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How the Catholic Church censored the Golden Age of Hollywood

The strict guidelines Hollywood needed to follow for decades.

When you think of the Golden Age of Hollywood, you probably think of some of the greatest American movies ever made: Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca. But what you may not realize is that all of these movies were censored by the Catholic Church.

From 1934 to 1954, every Hollywood movie needed to follow a strict set of moral guidelines that were aligned with Catholic theology. They included such things as barring excessive drinking, onscreen nudity, and even sexual relationships between races.

The Production Code Administration enforced Catholic moral standards on all Hollywood movies for decades.
Motion Picture Association of America

Enforcement was overseen by the Production Code Administration, which was led by devout Catholic Joseph Breen. For decades, the PCA needed to approve every line of dialogue, every costume, and every poster for any movie that wanted their seal of approval. And as professor Thomas Doherty told me, “adherence to the Production Code was not optional.” Without the PCA’s approval, your movie couldn’t get made.

Watch the video above to see exactly what made Breen one of the most powerful people in Hollywood history. Also make sure to pick up Doherty’s excellent book on Breen and the PCA.

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