. When rumors started about the next man in Pickford's life, controversial movie star Douglas Fairbanks; The fire of ethical protestors was rekindled to question the standards of living in Hollywood. Things got worse when Pickford was accused of breaking up Fairbanks' marriage. Although Pickford and Fairbanks finally succeeded in becoming America's gay couple, in any case, the routine of questioning morality in Hollywood was formed from then on.

Hollywood, after Fatty's controversial night out Arbuckle, a silent comedian, was involved in another feud with social reformers in San Francisco that apparently resulted in the death of actress Virginia Rappe. With the start of the trials related to Rapi's death, the discussion about censorship also started; Something that the film industry was strongly opposed to. Arthur James, the editor of Moving Picture World magazine, said in October 1921: "Censorship is as rotten and rotten as human slavery, and it has fewer friends!".

Will Hayes, President of the Motion Picture Association of America in 1922, with Helen Chadwick at Goldwyn Studios

Hollywood's response was a form of self-regulation with the formation of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America in 1922. Pressure from social reformers led the film industry to hire Will Hayes, the nation's postmaster general during President Harding's tenure, in hopes of winning over a jaded public. Louis Selznick referred to this tumultuous period as the "Age of Scandal". Selznick cited the new member of the baseball board as a model for Hollywood to maintain the trust of audiences. Hayes wrote in his memoirs: "Although I am not a reformist, I have always looked for the good and benefit of the people." Hayes bridged the gap between Hollywood and the public. In opposition to total censorship, he chose a democratic process because, according to him, "those who choose self-regulation are trained and strengthened over time".

Hayes offered work in the film industry He accepted on January 14, 1922. He started working when the second Arbuckle courthouse was about to be established. People followed that story closely. While the famous comedian was eventually acquitted with an apology from the jury, Hayes banned Arbuckle from continuing in the film industry. This action showed those who doubted Hayes' intentions that he was serious about keeping this environment clean. Adolph Zukor, head of Famous Players-Lasky, which later became Paramount Studios, canceled Arbuckle's future projects, losing half a million dollars in the process. Since then, the film industry has distanced itself from any attention-grabbing and troublesome atmosphere; Just as he has done many times over the past century.

Late in 1922, Hayes offered Arbuckle a return tour to the movies. But it was too late. The court that was set up in public opinion closed his case. Movie theater owners worried that this 180-degree U-turn on Arbuckle would destroy any public confidence that had been gained since Hayes' appointment. They decided to issue a statement in which they argued that "no action by any authority could change public opinion on this matter". , depravity, The films were devoid of the unbridled display of debauchery, passionate love scenes, any mockery of government or religion, and any immoral advertising. But the 1920s did not leave a shortage of scandals and Hayes had to collect them one by one. Resolving the story of Wallace Reid's drug addiction was difficult but manageable for public relations. However, when stars like Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, and Clara Bow showed their sexuality on screen in front of fans around the world, a new series of social resentments was unleashed. Others condemned the entry into the Hollywood world of Eleanor Glynn, the author of the sex novel "Three Weeks" who later wrote the story of the film "It" starring Clara Bow.

For some. American audience, these movies were full of luxury and sin. By the end of the decade it was clear that filmmakers did not adhere to any form of self-censorship. In 1927, a list of "don'ts and bewares" was presented. Even the charismatic publisher Randolph Hearst bargained for the censorship of films. In 1930, an official production code was added, which emphasized three general principles; Movies should be considered entertainment, they are important as a form of art, and finally, movies have a set of moral obligations. The book of detailed rules related to it, more than thirteen articles proposed by Hayes were not observed. Movie fans refer to the years 1930 to 1934 as the last "Pre-Code" years, when filmmakers had their heyday with stories that broke all the rules of production. Films depicting the so-called "misled woman" such as "The Divorcee", gangster films such as "Scarface", musical films full of sexual relations such as "Gold Diggers in 1933" of 1933), sex comedies like She Done Him Wrong, blockbusters like Wild Boys of the Road and all the other movies ruled the day.

During the pre-code years, new forces arose to combat Hollywood's lax approach to raunchy content. Payne Fund Studies tried unsuccessfully to link the increase in juvenile delinquency to Hollywood movies. Each study was published as a condensed and promotional cover of Henry James Forman's Our Movie Made Children. Furman's book became a bestseller and warned the studio giants that the public's attention and trust were once again on the verge of being lost. The Great Depression had also hit the studios. Even those who were better off at the end of the 1920s could feel the effects of the Depression in 1933. In that situation, no one in Hollywood could risk their ticket sales.

At the same time, the Catholic Legion of Decency was very angry about the dangers of the movies. They even had an oath that church members shouted from behind their pews. At the end of this affidavit, it is stated: "I protest because of the respect I have for myself. I believe that the American people don't want dirty movies, they want clean and wholesome entertainment." Social and political winds were strongly blowing against the cinema industry. It was time for another big move; Because the last decade had not provided a consistent answer to social reformers.

The answer to public concerns was Joseph Breen; An Irish Catholic who worked as a journalist before joining the US Foreign Service and the 28th International Eucharistic Congress. In the summer of 1926, at the Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, the power of the Catholic Church in the United States was revealed. Catholics turned from a minority group into the dominant line of thought in society and became a significant social and political force by 1933. The Legion of Decency still maintained its own rating system and was never afraid to condemn a film it felt did not meet its standards. This was a crowd that Hollywood had to please.

BingMag.com How did early censorship in Hollywood lead to the formation of the Motion Picture Association of America?

A 1934 issue of The Hollywood Reporter: "Boss under Code Control"

Hayes hired Breen as code enforcer, a position he served from 1934 to 1954. Of course, for a short period of time in 1941, this role was in charge of Archao Studio. Rather than an agreement between a few gentlemen, the Production Code was a grueling process of negotiation. This process influenced the content of the films and satisfied many anti-Hollywood activists for nearly two decades. Now films had to meet the standards, as no film could be released without the stamp of the Production Code Management.

By the end of 1934, newspapers across the country were celebrating Hollywood's move in this new direction. The Motion Picture Herald published press accolades that "reflected audiences' appreciation of high-end films"; This showed that the new strictures have led to an increase in audience attendance.

Years First, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPPDA) set standards for the film industry's response to the ethical customs of the time. Hiring a political insider was a decisive move in 1922, and in the early 1930s the film industry also had to respond to growing church sanctions. Breen made it possible to make a film that would "get along with the church people." The social and political winds that are driven by the influence of the general public, the fourth global leg of the stool that Will Hayes emphasized, will always be the main focus of the Hollywood mechanism.

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