23 – Film studies write-ups (The Maltese Falcon – How they got round the Hayse code, How the film used Film Noir)


The Hayes Code

Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:

  1. Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ” (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), “hell,” “damn,” “Gawd,” and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
  2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
  3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
  4. Any inference of sex perversion;
  5. White slavery;
  6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
  7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
  8. Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
  9. Children’s sex organs;
  10. Ridicule of the clergy;
  11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:

  1. The use of the flag;
  2. International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country’s religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
  3. Arson;
  4. The use of firearms;
  5. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
  6. Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
  7. Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
  8. Methods of smuggling;
  9. Third-degree methods;
  10. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
  11. Sympathy for criminals;
  12. Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
  13. Sedition;
  14. Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
  15. Branding of people or animals;
  16. The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
  17. Rape or attempted rape;
  18. First-night scenes;
  19. Man and woman in bed together;
  20. Deliberate seduction of girls;
  21. The institution of marriage;
  22. Surgical operations;
  23. The use of drugs;
  24. Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
  25. Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a “heavy”.


.International relations –

.The use of violence –

.Sympathy for criminals – It is not until the end of the film that you realize that the woman was the murderer of the detective who dies at the beginning. This is because her husband was murdered. If it had been revealed at the beginning of the film that she was one of the murderers then you may have felt sympathy for her because is is seeking lawless justice. She is just being moral.

.Sedition – The opening scene of the film is just writing stating that the ‘Maltese falcon’ was to be delivered to a powerful and religious Spanish man. But it then states that the ‘Maltese Falcon’ was stolen by pirates and has not been accounted for to this date. What is being described is an act of rebellion against powerful members and institutions of the state. But this is put in a historical context (16th century) and is not re-enacted as a scene, so it is not applicable to the Hayse Code.

.The use of drugs – In one of the scenes from the film, the main character gets poisoned/drugged, this could be classes as using drug substances. The character suddenly starts fainting before shortly falling to the ground. It is only once he starts to faint that we realize that he has been drugged. You do not see any drugs but you know that he has been drugged.

.Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is ‘heavy’ –


.The film often uses shots of character’s from behind their backs. This gives a mysterious and uncertain figure and mood to the character’s.

.The film uses many dark suits as oppose the light suits. This offers a dark feeling in the sense that no-one can be trusted and that everyone may be bad.

.Their are only about 1 or 2 scenes where it is daytime. This creates a fear because violence often occurs during the night as oppose to the day or the depiction of when violence most occurs.

.Most of the film is indoors. Their are only about 2 outdoor scenes. This makes the atmosphere tense because of the common fear of someone lurking within the building.

.Money plays a key role in the film. This is because ‘The Maltese Falcon’ would have been sold away. Money is often linked with greed.

.Often questions are being asked, which keeps the mind thinking about the murderer and the dark situation that the characters find themselves in.

.Often hats are worn which cast shadows over the person wearing it. This can portray them as dark.

.Tense and dramatic music builds dark atmosphere.

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