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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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The Decline of the Code

The Decline of the Code

(p.291) 38 The Decline of the Code
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter describes the decline of the Production Code and its replacement by the current rating system. Two Supreme Court rulings contributed to the end of the Production Code. In 1948, the court ruled that the major motion picture companies could no longer control the theaters in their distribution system, making it possible for independently produced and foreign films without a Code Seal to obtain first-run screenings. And in 1952 the court overturned the ban on Roberto Rossellini’s The Miracle and ruled that motion pictures were entitled to the guarantees of free speech and free press. The liberalization of public attitudes in the post-Code years, the influx of more explicit foreign films, and the impact of TV on box-office receipts all contributed to the decline of the Code, as did several groundbreaking movies. In 1953, Otto Preminger’s ‘racy’ comedy (by 1953 standards), The Moon Is Blue, became one of the first major US movies to be released without a Code Seal. In 1964, Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker successfully challenged the Code ban on nudity, and in 1966, Mike Nichols’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? broke the taboo on vulgar language. In 1966, Jack Valenti became head of the MPAA and soon replaced the Production Code with the precursor of today’s rating system.

Keywords:   Supreme Court 1948 Paramount ruling, Supreme Court 1952 Miracle ruling, Jack Valenti, The Miracle, The Moon Is Blue, The Pawnbroker, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, rating system, liberal postwar attitudes

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