Censorship — 30 Movie, Literature and Performance Censorship Landmarks

Will H. Hays

1. Movie censorship began in 1894 when a peep show featured a belly dancer named Fatima. The show shocked audiences and the producer was forced to paint a white bar across the film to prevent the audience from seeing her groin.

2. One famous and salacious scandal took place in 1921 in San Francisco. Comedian “Fatty” Arbuckle took a young actress named Virginia Rappe to his hotel room. Later that night Rappe died of a ruptured spleen. Afterwards, many strange rumors began to spread. Some claimed that Arbuckle had had sex with Rappe with a Coke bottle, forcing ice into her private parts, and many other obscene acts. Arbuckle was found not guilty by three separate juries. Even though proved innocent, he never appeared in another major film.

3. Movie houses refused to show the 1930 film Naked Truth, a sex education film. The movie was later shown in burlesque houses and impromptu theaters.

4. In 1931 former postmaster General Will Hays began his crusade against Hollywood because they were encouraging the ruin of the American moral code. Hays encouraged Billy Sunday, a popular crusader, to lobby Hollywood to change their moral standards. Hays created The Office of Motion Picture Production Code to enforce the rules.

5. 1933, the U.S. Customs Department impounded a series of Michelangelo’s paintings printed on postcards. The art was impounded because it featured nudes.

6. In 1933 the 12 year ban on Ulysses by James Joyce was overturned.

7. The Christian Crusade was founded in 1948. By 1967 their organization grew to 250,000 members. One of their acts of protest was to burn albums by the Beatles after John Lennon remarked that the band was more popular than Christ.

8. In 1953 the film Moon is Blue was banned because it contained the words “virgin”and “seduced”.

9. The independently made The Immoral Mr. Teas was directed by Russ Meyer on a budget of $24,000. It was one of the first to combine burlesque and nude films. It was shown in burlesque houses. The film later broke box office records.

10. In 1961 one of the first S/M films was released, Once Upon a Knight directed by Jack Harris.

11. Famed comedian Lenny Bruce was convicted in 1964 for public obscenity in New York. After his conviction, Bruce had a hard time being hired and eventually went bankrupt. In 1966 he died from a morphine overdose; many claim from suicide. His conviction was overturned on appeal in 1968.

12. From 1964 to 1970 many new sex-violence films were released in the U.S.

13. In 1965-1968 filmmakers Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger make experimental homosexual films.

14. In 1969 distributors, producers and exhibitors of erotic films come together to create the Adult Film Association of America to fight censorship legislation.

15. In 1970 the Johnson Administration’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography finds no evidence to prove that pornography causes bad moral character or sex crimes.

16. In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to prosecute someone from having pornography in their home.

17. In 1972 Gerard Daminos released Deep Throat. The film was shown in New York. The theater that exhibited it was fined $3 million. The verdict was later overturned and Deep Throat became a huge hit.

18. The film, The Devil in Miss Jones, was the subject of controversy in 1973. The movie featured several sex scenes. A Wayne County, Michigan prosecutor brought a suit against several movie theaters showing the film, claiming they were “public nuisances” because they were showing lewd films.

19. Another controversial film, The Exorcist, was the cause of additional trouble in 1973. Police, the Justice of the Peace, and the District Attorney went to a showing of the film in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Afterwards they arrested the projectionist and manager. The charges were later dropped. However, the corporate owner was convicted of publicly displaying an “obscene and immoral motion picture.”

20. France had two major changes in their censorship laws in 1975. The changes occurred when they stop banning all adult films for adults. However, the public became upset with the decision and lobbied for stricter laws. Later that same year the government created a system whereby X-rated films were highly taxed and restricted.

21. The Sony Corporation released the videocassette recorder. Porn movies were sold on the street for $300 each. Video cassettes change the porn industry forever.

22. Screw magazine was on trial for obscenity from 1973 to 1977 costing them over $400,000. The case was thrown out of court in 1977 in Kansas City, Kansas.

23. By 1977 the market for soft-core sex films had nearly disappeared. Hardcore sex films became popular.

24. In 1985 Tipper Gore along with four of her suburban female friends convinced the Senate to examine rock lyrics. This later lead to lyric censorship and warning labels placed on “controversial”music albums.

25. In 1987 a former nun was arrested in Milwaukee because she took an axe to a snow sculpture of a female wearing a bikini. After the axe incident her male neighbors were scared of her.

26. The first obscenity charges against an American museum were filed in 1990. The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center was indicted for their Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, which featured five photos portraying homoeroticism. The most controversial photo was of a man urinating into another man’s mouth. In the end, the Arts Center was acquitted.

27. The rap group 2 Live Crew was also under attack over their First Amendment rights during 1990. A record store owner was convicted of selling their album,As Nasty as They Wanna Be, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Two days later several members of the band werearrested for performing their songs.

28. In 1990 the first movie to ever receive the NC-17 rating, devised to replace the X rating, is given to Henry & June.

29. Madonna was also banned for obscenity in 1990. Her video “Justify My Love”was banned from MTV because of its lesbian sex overtones and fetish apparel worn by people in the video.

30. In 1994 the controversial Tales of the City was shown on PBS. This soap opera contained drug use, homosexuality, and nudity. Many affiliates in the Southern U.S. choose to black out the program. Georgia Governor Zell Miller personally banned the show from airing in Georgia, even though he was not legally empowered to do so.

**Amendment**

In 2010, critically acclaimed “The King’s Speech” is released, and finds some box office success despite it’s initial NC-17 rating. The film is nominated for best picture, and Colin Firth is also nominated for best actor. The filmmakers, under pressure from others in the motion picture community, decide to censor the “controversial” scene responsible for the NC-17 rating in order to achieve a more “respectable” R rating.

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2 comments on “Censorship — 30 Movie, Literature and Performance Censorship Landmarks
  1. […] Censorship – 30 Movie, Literature and Performance Censorship Landmarks (censorshipinamerica.com) […]

  2. […] Censorship – 30 Movie, Literature and Performance Censorship Landmarks […]

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