The industry feels strongly that self-regulation of motion pictures is the best way to provide the public with movies that are pleasing to a variety of publics. The Commission on Freedom of the Press issued a report that states clearly their stance on self-regulation. Eric Johnston, president of the Motion Picture Association, strongly believed in the industry's self-regulation. He was quoted as saying, "True freedom is always liberty under law." Those who want a lawless freedom, a freedom to do whatever they please regardless of the precepts of virtue and the welfare of the community, confuse the privileges of liberty with the indulgences of license." (Inglis, 2) The industry fought many battles with the government in order to keep from being censored. In 1915 Congress introduced a bill that would establish the Federal Motion Picture Commission, which would serve to examine, censor, and license all films before they could be released to the public. The motion picture industry fought the bill and was defeated after many long hearings. Also, in 1920 and 1921 there were other bills that were introduced to attempt to censor the industry, but again the bills were defeated. The growing tension between the industry and government was a sign that the industry needed to take further steps to ensure quality entertainment.
There were some states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kansas who did enact laws which would serve to censor the industry. Through their laws, they established review boards that required all films to be screened through them before they could be released to theaters. Although these laws were challenged, the Supreme Court upheld them. Other cities regulated such things as children's attendance, Sunday showings, and the conditions of the theaters.
In 1921, the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry established the "Thirteen Points", resolutions stating that they would not produce the kinds of movies that were bringing about all of the confrontation. Unfortunately, the Industry was not able to fully enforce their points largely due to lack of funds and lack of support from the entire industry. (Inglis, 83) The industry tried several other tactics in an effort to self-regulate and appease the public. The establishment of the Production Code, the Committee on Public Relations, and the Production Code Administration all served to make the industry more pleasing to the government and the public in general.
On the issue of censorship for the sake of the children, Zechariah Chafee had this to say in Free Speech in the United States: "That brings us to the main defense of film censorship, the children. Its vigorous supporters urge that every photoplay must be suitable for the youthful eyes and ears which might be in the audience. And so they would have us reduce the subject matter of all films to the level of a twelve-year-old child. Instead, we might better order the motion-picture houses to exclude youngsters from certain plays, and thus let adults chew occasionally on intellectual and artistic nourishment too tough for milk teeth. Also we can rely on groups of parents and other unofficial bodies to classify films according to their suitability for various ages. Or we might even go back to laissez-faire, and trust sensible parents to keep their children at home from mature films. As for the children of foolish parents, they know so much already that it is doubtful whether celluloid and sound-tracks can make them any worse." (Inglis, 176)
According to Inglis, the only type of censorship that the industry feels might be needed is the censorship boards who work as a "supporting substructure for self-regulation". (Inglis, 176) It was noted that the pressure groups such as the Legion of Decency are much more effective in keeping the industry in line with the wishes of the community.
Created by Wendy Simons
Last updated December 3, 1998