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The Religious Affiliation of
the Head of Hollywood's Self-Censorship Effort, the Production Code
In the wake of increasingly negative publicity about immorality in Hollywood -- both in the movies and off-screen -- the major film studios hired devout Presbyterian Will Hays to head up an office through which Hollywood could exercise self-censorship. From: Axel Madsen. Stanwyck, HarperCollins: New York, NY (1994), page 93:
...Charlie Chaplin was caught with underage girls... the California State Board of Pharmacy revelation that over five hundred film personalities were on its rolls as drug addicts, and before the 1924 sex-orgy-with-murder-trial of Fatty Arbuckle that gave churchmen, clubwomen, schoolteachers, and editorial writers the chance to inveigh against the new Sodom on the Pacific.
From: Scott Wise, The Film 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, Citadel Press Book/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, New Jersey (1998), page 35:
In self-defense, the studio chiefs had hired Will Hays, the Presbyterian elder and Indiana politician, and created the Association of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America--better known as the Hays office.
Hays, a politically active lawyer from Indiana who had headed the Republican National Committee in 1918, was rewarded the position of U.S. Postmaster General in Warren Hardings administration in 1921. A respected and dignified elder in the Presbyterian Church, Hays readily accepted the position as the new head of the MPPDA a year later. He was immediately embraced by studio bosses eager to show their compliance with the public's demands and desperate to improve the image of their troubled industry. Hayes went to work immediately, blacklisting Hollywood regulars, writing moral clauses into studio contracts, and campaigning in highly visible forums about the changes he was instituting.
About Fritz Lang's film Scarlet Street, from: Patrick McGilligan, Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, St. Martin's Press: New York (1997), page 327:
This is how Dudley Nichols--Lang himself--perceived Scarlet Street. It was a story about the punishment of guilt, not ill-fated love. "I read somewhere that the Hays Office had been created by a Jesuit," he told Peter Bogdanovich. "And Hays himself was a Catholic." [Footnote: "Actually, Lang is in error--Hays was an elder of the Presbyterian Church.] I had not the slightest difficulty with this picture--because Robinson was punished--a great punishment.
From: Charles Higham, Cecil B. DeMille: A Biography of the Most Successful Film Maker of Them All, Charles Scribner's Sons: New York (1973), pages 91-92:
When he recovered from his illness, [Cecil B.] DeMille suffered a severe shock. He was told that while he was in Europe William Desmond Taylor, a distinguished director of Famous Players and a pleasing acquaintance, had been shot dead under mysterious circumstances in his apartment. Both Mabel Normand and Mary Miles Minter, Lasky contract players, lay under grave suspicion, and there was talk that Miss Minter's mother, Mrs. Shelby, had committed the murder dressed as a man. In addition, the Fatty Arbuckle [child rape-murder] case dragged on, following the plump comedian's arrest on a manslaughter charge over the death of the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco of a girl called Virginia Rappe. In his travail, DeMille felt the anguish of the truth: the character of Hollywood he and many friends had sought to conceal--desperately evil, cruel, and degenerate--had at last slipped out, and no one would ever be able to hide the truth again. When DeMille was firmly on the mend, he met for the first time with the Postermaster-General, Will Hays, whom he and other industry leaders unhesitantly supported as a guardian of the industry's morals and of its public image by appointing him President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America.
Webpage created 21 June 2005. Last modified 9 September 2005.
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