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Hollywood’s Doom Book and other Tales of Blacklisting in American Cinema

When Thomas Edison released the 18-second film called The Kiss in 1896, one reviewer called it "absolutely disgusting." Cinema became exponentially popular, and pushed the limits until the Hays Code was adopted in 1930. The standards for movies was named for William Hays, a minister hired by the government to decide what was proper for Hollywood. But the Hays Code wasn't the only document of standards that censored movies. There was also the myterious Doom Book listing actors whose behavior off screen could get them banned from studios. And there were practical guidelines, like the Hays Committee's Hollywood Do’s and Don’ts.      

Arson, pregnancy, interracial love – the list of what you couldn’t include in a film was exhaustive, complicated and costly. Known within the industry as the code of “Don’ts and Be Carefuls”, the guidelines were Hays’ attempt at working with the movie studios to reduce their rising editing costs as a result of censorship laws. Rather than banning films outright, the presbyterian pastor and past chairman of the Republican Party was hired to “clean up the pictures” and shape them into something the public “ought to be watching”.  

All these guides affected not only movie productions, but individual people. Read a collection of stories of Hollywood censorship, from the three-second rule to the Communist blacklist, at Messy Nessy Chic.


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