An Incredible List of Things That Movies Were Not Allowed To Portray In 1921
Famous swimmer, Annette Kellerman was the first “star” to do a nude scene 1916 “A Daughter of the Gods”
Looking at what was prohibited in the state of Maryland from being shown on movie screens in 1921 is overwhelming in its restrictiveness. It includes, but is not limited to: indecorous dancing; over passionate love scenes; exhibition of feminine underwear; gruesome murders; birth control; disrespect for the law; use of opium or other habit forming drugs; executions; profanity; excessive drunkeness especially in women; and maternity scenes.
The complete Maryland censorship rules is a laundry list of vice and of how people really behaved. Basically real life was prohibited in the movies.
Because there was no film industry set of standards, individual states set up their own board of censors to either insist on cuts to movies or block films from being exhibited entirely within that state.
In 1921 there were only six state censorship boards, and that number would greatly expand throughout the 1920’s. What was okay in one state, may not be playable in another. This set off a quagmire of problems for producers of films who needed to be able to show their films to the widest possible audience without having to make special edits to satisfy each state’s censorship board.
Rather than risk the creation of a national censorship board, the film industry eventually self monitored and created its own censorship code and a board to enforce the rules.
One of the last pre-code films. 1933’s Roman Scandals with a young Lucille Ball in the chorus as a slave girl
The Hays Code (1930) and Joseph Breen, head of the Production Code Administration standardized censorship rules and staved off an official national censorship board.
But even after the Production Code went into full effect (1934), local authorities or the Legion of Decency could still condemn a film and keep it from being exhibited. The city of Boston was a prime example of banning films with objectionable content.
Below is the complete list of Maryland’s censorship restrictions. Continue reading