Skip to main content

Resources for Film History Research: Home

Production Code Administration files

Motion Picture Association of America - Production Code Administration

Archival Resources

"Will Hays, as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) in 1930, introduced the Production Code, a document designed to help the industry regulate itself by following certain moral principles and guidelines. Hays chose Joseph Breen to oversee the administration of the Code in 1934. Under Breen, the studios were required to submit all screenplays for approval and all films released by MPPDA member companies were required to display a Code seal. In 1946, the organization changed its name to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Hays was succeeded by Eric Johnston. The Production Code remained in force until 1968, when it was superseded by the MPAA ratings system, which is still in use today." - Margaret Herrick Library

Hollywood, censorship, and the motion picture production code, 1927-1968

Online version of the microfilm collection History of the Cinema. Series 1: Hollywood and the Production Code Administration (MICFILM 4482, plus printed guide). Selected files from the Motion Picture Association of America Production Code Administration, filmed from the holdings of the Magaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The set contains files on 500 films dating from 1927 to 1968, including some significant foreign film releases.

To view a chronological list of films in the collection, click on the link "View All Documents."

Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records

The Margaret Herrick Library has digitized files for an additional 500 films, and they are available freely as part of the library's online digital collections


Media History Digital Library

Media History Digital Library

Film scholar and archivist David Pierce is spearheading a project called the Media History Digital Library, in collaboration with institutions such as the Pacific Film Archive, to digitize back issues of film industry trade papers and popular fan magazines and make them available online via the Internet Archive. The issues will be available for viewing online using standard file formats such as PDF,

As the project brochure notes, such materials are often difficult for researchers to access. In the case of The Hollywood Reporter, "only a single complete run is known to exist."

At present, several volumes of Photoplay and one volume of Motion Picture Classic are available. For a complete list, search in the Internet Archive using the terms "Media History Digital Library."

The Lantern platform offers a robust search interface for working with the collections.

Examples of Primary Sources

Primary sources typically include such items as:

  • manuscripts, letters, first-person diaries, memoirs, personal journals, interviews, speeches, oral histories, and other materials individuals used to describe events in which they were participants or observers. Many of these materials frequently are referred to as "papers";
  • records of government agencies and other organizations, including such documents as parliamentary debates, proceedings of organization meetings, conferences, etc. Many of these materials frequently are referred to as "archives";
  • original documents such as birth certificates, marriage and baptismal registers, wills, trial transcripts, etc.;
  • published materials written at the time of the event, including newspapers, news magazines, advertising, cartoons, and other ephemeral publications such as pamplets and flyers;
  • contemporary creative works of literature, art, and music, such as novels, paintings, compositions, poems, etc.;
  • contemporary photographs, maps, audio recordings, television and radio broadcasts, and moving pictures;
  • Internet communications including email, listservs, and blogs;
  • statistical and numeric data collected by various government and private agencies, including census data, opinion polls, and other surveys;
  • research reports and case studies in the sciences or social sciences;
  • artifacts of all kinds such as coins, clothing, fossils, furniture, and musical instruments from the time period under study

Primary sources sometimes can be ambiguous and contradictory, relecting a specific person's opinions and contemporary cultural influences on them. For that very reason such sources are invaluable tools for developing your own interpretations and reaching your own conclusions about what is going on at a point in time.

Subject Guide

James Steffen's picture
James Steffen
Music and Media Library

Office phone: (404) 727-8107

Main Music and Media phone: (404) 727-1777
© Emory University Libraries - 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, Georgia 30322