Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000
From 1915 to 1966, Kansas maintained an active film censorship board, empowered by BOOK REVIEWS 73 the legislature to review each film that might be shown in the state. The board could accept the film, remove scenes or titles (and, when pictures began to talk, objectionable language), or reject the film entirely-hence the title of Butters's book.
In 1920, the Kansas Board of Review first published its official standards. These included the positive: a film should be wholesome, and should not ridicule any religious sect or race of people. But the "shall nots" quickly asserted themselves: no debasing of morals, no evil or suggestive dress, no depiction of infidelity in marriage, no nudity, no alcohol, no settings where people are drinking or gambling or "cigarette smoking." In addition: no crime, violence, passionate love scenes, dance halls, white slavery, or seduction and betrayal of innocence.
Gerald Butters has meticulously researched the history of Kansas film censorship. He enhances his archival research with film advertising, letters to the editor, editorials, and newspaper coverage of the Board's activities. He also recreates the regional and national climate. Kansas was not the only state, nor the first, to censor films. The film industry tried to self-censor, thus avoiding the problems created by censorship boards.