You've probably heard the expression, "They don't make them like they used to." When that comes to the movies, that figure of speech likely refers to a specific time - 1930 through 1968, to be exact. During that span, most films had to adhere to the Motion Picture Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code.
What was the Hays Code? It was a set of moral guidelines, thought to ensure that audiences only consumed appropriate entertainment. Old Hollywood scandals from the 1920s had painted Tinseltown and the abusive studio system as a place of crime and sin, and political pressure spurred executives to take action. Something had to be done to rein in the morally bankrupt Hollywood machine, and a Presbyterian elder named Will H. Hays seemed to offer a solution. His system of "don'ts" and "be carefuls" soon morphed into an official code. By 1930, several major studios agreed to the new set of rules.
Beyond being strict, the Hays Code was downright bizarre. Strange rules in old Hollywood outlined how men and women could interact, forbid dancing, and even limited funny portrayals of religious figures. The weirdest rules in the Hays Code read like parody, but they influenced Hollywood for years. It's both entertaining and intriguing to consider how the Hays Code changed movies.