Awful Auteurs: Ed Wood and the Hayes Code


The Hayes Code was the restrictive list of rules that Hollywood filmmakers had to follow in order to get their films into mainstream theaters. 

This film guaranteed ankle-free.

The rules required that certain seamy situations and themes not be explored in a film and that any wrongdoing be punished by the end of the film. Enterprising filmmakers, desperate to find any loopholes in the code, embraced the punishment rule. Couldn't they show some criminality and depravity if it all got punished in the end? The answer was mostly yes, though with certain restrictions. One of the experts at dancing around the restriction was schlockmeister Ed Wood.

"It's alright as long as the degenerates get punished, right?"

Ed Wood knew how to skirt the rules, pushing situations just to the brink of the Hayes Code, defending his plots by pointing out that the criminals, harlots and degenerates all got punished in the end. Besides, these were meant to be cautionary tales.

Ignore your daughter? This is what will happen!

Unfortunately for Mr. Wood, his films weren't able to fool enough people into theaters to make him a wealthy filmmaker. His brand of filmmaking wouldn't get fully "appreciated" until long after his death.

"Some crimes are not so bad..."

The Hayes Code would collapse in 1968, to be replaced by the current rating system. Instead of telling filmmakers what they could include in a film, the new system simply rates the films after the fact. Since the rating determines how many theaters will show the film, it has much the same effect as the original Hayes Code, except with less guidance. Which is an improvement. We guess.