20th Century Film Censors: Gangs, Drugs and Excitement

We live in a day and age where access to a film is as easy as pushing a button on your phone, computer or television. The idea of censoring or banning a film now is something many of us can get around that previous generations could not. From a historical perspective, 20th century culture can be viewed through the lens of banned films from the century.

What did censors deem morally objectionable? Where better to start then to get to know the agency responsible for film ratings, the Motion Picture of American Association, through the documentary film This Film Is Not Yet Rated. The MPAA is comprised of everyday people who decide what the rating for a film will be based on their own preferences, and movie theaters determine whether or not they will carry the film based on these ratings. In the film, director Kirby Dick reviews the undercover processes that determine whether or not a film will be accessible to audiences through mass distribution.

Many films in the 20th century experienced limited censorship - usually in certain markets - due to political pressure. You'll find a whole set of films that were banned because of the supposed glorification of "gangland" culture. They include films such 1932's Scarface directed by Howard Hughes. This was post-prohibition, so perhaps the material hit a little too close to home. For Chicago fans, "G" Men was banned for a time in Illinois because the take down of Dillinger would have been too exciting for audiences at the time. 

Otto Preminger's version of The Man With the Golden Arm was also censored for a time because of the depiction of drug use. This is on trend of blocking honest portrayals of drug use from the American public.

What are some "objectionable" films that you disagree with? Do they have things in common? Talk about it in the comments below.

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