The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942

Lea Jacobs, Author University of Wisconsin Press $37.5 (202p) ISBN 978-0-299-12880-7
Jacobs, an assistant professor of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin, presents a well-researched examination of the ways in which the Production Code strictures of Hollywood's depiction of sex contributed to the screen construction of female sexuality in the '30s. The author writes, ``Because industry self-regulation functioned as a sort of machine for registering and internalizing social conflict, it provides an extraordinarily fruitful means of contextualizing film analysis,'' i.e., grounding it firmly in history. The resulting book is happily devoid of the jargon that mars much recent academic film writing, but it's a bit dry all the same. Jacobs's most interesting discovery is that the Code actually worked as a sort of preemptive strike to placate state censor boards while still allowing filmmakers a little breathing room. She challenges the commonplace that pre-1935 films were uncensored and shows that Code administrators were ``always complicit to some degree with the aims of major film producers.'' However, the tentativeness of her conclusions leaves one with the sense that this is a work in progress. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1991
Release date: 06/01/1991
Paperback - 202 pages - 978-0-299-12884-5
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-0-520-20790-5
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 220 pages - 978-0-520-91875-7
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