Primary Sources: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Motion Picture Production Code, 1927-1968

Formed in 1934, the PCA was an agency of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (the MPPDA, after 1945, the Motion Picture Association of America) that certified films meeting the standards of the Production Code. Standard practice was for the PCA to review the scripts of the films first, identifying problem areas that had to be addressed prior to shooting the film. Only after seeing the final cut of the film would the PCA’s Code Seal be issued.

Sourced from the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Hollywood, Censorship, and the Motion Picture Production Code, 1927-1968 is a collection of Production Code Administration (PCA) files that provide insight into this process of preproduction and final review and the negotiations between the PCA and the motion picture studios over details in the films. The files also reflect Hollywood’s growing resistance to the Code after World War II when filmmakers wanted to tackle topics that had been previously discouraged by the PCA, such as anti-Semitism, racism, alcoholism, mental illness and the like.

It wasn’t until 1956, though, that the Production Code underwent a major rewrite and once some restrictions were loosened, others soon followed. What influence the PCA had quickly waned and in 1968 it was formally replaced by the Code and Rating Administration, which did not regulate the movies, but instead provided ratings that would serve as warnings for moviegoers.

These files were originally gathered together as a microfilm collection and do not include the entire PCA collection of the Margaret Herrick Library. Instead, they are a representative sampling of files on 500 films that were selected by the staff of the Library’s Special Collections Department. The files include story and script reviews, interoffice memos, studio correspondence, trade-press clippings, letters from moviegoers, and much more.