On Stage and Off

Theater in Georgia

Censorship

While theatrical productions throughout Europe and America had been subject to calls for censorship before the rise of motion pictures, the increased popularity of films brought new attention. Calls for standardized censorship came at the very beginning of film’s introduction in America, with many concerned about film's potential to corrupt the American public. In 1907 this led to the institution of the first government-administered “pre-exhibition” censorship system in Chicago. While some producers and film executives sued their state censorship boards for free speech violations, early Supreme Court rulings established that films were not fully protected under the First Amendment and deemed them an “insidious” threat to the moral good and welfare of the nation. In 1934 Hollywood studios created the Motion Picture Production Code, also referred to as the Hays Code. The Code set industry guidelines until 1952 when the Supreme Court afforded motion pictures First Amendment protection. After the court's ruling, statewide censorship also decreased, with the Production Code only upheld by local boards and reviewers, which performed with varying degrees of intensity. Roughly one hundred such boards once existed nationally, including in Augusta, Valdosta, and Atlanta, which had a particularly active board. However, by 1965, few remained active.