Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Andrew Haley

Advisor Department



This paper is a study of the conservative political bias inherent to the Motion Picture Production Code as it applies to Great Depression cinema. Many films in this period attempted to explore progressive themes but were edited or prohibited outright under the Code’s authority. Father Daniel Lord, the Code’s author, greatly feared cinema’s cultural and moral influences, but may have been unaware of the political ramifications of his work. On the other hand, his boss, Will H. Hays, was an ambitious man fully in support of the Code’s ability to censor politics that differed from his own. The unlikely partnership between these two men preceded and perhaps helped precipitate the rise of the American religious right. The paper concludes with a series of case studies. Each case study analyzes a single film in order to offer a unique insight into the practical application of the Production Code and the ways it could be used to change a film’s message in significant ways.

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