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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.

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