Hopes arose yet again when another New York State-banned film’s distributor petitioned for Supreme Court hearing. Bundling that case with another coming from an Ohio ban in 1954, it seemed that the Court might be ready to clarify the muddy issue of what could be censored and what could not. But that was not to be. Another per curiam decision overturned both the New York ban on “immorality” and the Ohio ban on “harmfulness,” but without explaining why. 
At the same time, Hollywood producers were growing restive under the dictates of the Production Code, and several producers challenged the dominance of Joseph Breen and his pre-filming and pre-exhibition interference with their work. Adding to Hollywood’s woes at losing their theater holdings came the triple whammy of competition from television, pressure to keep up with foreign films, and suburbanization that was taking ticket buyers away from the big theaters. By the mid 1950s, ticket sales plummeted 50 percent.  Hoping to capitalize on the audience desire for realism in their movies, some producers strained to get away from the happy-ending, formulaic style of 1940s movies. When Otto Preminger released The Moon is Blue in 1953 without benefit of a Production Code seal and still managed to make the list of top-grossing films for the year, he struck the Code a devastating blow. Flush from his successful flaunting of the Code, Preminger then released The Man with the Golden Arm, a film that dealt realistically with drug addiction, two years later—again without a seal. Other independents were watching and they too bypassed Breen’s office. By 1962, three-quarters of all the films released into the New York market arrived bearing no seal of approval from Hollywood. The Production Code was clearly dying.
 Superior Films v. Ohio, 346 U.S. 587 (1954). Both the New York case and the Ohio case were bundled together into this one opinion.
 Clayton Koppes, “Movie Censorship Considered as a Business Proposition,” paper presented at
Economic and Business History Association annual meeting, Columbus, Ohio, April 16, 2011.
 The Moon is Blue also became fodder for a state censorship challenge. Kansas found its theme to be a "bedroom farce [Holmby Productions v. Vaughn, 350 U.S. 870 (1955)]
An enlightened censor
Hugh Flick, head of New York's censors, officially called the Motion Picture Division, was an educated and sophisticated censor. Flick held an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a doctorate from Columbia in U.S. history. Before becoming New York’s chief censor in 1950 (he remained on the job until 1955), he had served as state archivist and state historian. During the war years, he had been chief archivist for the U.S. Army. Well-traveled, well-read, and well-respected, Flick would come to be considered by many, including the ACLU, as America’s most enlightened censor. Flick was always more worried about violent messages in films (particularly violent acts against women) than with sexual depictions or culture wars like the Miracle controversy.
Photo courtesy of Flick family
Photo courtesy of Flick family
Nor were the governmental censors feeling optimistic: as more court cases came, they wondered, what could they legally ban? Both the free speech advocates and the censors hoped for some sort of clarity each time a new challenge case arose, but no such vision became clear in the four cases that arose between 1956 and 1961. One definitive ruling did come, however, although even that came with five different opinions. A nearly totally expurgated version of the infamous D.H. Lawrence novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, caused the justices to pull the plug on New York’s censoring for immorality.  For all intents, the only thing left was obscenity.
As the Supreme Court allowed greater artistic freedom by incrementally dismissing government control of movie “sacrilege,” “immorality,” and “harmfulness,” state courts joined in. The highest courts of both Ohio and Massachusetts declared their censoring unconstitutional in 1955. Pennsylvania followed in 1956; disgruntled legislators reinstated censorship three years later only to have their high court overturn it yet again in 1961. That left only New York, Kansas, and Maryland. But they and several cities like Chicago were not about to give up or give in.
 Kingsley International Pictures v. Regents, 360 U.S. 684 (1959).