2018 Volume 100 Pages 53-72
In 1917, the London-based National Council of Public Morals created the Cinema Commission of Inquiry to conduct an investigation about the impact of cinema houses and films. As part of its mission, the National Council was dedicated to the promotion of “social purity.” The word “social” was widely known at the time as a euphemism for “sexual.” The National Commission dedicated particular attention to the spread of prostitution during the First World War.
The purpose of the article is to describe and examine how the Commission’s report shook the censorship principles of the British Board Film Censors (BBFC) by comparing the years before and after 1917 with special attention given to matters of sexuality. This article details popular opinion about cinema houses and films, and also reveals how the organization, film industry, and official administrative bodies were involved in dealing with the ”evil elements” that were linked to negatively affecting young people physically, socially, and morally. The BBFC’s “Grounds for Deletion” changed over the years and analysis has revealed that their inquiry strengthened censorship principles and consolidated trust, although the results did not always conform to prior expectation.