The Hays Code and Creativity


Thought-provoking article by David Denby in The New Yorker that tracks how movie censorship in the 1930s led to more creativity on the part of writers and directors:


The “morals” embedded in the [Hays] Code were foolish and hypocritical, yet these semi-inane standards had an extraordinary effect. Producers, directors, and writers were forced to create sex without sex, to produce sexual tension by working around the prohibitions, extending every manner of preliminary to sex. In effect, censorship created plot, and in the process yielded one of the greatest of American film genres: thirties romantic comedy, including the dizzier versions celebrated as screwball comedy. Sex became play—even, at best, a springlike flourishing of fantasy and grace, expressed, most romantically, in the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in which sex became dance and was transmuted into endless variations on the themes of seduction, submission, revolt, and happiness.

If sexual frankness disappeared, tawdriness went with it, and the old fables of domination were replaced by a new creation: the couple, two people matched in beauty and talent who enjoy each other’s company more than anything else in the world.

The Hays Code and Creativity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s