Hazy Output Because of the Hays Code

         In the mid-1930's censorship of films in America was born and it was called the Hays Code. The Hays Code prevented many classic literature novels from being transformed into their truest form or into the director's creative perspective onto film because of its strict rules of having any suggestive nudity in actual form or of silhouette, homosexuality, sex, adultery, childbirth, miscegenation, etc. One of these literature classics were affected by the censors when it was adapted to film in 1951 was the play written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, A Streetcar Named Desire. In order to indicate such things that happened in the story the directors had to tiptoe around the red tape.

         The first thing that was censored was the fact that the married Stella (Kim Hunter) was pregnant. The director could not show her having an eight-month-grown stomach or say the word "pregnant," so to imply such things they made the character wear extremely baggy clothes as the film progressed and have Stanley (Marlon Brando) tell Blanche (Vivien Leigh) that she was going to have a baby. This method of getting around the censorship could be acceptable, but in such a realistic play it sort of destroys the illusion and the feel of the rugged dialogue and imagery that is in play of the story.

         The second thing that was censored was dialogue from the play, and the director's creative perspective on a visual aspect. The director, Elia Kazan, could not show because of the Hays Code, a visual interpretation flashback scene of the indication that Blanche's boy husband was homosexual, which most films do when there is a long monologue as such projected in the script. If the director had such creative freedom, he would probably present a visual playback of Blanche finding her husband and an older man, who has been his "friend" for years, together in an empty room indicating something to that extent, as she describes to Mitch in the play. The visual aspects, such as a flashback, would have created more tension and drama with in the story with an understanding of Blanche as a character and why she was lead off to a mental unstableness. In the dialogue of the playwright, there was a strong indication of homosexuality and the director again had to abide by the Hays' code, so the original dialogue of Blanche's monologue had to be altered for film viewing audiences. Instead of her saying that she had caught her love in an empty room with an older man that had been his "friend" for years and then telling him before he had killed himself, "I saw! I know!" for censor purposes the film script shortened her speech and made her say that he was weak. Thus, there was barely an indication of homosexuality if any at all. If these parts could have been inserted or not altered, the film would have made the story stronger, more real and true to its form.

         The last main point but not the final thing that was affected by the Hays Code in A Streetcar Named Desire, was that the directors could not show Stella and Stanley (Marlon Brando) in the single bed together, although it could be implied that they did sleep there. The director only could show the bed itself, or Stella in bed with Stanley's stuff lying on it. Again this destroyed the feel of the rugged realistic effect, which Tennessee Williams had intended to be in the story itself.

         The Hays Code did not completely destroy a brilliant story, but it did restrict many things, including the director's skills to create a film version essentially faithful to the original text, especially one containing harsh realism. It thwarted the film makers' attempts to the processes of having creative film adaptations of a script to where a director's interpretation and visual skills to carry such a strong story all together was staggered massively. It also prevented the author's intentions of creating a sense of complete harsh realism. The Hays Code not only depleted creativity but has also taught us that restricting something that is offensive to one person's opinion could be restricting many others' freedoms of speech and creativity.

Shanah Zigler

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