in 1934, the mpaa voluntarily passed the motion picture production code, more generally known as the hays code, largely to avoid government regulation. The code prohibited certain plotlines and imagery from films and in publicity materials produced by the mpaa. among other rules, there was to be no cleavage, no lace underthings, no drugs or drinking, no corpses, and no one shown getting away with a crime.
a.l. shafer, the head of photography at columbia, took a photo that intentionally incorporated all of the 10 banned items into one image.
the photograph was clandestinely passed around among photographers and publicists in hollywood as symbolic protest of the hays code.