Movies and Society

Movies and Society
Society was local and parochial
Society became more
homogenous
Movies reflect the makers’ society
Early Days
Birth of a Nation - 1915
KKK in Wash., DC – 1925
Mutual Film Corporation v.
Industrial Commission of Ohio
236 U.S. 230 (1915)
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State of Ohio passed a law forming a censorship
board to review and approve all films
Supreme Court declared that movies were a
business, not an art, and thus not protected by
the First Amendment
Wrote “They may be used for evil”
Intolerance - 1916
Ben Hur
1920s
Post-World War I
A period of cynicism and
breaking with traditions following
the great upheavals in society
caused by World War I.
Movies used more and more of
what put butts in the seats –
sex and violence
Manslaughter – 1922
orgy scene
Battleship Potemkin – 1925
Metropolis – 1927
1930s
The Great Depression
Movies created a sense of
community

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People would go to the movies on a regular
basis, usually once a week
Movies catered to their regulars
Door prizes like a set of dishes
 Sing-alongs
 Community announcements

A full evening of entertainment

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A cartoon
A newsreel
A short subject, like a travelogue or a comedy
short
A movie, sometimes two
Palaces of Entertainment
Movies as morale builders


Upbeat and optimistic
musicals
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – 1936
Wizard of Oz – 1939
Frankenstein – 1931
King Kong – 1933
Gone with the Wind – 1939
As a backlash against the
openness of the Roaring
Twenties, many people in society
insisted on censorship
Look at these
costumes
Tarzan and His Mate - 1932
Look at these
costumes
Or lack thereof
The Hays Office
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Started in 1930
Run by Will H. Hays
Set standards for movies
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
Adopted from a list devised by Father Daniel Lord,
a Jesuit priest
Had no effective enforcement
Hays’ 3 Principles
1.
2.
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.
3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed,
nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
This was followed with specific restrictions
Restrictions
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Nakedness and suggestive dances were
prohibited.
The ridicule of religion was forbidden, and
ministers of religion were not to be represented
as comic characters or villains.
The depiction of illegal drug use was forbidden,
as well as the use of liquor, "when not required
by the plot or for proper characterization."
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Methods of crime (e.g. safe-cracking, arson,
smuggling) were not to be explicitly presented.
References to alleged sex perversion (such as
homosexuality) and venereal disease were
forbidden, as were depictions of childbirth.
The language section banned various words and
phrases that were considered to be offensive.
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Murder scenes had to be filmed in a way that
would discourage imitations in real life, and
brutal killings could not be shown in detail.
"Revenge in modern times" was not to be
justified.
The sanctity of marriage and the home had to be
upheld. "Pictures shall not imply that low forms
of sex relationship are the accepted or common
thing." Adultery and illicit sex, although
recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot,
could not be explicit or justified and were not
supposed to be presented as an attractive option.
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Portrayals of miscegenation were forbidden.
"Scenes of Passion" were not to be introduced
when not essential to the plot. "Excessive and
lustful kissing" was to be avoided, along with
any other treatment that might "stimulate the
lower and baser element."
The flag of the United States was to be treated
respectfully, and the people and history of other
nations were to be presented "fairly."

The treatment of "Vulgarity," defined as "low,
disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily
evil, subjects" must be "subject to the dictates of
good taste." Capital punishment, “third degree
methods”, cruelty to children and animals,
prostitution and surgical operations were to be
handled with similar sensitivity.
Destry Rides Again
Look at the Tarzan costumes now
after the Hays Office got involved
Harold and Kumar
1940s
War Propaganda
Joseph Goebbels
Leni Riefenstahl with Hitler
Triumph of the Will
Der Ewvige Jude
Der Ewige Jude
 Wherever
rats
appear they bring
ruin, by
destroying
mankind's goods
and foodstuffs.

They are cunning,
cowardly, and cruel, and
are found mostly in large
packs. Among the
animals, they represent
the rudiment of an
insidious and
underground destruction
-
-
just like the
Jews among
human beings.
War Cartoon
Wake Island – 1942
Destination: Tokyo – 1943
Wake Island final scene
Gung Ho – 1943
Casablanca – 1942
Mrs. Miniver – 1942
Since You Went Away – 1943
It’s A Wonderful Life – 1946
Best Years of Our Lives – 1946
1950s
The Wild One – 1953
Rebel Without a Cause – 1955
The Blackboard Jungle – 1955
12 Angry Men
Giant – 1955
Day the Earth Stood Still – 1951
Them - 1954
Joseph Burstyn, Inc. vs. Wilson, 1952
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Supreme Court decision overturning Mutual v.
Ohio that allowed the censorship of movies
because they were a business, not an art form,
and “they could be used for evil.”
This case determined that movies, even if a
business, are a form of artistic expression and
thus entitled to First Amendment protection.
Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964
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Ohio tried to ban the film “The Lovers” for
obscenity
Supreme Court ruled it wasn’t obscene
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Only hard-core pornography was obscene
Court couldn’t define obscenity
Tarzan the Ape Man
1960s
To Kill a Mockingbird - 1962
In the Heat of the Night - 1967
Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned
to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The Graduate - 1967
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
Easy Rider - 1969
1970s
All the President’s Men – 1976
The Godfather – 1972
American Graffiti - 1973
Jaws – 1975
Star Wars - 1977
1980s
16 Candles
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Die Hard /
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Green Berets – 1968
Platoon
Full Metal Jacket
Young Sherlock Holmes – 1985
1990s
Schindler’s List /
Saving Private Ryan
Apollo 13
Dances with Wolves
JFK
Braveheart / Armageddon /
Jurassic Park
Titanic
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Beauty and the Beast
2000s
Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter
The Dark Knight / Spiderman
Transformers
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Matrix
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