AbstractThis research project was designed to challenge and explore the current understandings surrounding censorship of the popular gangster genre during its development in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s in America. It has been undertaken to present a range of theories as to why the gangster genre offended the morally supercilious middle classes who introduced the Motion Picture Production Code to deter ‘inappropriate’ material in films. At the heart of my argument is that social influences greatly swayed the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant view of the gangster film which undeniably represented the inescapable failures and difficulties of the time. This study draws upon many historical and sociological theoretical debates that centre on this topic, as well as a wide range of primary source material. Using filmic examples including Little Caesar (1930), The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) I will textually analyse the content and ideologies of the depression era portrayed on screen. Newspaper archives and the works of social reformist documentary makers of the time such as Jacob Riis will inform my knowledge of the period by those who lived it. This is in order to construct a rounded argument that will define why this genre was considered so politically and socially controversial bearing in mind that it offered audiences some kind of hope and excitement during a period over-shadowed by the Great Depression. This investigation will argue that although it may seem motion picture censors merely wanted to prohibit unnecessary scenes of violence within film, there are in fact deeper sociological issues that led them to censor the genre. Unease surrounding immigration, crime, modernity and political security was rife as the country experienced socio-economic devastation following the Wall Street Crash. I believe it is a conglomeration of the social failures that were represented within the gangster genre that led the fearful middle classes to censor a genre that was based too authentically in reality.
Leighton, Jenna (2012) The gangster genre: censorship of the movies in 1930’s America. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.