How the Catholic Church censored Hollywood's Golden Age

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  • Published on:  Wednesday, April 11, 2018
  • For decades Hollywood studios needed to follow a strict set of moral guidelines if they wanted their movies to get made.

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    From 1934 to 1954 every Hollywood movie needed to follow a strict set of guidelines laid out by the Catholic church. They included such things as barring excessive drinking, on screen nudity, and even sexual relationships between races. Enforcement was overseen by the Production Code administration, which was led by Joseph Breen. In order to ensure that the production code was followed the Catholic Church founded the Legion of Decency, a group with millions of members that threatened to boycott any movie that didn’t adhere to the guidelines. For decades every line of dialogue needed to be approved by Breen and his administration, making him one of the most powerful people in the history of cinema. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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  • Vox

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    The Hays Code left its mark on cinema, but the invention of technicolor revolutionized it. The Wizard of Oz was a prime example. Watch our video here:

  • Lori K

     (Aug 12, 2018)

    Matt Tobin Then why did all of the "sexy" scenes disappear if not for the code being abided by?

  • penguins forall

     (Apr 19, 2018)

    Hey Vox, 2001 A Space Odessy was released in 1968 a year after the Production Code faded out even having an MPAA rating. However this film seemed to have some pretty heavy handed Catholic Church influences. Whats up with that?

  • Science with Katie

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    Fun fact: contraception only became legal in Ireland in 1980 after being banned by the Catholic Church. Before then my grandma used to smuggle loads of condoms over from England - as after 6 kids she’d had enough!

  • Lori K

     (Aug 12, 2018)

    Blank Blank So is eating meat then, right?

  • Human Man

     (Apr 23, 2018)

    Assisted Murder

  • Deva Rafael

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    And how about Catholic Church cencorship of sexual assaults against under-ages by catholic priests?

  • forge, thefrostdragonslayer

     (Jan 25, 2019)

    i just played south park the fractuerd but whole

  • TheLongSummer

     (Aug 29, 2018)

    Emanuel Andrade When you look to the so called saints of the RCC you find Theresa of Calcutta and JPII. The former had poor people suffer painful deaths, as a money raising scheme for the RCC, and the latter being the chief architect of cover up practice within the RCC, when it came to the sex abuse scandals at the end of the 20th century, now unfolding everywhere around the globe. No need for traitors, when you have saints of that kind. Even though this heinous practice of the RCC is not written in th...

  • Van Hendrix

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    How can few people decide what billions should think, feel, and see? People should be allowed to think for themselves. It's a different world now-- but imagine how many suffered at the hands of the Inquisition

  • Amur

     (Jan 12, 2019)

    +Ner Li Dear Sir, the Inquisition(s) were mostly under the control of the Dominican Order. Stop listening to your ignorant pastor and read some books, "Inquisitor's Manual" from XIVth century by Bernard Gui is a good start.

  • Herodotus 94

     (Sep 12, 2018)

    About 5000 Spaniards were executed in 350 years, not that much of a tragedy.

  • Mortebianca

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    To be fair, the Legion was never officially recognized by the Church, and While it proclaimed to "Work" for the Church, it was in fact just a loose confederation of catholic americans promoting the "American Catholicism", which is the most conservative and puritan version of catholicism possible.In fact, the Church never talked about decency in movies or censoring them. It was just some catholic's opinion on those issue. See, for example, how those two believed that interracial un...

  • Mortebianca

     (Jun 14, 2018)

    " All Catholics are bound to believe in the same dogma, whether they choose to is a different story."That wasn't a dogma, that was a laymen organization made by americans.No value oputside of America, no value for catholic americans.

  • Mortebianca

     (Jun 14, 2018)

    "The claim made in the original comment was that the Church "never even talked about" "Fake news, I said "the church never ENDORSED"Yourm specific claim is inaccurate."Then why did slavery and racism survive for so long in overwhelmingly religious europe and americas"Slavery was long begone in Europe by the time of your Civil War....

  • Jacob Garrison

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    So overall while the Code was restrictive it helped in getting Hollywood to not fall back on cheap things like booze and sex. I'd say this was good and bad.

  • Merry Machiavelli

     (Apr 13, 2018)

    I would say if any time and place needed to have a cultural discussion about booze, it was 1930s America. If one of the functions of film is for society to hold a mirror to itself, purposefully hiding some of the ugly bits seems counterproductive.

  • HT T

     (Apr 12, 2018)

    It was the Golden Age of Hollywood precisely because Catholicism was overseeing it. The studios were putting out quality and wholesome artwork. I see plenty of positives and no negatives.

  • AmericanNohbuddy ™

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    Weird how a country with vast anti catholic sentiment would take their guidelines

  • Tuhljin Tampergauge

     (Dec 29, 2018)

    This is Vox. They're leftists, so what did you expect? An honest examination of history? Leftists are anti-Catholic bigots TODAY, not just in ages past. Look at the questions they ask Catholic judicial nominees.

  • Arianrhod Hyde

     (Jul 10, 2018)

    AmericanNohbuddy ™ lots of urban catholics

  • Austin Newman

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    Love these short pieces!I didn’t know as much about Breen, glad to hear his story as well. I always understood that there was a variety of reason the PCA fell. One of the biggest being the defiance of Hughes’ Outlaw film in which he called independently operated theaters and asked each if they would play his film without the seal of approval.Awesome work on these, keep it up! 🎥🤘🏻

  • Mr R A N G O

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    Catholic churches should have no right to censor films.

  • Hecker Pecker

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    The catholic church didn't censor anything, it was a group of devoted conservatist catholics. There was no order from the vatican or bishops.

  • Nuno Ribeiro

     (Apr 11, 2018)

    Yes they should censor things. The Church and the state should both censor things

  • Kara

     (Apr 17, 2018)

    Man I wished the Church controlled Hollywood films today...

  • Dynamite TNT

     (Jan 12, 2019)

    Why? We already have PC culture for that

  • Tuhljin Tampergauge

     (Dec 29, 2018)

    +Anushka Bose - If it's morally wrong, then it *isn't* a good film. Talking about actual morals, of course, not just perceived values, so don't bother telling me about how explicit filth is fine in your eyes.