Sunday, August 19, 2007

Breaking the Code

It is no coincidence that my favorite classic films find themselves situated before and after the Hays Code's reign of power over the film industry. (The Hays Code being the set of statutes imposed upon filmmakers to promote a particular form of morality.) Firstly, there are the pre-Codes, most notably those talkies from the early 1930s that were often playful and jovial even when they dealt with difficult subjects. Although the Hays Code was already in place during this time, it generally wasn't enforced and leaving filmmakers more carefree to explore a broad range of subjects and themes. After 1934, the Code held its grip on the industry for a substantial amounf of time. It wasn't until the late '50s, when television proved to be a dangerous competitor to cinemas when the Code began to lose its power. Films started to come out in spicier flavors to lure back those customers who had begun to hibernate in front of their televisions. Filmmakers broke more and more of the Code's statues over the next decade or so until the industry moved permanently onto a less-restrictive ratings system in 1967.

I find the films I most enjoy and relate to are ones from 1930-1934 and 1955-1960. (Even though one might consider the latter half to be early to mid 50's into the late '60s, I find that the 60's was a decade upon itself and I always view it as it's own entity.) These two timeframes represent moments of rebellion from repression. I want to take the opportunity to discuss those particular films that defied the code individually because they are so powerful and they boast the potential to shatter the people's preconceived notions of classic films.

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