History of Cinema: Series 1, Hollywood and the Production Code Administration

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From the Margaret Herrick Library

Files from the Motion Picture Association of America Production Code Administration collection, selected from the holdings of the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Production Code Administration Files collection documents forty years of self-regulation and censorship in the motion picture industry. The collection was first made available to researchers in early 1984, and since then has become the library’s most frequently studied archival collection.

The Production Code was written in 1929 by Martin J. Quigley, an influential editor and publisher of motion picture trade periodicals, and Reverend Daniel A. Lord, a Jesuit advisor to Hollywood filmmakers. Officially accepted in 1930 by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), the precursor organization to the MPAA, the Production Code presented guidelines governing American movie production. In essence, however, the Code was the template for a theological takeover of American cinema. The General Principles of the Code dictated that no picture should "lower the moral standards of those who see it" and that the "sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin." The Code further prescribed that "law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation," and it insisted on representation of the "correct standards of life" in the American movies.

The five hundred titles selected for microfilming were chosen by the staff of the library’s Special Collections Department, with advice from film historian Leonard J. Leff. These files span the years 1927 to 1968, and are arranged on the microfilm in chronological order by year of release.

33 reels