Hays Office

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004

    The Lou Costello-like cat in A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942) is addressed by the Bud Abbott-like cat, who asks the former to give him the bird (referring here not only to the prototypical Tweety but also to an obscene gesture). The pudgy pussy observes that if the Hays Office would only let him, he’d “give him the bird all right!”

    The Hays Office was the popular name for Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc. named after its founder, Will Hays. The MPPDA administered the Production Code during the golden age of Hollywood, and molded the content of Hollywood films using a complex system of “dos and don’ts”, censoring material that went against the Code, including “giving people the bird”.

    Cartoons were not exempt from this code. Red Hot Riding Hood (Avery at MGM, 1943) is a prime example of a cartoon that was clipped by the Hays Office. The original ending, which had the grandmother marrying the Wolf in a shotgun wedding, and a closing scene in the nightclub with Wolf pére and cubs all howling at Red have all been cut. The system was eventually replaced by the voluntary rating scheme which remains in place today.


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