Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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THE SIMPP RESEARCH DATABASE

COBBLESTONE ENTERTAINMENT

The Independent Producers Bring Reform to the Production Code

Industry Censorship in 1954

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen


SIMPP became involved in the 1954 censorship crisis, as the production code increasingly served as a rift between the studios (who collectively upheld the production code as part of the MPAA) and the independent producers (represented by SIMPP).

The controversy was aggravated when Howard Hughes' French Line (1954) and Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue (1953) were released by MPAA member companies (RKO and UA respectively) without a production code seal of approval. SIMPP recommended a complete overhaul of the MPAA-controlled Breen code, essentially unchanged since 1930.

Eight industry stalwarts upheld the code, and protested revision of any kind: Nicholas M. Schenck (Loew's), Barney Balaban (Paramount), Spyros P. Skouras (Twentieth Century-Fox), Harry Cohn (Columbia), Albert Warner (Warner Bros.), Herbert Yates (Republic), and Steve Broidy (Allied Artists). Later the MPAA caved to pressure and approved code alterations in September 1954, permitting filmmakers to use the words "damn" and "hell." ("Majors 'Loosen Up' Prod'n Code," DV, September 14, 1954, p. 1). Joseph Breen retired the following month.

As a historical side-note, the idea for the rating system (G, PG, R, etc.) that replaced the production code in 1968 is credited to SIMPP's Sol Lesser in an obituary from Time magazine, October 6, 1980.


SOURCES:

Thomas M. Prior, "Goldwyn Backed on Code Revision," NYT, February 12, 1954, p. 22; "8 Studio Chiefs Uphold Film Code," NYT, February 15, 1954, p. 19. 

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