Reserving the Kill: The Suicide Ban and Criminal Punishment in Code-Era Hollywood Film

Sligar, Sara
December 2019
Film History;Winter2019, Vol. 31 Issue 4, p1
Academic Journal
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Production Code Administration systematically censored cinematic representations of criminals "escaping justice" through suicide, instead forcing studios to conclude films with scenes of police arrest and allusions to future trials. Instituted in consultation with police officials, the suicide ban emerged as the American criminal justice system was rapidly shifting to an institutionalized, sociological model. Rereading the averted-suicide ending of Crime Without Passion (1934) as a manifesto on the appropriate death of the accused, I argue that the suicide prohibition, which proved uniquely resistant to ironic subversion, became a powerful tool for consolidating state authority over criminal punishment.


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