Hollywood: Business or Art?

The Mafia Research is back! I have a moment of quiet before all the work picks back up again, so I figured it would be a good idea to get a post out while I can. Whoot! This post is going to focus a bit more on the history of Hollywood.

The one thing that really influenced censorship in Hollywood would be the creation of the Production Code in the 1930′s. However before this code was created Hollywood had to become organized as an industry rather than a group of independent filmmakers. The Great Depression itself was largely responsible for this organization, especially the passage of the National Recovery Administration in June 1933 which called for cooperative action among big businesses. Because of this law Hollywood had to regulate their production and trade practices. As a result, the Code of Fair Competition for the Motion Picture Industry came into being in November 1933. 1

However, before all of this the Production Code (or Hays Code, named after Will Hays) was already created, in 1930.Many people believe that it lacked proper enforcement until 1934. That is not to say that films weren’t concerned about censoring, it was more of the companies didn’t really know what was allowed an what wasn’t. Most of the guidelines set for by the Code itself was left for interpretation. Films created in the early 1930′s were more focused on questioning troubling times, which would make sense because it was in the height of the Great Depression. Like mentioned in an earlier post about Scarface, there was a call for help from the people. Where the people had to take action if there was to be any improvement.

The reason why Censorship became more important during this Era is one, because of influence and pressure from Christians, and two, because the industry was looking for away to make it “safe” to watch a movie. 2  Because let’s face it, when you go to watch a movie do you know exactly how it will play out? While this does contribute to the intrigue, it can also hurt the industry. In a way to draw in more audiences during difficult economic times Hollywood wanted to guarantee that their film watching experience would be worth it.

However, there was an unforeseen (well maybe some people did see it coming) backlash against the Code. Mostly because people thought that if Directors had to adhere to the standards of the Code then the film industry couldn’t produce really works of art. However, by 1934 most directors agreed to work within the system and accept the Production code and a “convention of representation.” 3 By this time the Code was more organized and filmmakers and Christians alike understood more of the boundaries of the Code. After 1934, directors began to work more within the Code and used it to “explore the possibilities as well as the constraints of the convention.” 4 So for the time being, at least until the decades after WWII, audiences and Filmakers have reached a hesitant agreement.

So for my next post I want to step away a bit from cinema and look more into the actual role that the Mafia and Italian Americans played in America. Also looking into the relation between Italian immigrants and Americans.

  1. Tino Balio, Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939 ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 18. Link
  2. Ibid., 49.
  3. Ibid., 64.
  4. Ibid., 64.

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