An analysis of civilian censorship of motion pictures in the United States

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An analysis of civilian censorship of motion pictures in the United States

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A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Cinema the University of Southern California

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree * Master of Arts in Cinema

by Frederick Edmond Otto June 1950

UMI Number: EP42700

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T h is thesis, w ritte n by FHEDEBICK_EDltoN? OTTO.............. under the guidan ce o f A.ia...F a c u lty C o m m itte e , an d a p p r o v e d by a ll its m em bers, has been p resen ted to an d a c c e p te d b y the C ou n cil on G ra d u a te S tu d y a n d R esea rch in p a r tia l fu lfill­ m en t of the requ irem ents f o r the d eg ree of .MASTES...QE..AHTS.

D ate.


Faculty Committee





. . . .


The p r o b l e m ................................


Statement of the p r o b l e m ...............


Importance of the s t u d y .................


Definitions of terms u s e d .................


’’Bicycling” ..............................


’’Blind selling” .........................


’’Block booking” .........................


C e n s o r s h i p ..............................


M. P. P. D. A .............................


National Board of Review





National Legion of Decency


’’Switching” .............................


Method of procedure and sources of data . .


Review of the Literature





Great Train R o b b e r y .............

1909> The National Board of Review




. . . .

9 12 18

19l5> First Federal B i l l .................


1920, Hollywood Scandals





History of the Hays O f f i c e ...............



PAGE Hays Office organization





Principles of the Hays O f f i c e .............


Illustrations of Hays Office effects



Critics of the Hays O f f i c e ...............







The Women's Christian Temperance Union




Other interested women's organizations




Commission on Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union



International Reform Bureau, Lord's Day Alliance, Federal Motion Picture Council Business, professional and trade groups .


99 .


Better Films C o u n c i l s .....................


Miscellaneous organizations ...............





Federal censorship l e g i s l a t i o n ...........


State l e g i s l a t i o n .........................





K a n s a s ..................................


O h i o ....................................





New Y o r k ................................



PAGE Virginia


..................... ..



M a s s a c h u s e t t s ..............


F l o r i d a .........................


Other s t a t e s .................


Municipal censorship l e g i s l a t i o n ........ VI.






Motion pictures and their e f f e c t s ........


Censorship and the p u b l i c .................


Public need for c e n s o r s h i p .............


Censorship as a violation of freedom




Censorship as the public’s affair . . . .


Setting standards of morality ...........


Effects of motion pictures on youth . . . .


Non-specific opinions about motion picture c e n s o r s h i p .............................. The Roman Catholic Church and censorship

171 .


Actions of the C h u r c h ...................


Reasoning of the C h u r c h .................


Criticisms of the Church



The effect of advertising on motion picture c e n s o r s h i p .............................. Alternates for official censorship

. . . .

P a r e n t s ............... ; .................

190 192 192



PAGE E d u c a t i o n ................................


B o y c o t t s ................................


Production C o d e .........................


Other r e c o m m e n d a t i o n ...................

19 6



1921-1930 ..................................


1 9 3 1 - 1 9 4 0 ..................................





......................... .

VIII.SUMMARY AND C O N C L U S I O N S ........................ S u m m a r y .......................

25? 257

History of censorship before the Hays O f f i c e ................................ Censorship since the Hays Office

. . . .

Organizations interested in censorship

257 258



Official government censorship legis­ lation



Opinions from the Church, the law, and e d u c a t i o n ..............................


Opinions of members of the industry and professional critics

. . . . . . . . .

C o n c l u s i o n s ............ BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................................

264 265 273

CHAPTER I THE PROBLEM AND DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED The subject of motion picture censorship has been treated from many points of view by people actively and indirectly affected by the industry.

To date a number of

solutions have been presented, none of which satisfies all the interested persons:

motion picture figures and critics,

people interested in the morals of our nation, artists clamoring for freedom of expression and the entertainmentseeking public# Since the industry was born, some fifty-odd years ago, the differences of opinion have existed.

Radicals from both

sides have screamed, ttart stiflersl” or nvice mongersl,r depending upon their views.

A study of the problem, however,

shows that neither condition exists or is likely to exist as long as the United States remains a democracy.

A consider

ation of the indiscretions of the past on the part of the industry reveals the need for some sort of regulation.


the other hand, however, a look at present conditions and the inclinations of the future indicates the advisability of tempering existing censorship and of checking impending regimenta ti on•

2 I.


Statement of the problem.

The objectives of this

thesis are (1) to give an historical background of motion picture censorship,

(2) to show the effect censorship has

had on the industry,

(3) to consider the effects which

censorship by the federal government would have on motion pictures, boards,

(ij.) to consider the existing legal censorship

(5) to point out the effect of sensational adver­

tising on censorship,

(6) to present contentions of those in

favor of existing systems and of even tighter censorship and arguments of those desirous of more freedom of expression, *

(7) to review the aims, background and activities of organ­ ized forces outside the industry in regard to censorship, and (8) to offer suggestions for the improvement of present systems• —C

Importance of the study.

The makers and future makers

of motion pictures will probably never cease to be affected by the problem of censorship.

