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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Our Man in Washington: 1921

Our Man in Washington: 1921

1921. The Edwards boy with Will Hays in Washington. View full size. 5x4 glass negative, National Photo Company Collection.

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The Code

Hays was appointed head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distrbutors Association in 1922. However he really didn't have a code to enforce at that time, just his pledge to "clean up pictures" and the supposed support of the studios. In truth he wasn't too successful at it. For one thing there was no real provision for enforcement. A formal written code was agreed to by 1930, but again there was no provision for enforcement, and Hays has been described as "fairly mild-mannered and easily persuaded and manipulated," which in a town full of master manipulators is not a good thing. Eventually, under pressure from groups like the Catholic Legion of Decency, an amendment to the Production Code was brought in effective July 1, 1934, requiring every film to have a certificate from the MPDA (later the Motion Picture Association of America) indicating that it met the requirements of the code.

The movie code

Film historians note that "the code" really didn't have much effect until 1934. I wonder what Hays was doing on that job in the 12 years up to then?

Hollywood Hays

When this photo was taken, Will Hays was about to take office as postmaster general after having helped Warren Harding get elected president. The next year he began working with Hollywood to clean up the immorality in movies. His Hays Code was powerful enough to keep on-screen married couples in separate beds for the next 30 years. Even our movies that are rated "G" today wouldn't have made it past Hays!


Spats look cool.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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