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The Motion Picture Production Code (as Published 31 March, 1930)

Adopted by Association of Motion  Picture Producers,  Inc., at Hollywood,  Calif., and ratified by the Board of Directors of Motion  Picture Producers  and Distributors  of America, Inc., March  31, 1930.

This code was introduced in 1930 but not fully enacted until 1934, therefore films from the early 1930's are often referred to as pre-code films. These films often dealt with with with themes not allowed under the code. The imposition of the code led to a reduction in the creativity of films. There was a loss of strong female characters, same sex relationships and dealing with alcohol, premarital sex, drugs, suicide and other related themes. It stopped American cinema from being radical and challenging the social norms.

Reasons for the New Code

The  advent  of  sound   on  the  motion   picture  screen   brought   new  problems  of  self­ discipline and  regulation  to  the  motion  picture  industry. Sound  unlocked  a vast amount of dramatic  material which for the first time could  be effectively presented  on the screen. It  brought  the  dramatist  to  Hollywood,  to supplement  the work of the  scenario writer. It brought   stars  from  the  legitimate  stage  and  the  variety stage  to  the  talking  motion picture  screen.  It brought   spoken  dialogue,  which  had  to  be  adapted  to  the  requirements of film presentation.  It brought  new "extras,"  many of whom  were given spoken lines.
To meet  this new situation  it became necessary to reaffirm the standards  under  which silent films had been produced  since 1922, and to revise, amplify and add to those principles in the  light of responsible opinion,  so that  all engaged  in the  making of sound  pictures might have a commonly understandable and commonly acceptable guide in the maintenance  of social and community  values in pictures.
The  task undertaken   by the  Motion  Picture  Producers  and  Distributors  of America, cooperating  with educators,  dramatists, church authorities  and leaders in the field of child education  and social welfare work, has resulted in the adoption  of a new Code  by the Association of Motion  Picture Producers.
The  new Code  has been accepted  and  subscribed  to individually  by such  prominent producers  in the  motion  picture  industry  as: Art Cinema  Corporation   (United  Artists); Christie  Film Company·,  Inc.; Columbia  Pictures Corporation; Cecil B. de Mille Productions, Inc.; Educational Studios, Inc.; First National Pictures, Inc.; Fox Film Corporation; Gloria  Productions,  Inc.;  Samuel   Goldwyn,   Inc.;  Inspiration   Pictures,   Inc.;   Harold Lloyd Corporation; Metro-Goldwyn-Myer Studios,  Inc.; Paramount  Famous Lasky Corporation;  Pathe  Studios,  Inc.;  RXO  Productions, Inc.;  Hal  Roach Studios,  Inc.;  Mack Sennett  Studio;  Tiffany  Productions, Inc.;  Universal Pictures  Corporation; and  Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

Principles Underlying the Code

1     Motion  picture  producers  recognize  the  high  trust  and  confidence  which  have been placed in them  by the people of the world, and they recognize  their  responsibility to the public because of this trust.
2     Theatrical motion  pictures are primarily to be regarded as entertainment.  Mankind has always regarded  the  importance  of entertainment and  its value  in  rebuilding  the bodies and souls of human  beings.
3    It is recognized that there is entertainment which tends to improve the race ( or at least to re-create and rebuild  human  beings exhausted with the realities of life), and entertainment  which tends  to harm  human  beings, or to lower their standards  of life and living.
4      Motion  pictures are an important form of art expression . Art enters intimately into the lives of human beings. The art of motion  pictures has the same object as the other arts - the presentation  of human  thought, emotion,  and experience, in terms of an appeal to the soul through  the senses.
5    In consequence  of the foregoing facts the following general principles are adopted: No picture shall be produced  which 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 shall be presented  on the screen, subject only to necessary dramatic contrasts. Law, natural or human,  should  not  be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy  be created for its violation.

Particular  Applications

Crimes against the law

These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and  justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation.

1  Murder
a     The   technique   of  murder   must  be  presented   in  a  way  that  will  not  inspire imitation .
b      Brutal killings are not to be presented  in detail.
c      Revenge in modern  times shall not  be justified.
2    Methods of crime should  not  be explicitly presented.
a    Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not  be detailed in method.
b   Arson must be subject to the same safeguards.
c   The use of firearms should  be restricted to essentials.
d   Methods  of smuggling should  not  be presented.
3    Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
4    The use of liquor in American life, when  not  required  by the plot or for proper  characterization, will not  be shown.


The sanctity of the institution  of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common  thing.

1   Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.
2    Scenes of passion should  not  be introduced when not essential to the plot. In general, excessive passion should so be treated  that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser clement.
3   Seduction or rape
a    They should  never be more than  suggested,  and only when  essential for the plot, and even then  never shown  by explicit method.
b   They are never the proper subject for comedy.
4    Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
5    White-slavery shall not  be treated .
6    Miscegenation is forbidden.
7    Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion  pictures.
8   Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette,  are never to be presented.
9    Children's sex organs are never to be exposed.


The treatment  of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though  not  necessarily evil subjects, should be subject  always to  the  dictates  of good  taste  and  a regard  tor  the  sensibilities of the audience.


Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song,  joke, or by suggestion,  is forbidden.


Dances which emphasize indecent  movements are to be regarded as obscene.


Pointed  profanity or vulgar expressions, however used, are forbidden.


1 Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous  or licentious  notice thereof  by other  characters in the picture.
2     Dancing costumes intended  to permit  undue  exposure  or indecent  movements  in the dance are forbidden.


1   No film or episode may throw  ridicule on any religious faith.
2     Ministers of religion in their character as such, should  not  be used as comic characters or as villains.
3    Ceremonies  of any definite religion should  be carefully and respectfully handled.

National  feelings

l The  use of the Flag shall be consistently  respectful.
2    The  history, institutions, prominent  people and citizenry of other  nations shall be rep resented  fairly.


Salacious, indecent,  or obscene titles shall not  be used.

Repellent subjects

The following subjects must be treated  within the careful limits of good  taste:

1   Actual hangings, or electrocutions as legal punishments  tor crime.
2     Third  Degree methods.
3    Brutality and possible gruesomeness.
4     Branding of people or animals.
5   Apparent  cruelty to children or animals.
6    Surgical operations.