Film Censorship in Pittsburgh: A History

Jan 23, 2015

Mae Marsh in a publicity still for the 1915 silent film "The Birth of a Nation."
Credit Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research / Wikipedia

Last month the motion picture "The Interview," garnered headlines due to terroristic threats. This led Sony pictures to withhold the movie's release. The saga of "The Interview" is the latest story in the history of film censorship. A legacy with ties to Pittsburgh as pop culture contributor Joe Wos explains.

"The Interview" might be a recent example of self-censorship, but the film industry has a long history of both bowing to government pressures and constructing its own rules and standards. According to Wos, this can be traced back to the premiere of the controversial film "The Birth of a Nation" in 1915. Wos says Pennsylvania was on the forefront of the film censorship movement.

"They're the first state to say, 'There's some stuff going on on film that we don't like. We don't think people should be seeing some of this,'" Wos says.