Orson Welles: Hays Code

Orson Welles

Boscutti - Orson Welles - 1937 Film Daily Annual

It’s 1937. You’re in Hollywood, you’re in love and you’ve picked up a bit of a morphine habit.

But it’s okay because you’ve got a swell idea for a new picture. A real humdinger. A doozy. Sure, it’s a little risque, but not in a bad way. It ain’t gonna kill nobody.

Although lately everybody’s been banging on about the Hays Code. Everybody thought it was a joke when it first came out. Some appeasement by a few studio heads to keep those wannabe censors in Washington from declaring war. Moral guidance? You’ll need more than a production code for moral guidance in this town.

Sure, you’ve heard the stories about how the lay Catholic Martin Quigley, the all powerful editor of the “Motion Picture Herald,” and Jesuit priest Father Daniel Lord teamed up with Presbyterian elder Will H. Hays to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image. You’ve heard how Irving Thalberg kissed their rings. Anything to keep the government out of our racket.

A Jesuit priest called Father Lord? You couldn’t make that stuff up. But even if you could, you couldn’t get it into a script or onto a screen. You see, the Hays Code specifically bans portraying any clergy of any cloth as idiots or villains.

Might be easier just to leave the priest out of it for now. Probably best you double check the Hays Code. There’s a copy in this year’s “Film Daily Product Guide and Director’s Annual.” Right there on page 43 and page 45.

Hmmm, where’s your fine tooth comb?


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