The Hays Code was a set of rules that enforced censorship on the American cinema in response to the increase of public complaints about the lewd content of movies and the scandalous behavior of Hollywood movie stars. The increasingly liberal content of Hollywood films, and the scandals surrounding famous movie stars, led to a media frenzy. The public outcry was so great that the federal government were seriously considering the establishment of a national censorship board. To prevent this happening Hollywood moguls and the movie studios decided to voluntarily censor films themselves.
A list of production directives were established by a Hollywood board led by Will Hays, a former US Postmaster General, and the President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). In 1930 Will Hays produced a list of rules and guidelines called "The Don'ts and Be Carefuls" which the Hays Code was based on. Its official name was the Code to Govern the Making of Talking, Synchronized and Silent Motion Pictures. The Hays Code was set aside in 1965 when the MPPDA adopted the age-based rating system that is in force today.
First published in March 1930, the Motion Picture Production Code (popularly known as the Hays Code after its creator Will H.Hays) was the first attempt at introducing film censorship in the US through laying down a series of guidelines to film producers.
The Code was founded according to the concept: "if motion pictures present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the improvement of mankind" - the clear implication being that films were signally failing to achieve these lofty aims.
The Code was based on three general principles:
- No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
- Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
- Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
These were developed in a series of rules grouped under the self-explanatory headings Crimes Against The Law, Sex, Vulgarity, Obscenity, Profanity, Costume, Dances (i.e. suggestive movements), Religion, Locations (i.e. the bedroom), National Feelings, Titles and "Repellent Subjects" (extremely graphic violence).
So what if those rules and regulations had never been created for Hollywood???