In the early days of Hollywood sex in history after the development of film-making as an industry, moralists objected to the amount of nudity, sexuality, criminality and violence portrayed in films. 30 year-old starlet Virginia Rappe in San Francisco’s St. Arbuckle was eventually fully acquitted of the eventual manslaughter charge after three trials.
The third jury – after a six-minute verdict – stated: “Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel a great injustice has been done him. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of twelve men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame. Further scandal erupted over the murder of 49 year-old millionaire film director William Desmond Taylor, popular comedian Mabel Normand’s lover, in February 1922 – he was shot to death in his LA apartment after spending the early evening with Normand.
The murder was never solved, although it appeared that Charlotte Shelby was a major suspect — the angry “stage mother” of 19 year-old blonde starlet Mary Miles Minter who was seeing Taylor. Already, “America’s Sweetheart” star Mary Pickford’s marriage to Douglas Fairbanks on March 28, 1920, after they both divorced spouses to marry each other, was another symbol of the erosion of values in Hollywood. The King of Paramount,” died in early 1923 at the age of 31. The infamous and unsolved “Black Dahlia” murder case in early 1947, involving the murder and dismembered mutilation of 22 year-old Elizabeth Short, was seen as evidence of further major problems in the film capital.
Conservative former Postmaster General William H. One of his first acts of Hays in ‘cleaning-up’ Hollywood, due to pressure from Hollywood’s top film executives, was to banish the acquitted actor-comedian Arbuckle from film, at least temporarily, in order to distract the public. Hays also approved the use of morality clauses in the standard actor’s contract, to control the conduct of performers, and he also assured state and local censorship boards that he would properly regulate the industry. Hays’ 1927 list of “Don’ts” and “Be Carefuls”. Also, some of these illicit behaviors could be exhibited — if later punished within the film. Three factors forced Hays and the studios to change: mounting pressure from the Catholic Church aided by support from other religious groups, economic hardships during the Depression, and the threat of federal censorship. Theatres were not allowed to exhibit films that had not been granted a seal.
Interestingly, the Code forced film producers to creatively sublimate sex and violence, to reinvent themselves, and to find other alternatives to attract patrons. The latter was typical of an exploitation film designed to circumvent the Production Code restrictions with its plot that warned against underage marriage. Kroger Babb, although it was banned in many locations by local censors due to its infamous underage nudity. Other ‘forbidden’ films were usually screened in theatres that came to be known as ‘grindhouses’ – since they often served as burlesque strip joints. Eventually, the strict censorship and regulation system started to go into gradual decline after World War II and as the 50s arrived. By the mid-50s, the Production Code was partially rewritten to allow, when “treated within the careful limits of good taste”, such previously banned topics as drug addiction, prostitution and childbirth.
The second episode in the film, with a story scripted by Federico Fellini, starred Anna Magnani as a dim-witted, unwed young peasant girl named Nannina, who had delusions that she was the Virgin Mary. It was exhibited at the 1948 Venice Film Festival, but was basically a flop in Italy after Catholic officials denounced it as “an abominable profanation. The film was imported into the US in 1949 by Polish-Jewish immigrant Joseph Burstyn, and in late 1950 opened at the Paris Theater in Manhattan. The short film was challenged by the New York Board of Regents in 1951, after being pressured by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to revoke the film’s license on the grounds that the work was “blasphemous” and “sacrilegious. Catholic leader Francis Cardinal Spellman, with the Catholic-dominated Legion of Decency, attacked The Miracle as “a despicable affront to every Christian” and “a vicious insult to Italian womanhood.
In a remarkable 9-0 unanimous decision in 1952 in the case of Burstyn v. The Court declared “sacrilege” too vague a censorship standard to be permitted under the First Amendment. Note: This decision overruled the 1915 Supreme Court decision in Mutual Film Corp. This was the idea that film was an art form and a means of personal expression by a film’s director.
The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, the unofficial Bible of auteurism. These court decisions and attitudes reflected society’s increasing tolerance of mature themes in books, plays, and other forms of mass entertainment, and the belief that censorship was becoming obsolete. Challenges to the system, changing cultural attitudes and liberalized, permissive morals brought about more evidences of nudity and sexuality in Hollywood’s films as a result. Although relatively unchanged, various permutations of ratings systems have evolved to the present day. 1970, and the PG-13 rating appeared in 1984. Some critics have called the ratings system a failure due to its subjective and arbitrary nature. Sexy and erotic images in film scenes can be displayed in many varieties and kinds of films.
Erotic films, unlike pornography, do not have as their sole purpose the explicit and graphic display of sex and nudity. Erotica sometimes is explicit, but can often be teasing, intriguing, sylized, unique and imaginative. Start Watching Showtime Get commercial-free access to exclusive hit series, star-studded movies and more – there’s something for every mood. Gear From All Your Showtime Favorites In One Place.