Record #855

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Reel 10
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Production Code
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Production Code current problems over sex pictures likely to create public relations problems. A revealing and important document. 20% of current productions deal with illicit sex themes. Although they do - or will - comply with the letter of the Code, this still creates problems for the industry, which should err on the side of moral conservatism. Discussion of interpretation of the Code, and directions for its future enforcement. The claim that the total gangster cycle only amounted to 23 movies. Note comments on the "double standard."


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September 1932 memo, Joy to Hays, circulated to Board of Directors members on problems in current productions: Of 111 pictures in current production, 24-20% deal with illicit sex relations: "themes involving 'kept-women,' 'prostitution,' 'pregnancy before marriage,' 'premarital affairs,' and even 'rape.' Moreover these pictures are among the most prominent pictures on the various schedules, and are enhanced in importance by the names of the stars, writers, and directors employed. ... a number of other stories have in them scenes which serve to create the impression that many other pictures are unduly concerned with loose-moralled characters, chiefly of the 'prodigal daughter' type. In the same period there are only 18 pictures which may be classified purely as 'romances' as contrasted with sex stories. 24 are melodramas or adventure stories. The remainder are of a widely diverse order. In a word, the illicit sex picture at this moment seemingly dominates over any other specified type. ... if the present rate holds, approximately 100 pictures dealing with illicit sex relationships will reach the screens during the coming year; and that an even larger number will have sex-scenes of a questionable character. "The problem therefore, is an immediate one, and the questions it arouses are simply: Are there too many illicit sex pictures now on or immediately planned for the screen? And if so, what ought to be done about them?... The following are worthy of consideration: "1. More care in the selection of themes and an honest effort to find and try other themes of sufficient entertainment appeal to maintain box-office receipts. "2. Some general understanding among ourselves as to the number of illicit sex pictures which the industry can stand at this or any other time. (This is in line with the suggestion that business generally may come to organized planning and forecasting in an effort to regulate supply and demand). [Joy also wants releases of such films staggered "so that they may come along gradually as a part of the year's program without too many reaching the screens at the same time. The grave danger of too many sex pictures or too many gangster pictures is that three or four may reach the same communities at the same time. Parents either are forced to give up going to the theatre with their children, or are indignant that such pictures provide the only source of screen amusement for the week. They reach the conclusion that the screen is devoted only to illicit sex and fifty Cinderella pictures won't disabuse their minds to such a notion. "4. Some discussion which will bring about definite understandings might be entered into regarding the injection or the dragging in of sex situations which are not essential to the story and which would be eliminated altogether, or at least played so subtly as to give no offense. ... "5. A more detailed composition of the Code clause regarding use of sex on the screen whereby the Code shall specifically govern the treatment of prostitutes, the mechanics of street walking, scenes of luxury in connection with the kept woman, the injection of a definite idea of punishment or change of heart.".

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