The Movies of the 1930s
The movies of the 1930s were often controversial. Some of them featured adultery and violent scenes, while others were regarded as morally offensive. Religious organizations, in particular, were angry with the film industry for making such movies. To combat this, the Catholic Church in America created the Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Motion Pictures. This group headed the League of Decency, a campaign that identified films that violated the moral standards of their audience. Other organizations, including the Protestant Council of Churches and the Central Conference of Jewish Rabbis, also joined the campaign. By 1934, the MPPDA and Hays had implemented the 1930 Code, which prohibited films from featuring adultery, double beds, four-letter curse words, nude babies, and many other offensive content.
The 1930s was also a decade of innovation. The early use of color in movies was criticized by many in the industry for its unrealism and “unreal effect.” In fact, Shlyen felt that color in features should be reserved for more serious stories and to emphasize characters. Douglas Fairbanks even warned against using color in features because it would make the movies look cheap and unprofessional.
Despite the popularity of gangster movies, the public’s mistrust of government and big business was evident in the films of the 1930s. During this decade, gangster movies flooded the market, and gangster films were huge hits. Despite the controversy, they continued to be popular until the New Deal restored public confidence in government and law enforcement. As a result, more government officials became heroes. Jimmy Cagney played an FBI agent in 1935. The film “Mutiny on the Bounty” also showcased the strength of the average American, and Frank Capra was one of the most prolific producers of the decade.