Right now is the best time to be a film fan, as the Oscars are coming up (so the best films from last year will get their props) and the annual Sundance Film Festival is about to kick off (so we can find out what we'll be saluting at the Oscars next year). But today also marks a dubious anniversary in cinema history. On this day in 1916, the National Board of Censorship (which later became known as the National Board of Review) banned all nudity in films. The industry watchdog group, comprised mostly of film fans policing studio policies and content, had faced accusations of being far too liberal since its inception in 1909. The nudity ban was meant to be a dramatic shift towards a more conservative outlook on film content. The National Board of Review's power over content lessened in the 1920s, though their stamp of approval appeared on movies well into the 1950s in the era before film ratings. Along they way, they shifted from a censorship body to more of a cultural institution, launching publications on the art of film and underwriting educational seminars and programs about the history and importance of the populist art.
The nudity ban didn't last very long, clearing the way for the careers of Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly. While it's too-often used as a crutch for bringing teens into cinemas (as in slasher movies and teen sex comedies), nudity can be an incredibly effective tool in a variety of cinema styles (especially in America, where we sometimes seem stuck in Puritanism). As a celebration of nudity on film (and naked people in general), check out the Woodie Award-winning "Lessons Learned" from Matt and Kim.
Be sure to follow the MTV Movies Blog for updates on Sundance.