Most classic film fans know that after 1934, the movies were toned down considerably. What they may not know is that the crazy tug-of-war between censors and filmmakers extended all the way back to the dawn of film.
The silent era was freewheeling even after Will Hayes came to town in the aftermath of a few particularly lurid scandals. Hayes tried but he never really clamped down on the cinematic naughtiness the way scolds of the day would have liked. The crackdown came later and once the Code began to be enforced in earnest, there were a few things that were no longer allowed in the movies. (As usual, I will provide a link to my review of the GIF’s source.)
You couldn’t have this:
(The Mystery of the Leaping Fish and, no, they are not being euphemistic.)
(M’Liss telling it like it is.)
And certainly not that:
(Pola Negri in The Wildcat. Mr. Breen would have fainted.)
And we certainly couldn’t have this:
(William S. Hart strangles his enemy and tosses him off a cliff in The Toll Gate, which strikes me as literal overkill. I have a warped sense of wordplay.)
And absolutely none of this:
(Some very stylish bloodwork from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat.)
This post is part of the Classic Movie History Project. Be sure to check out the other great posts!