The mores of contemporary

American society, some of which stem from the culture of Victorian times, dictate limitations of subject matter and style of presentation beyond which the industry may venture only with expectations of disfavor from numerous quarters

y and of probable economic suicide.

Today there is in effect

the Motion Picture Production Code which acts as a barricade


preventing pictures from harming the morals of our nation, offending sensitive groups and antagonizing foreign countries It is also the shield of the industry precluding interference with its products by outside groups. Despite this barricade, however,

there are elements, on

both sides which are dissatisfied with it.

Many in the

industry are of the belief that it acts as a menace to creation and development; therefore, it should be eliminated. Groups on the outside feel that it is merely a tool with which the industry is more easily able to sell its corrupt products to an impressionable public.

Both sides have valid

and logical arguments which deserve consideration. In addition to the Production Code, there is politi­ cal censorship by state and municipal governments. there are conflicting attitudes.


Needless to say, the in­

dustry is not in favor of city and state boards, and it has many non-industry legislators and sympathizers on its side. Opposing these are groups and organizations which look for the day when pictures will be permanently prevented from offending through the imposition of an inexorable federal censorship. Existing methods have served since their several



inceptions, but in most cases these inceptions occurred a sufficient number of years ago to render valid arguments of those clamoring for revision or replacement in one direction


k or another*

These are the root problems, the ramifications

of which must be considered as objectively as possible. They touch every phase of motion picture production and every person who attends movies* II. ”Bicycling.”

DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED The practice of showing a picture at

several theaters in one night for the rental cost of showing it in only one house, by transporting it (as by bicycle) from theater to theater is called ”bicycling.”

In this

manner a picture might be shown in as many as four houses in a single night. ”Blind selling.11

The practice whereby a distributor

licenses a feature before the exhibitor is afforded an opportunity to view it or to read a synopsis of the scenario is termed ”blind selling.” ”Block booking.”

The practice of licensing or offer­

ing for license, one feature or group of features on the con­ dition that the exhibitor will also license another feature or group of features released by the distributors during a given period of time is called ”bloek booking.” Censorship.

The elimination of such parts of a motion

picture as are felt by the censoring authorities to be sac­ rilegious, to corrupt morals, to Incite to crime, to offend

5 sensitive groups or to antagonize foreign countries is censorship.

All boards, official and otherwise, have rules

governing censorable items; but in the final analysis, the burden of the interpretation of these rules rests on the individuals comprising the reviewing boards.

Only domestic

and civilian censorship will be considered in this paper, since military and foreign restrictions would too greatly increase its scope. M. P. -P. D. A.

Motion Picture Producers and Distrib­

utors of America, Incorporated, is an association organized by Will Hays in 1922 when he was selected to redeem the industry's name and combat popular action for political censorship.

In 1 9 ^ »

with the appointment of Eric Johnston

as head of the organization, the name was changed to the Motion Picture Association of America, Incorporated.


name ”Hays Office” as used throughout the paper, will refer to this organization before and after the changes of title and le ade rship• National Board of Review.

An unofficial motion picture

evaluation board begun in New York City in 1909


People's Institute is called the National Board of Review. Out of it grew the National Motion Picture Council which publishes evaluation lists which are circulated throughout the United States.

6 National Legion of Decency*

A Roman Catholic organ­

ization begun in 193^4- to protect members of the Church, especially children, from the influence of immoral pictures or those presenting principles contrary to Church doctrine is the National Legion of Decency.

It publishes periodical

lists classifying and banning pictures* ^Switching.**

The practice of renting a picture at a

low cost and showing it in a house at which the rent would have been higher is termed ’*switching.** III.


Sources of material for this paper were books on the motion picture industry in general and others specifically on censorship, articles from magazines and other periodicals, pamphlets published by interested persons and organizations, government reports and law books, evaluation lists from the Roman Church and other groups, lectures by instructors and guest lecturers at the University of Southern California. Periodical material dates back to 1906.

It was

interesting to note that the need for regulation was felt even at a time when pictures were being seen through f,slot machines.**

A lucky find was a 1909 item which described the

action being taken to establish the National Board of Review, an organization which exists today.

Because much of the material was in the form of clip­ pings at the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was difficult to acquire the necessary bibliographical data.

Since some of the publications are

no longer in existence, such data as volume and page numbers were inaccessible. IV.


Research and information for this paper have divulged the existence of only two other scholarly studies of motion picture censorship.

One was a doctor*s dissertation written

by Donald Ramsey Young for the University of Pennsylvania and published in 1922.

The other was a master’s thesis submitted

to the cinema department of the University of Southern Calif­ ornia at the same time as this paper, by Major Robert Randle of the United States Army.

Doctor Young’s dissertation,

called Motion Pictures, a Study in Social Legislation, treat­ ed of the social ill effects of pictures at that time and is now distinctly out-dated.

Major Randle’s thesis concerned

military censorship of films in the United States, a phase which has been considered extraneous in this paper. Two of the most distinctly divergent view points on the matter of motion picture censorship included in this paper are those by Charles C. Pettijohn in his 1938 booklet,

8 Self-Regulation Versus Censorship,-*- in which he said censor­ ship was, ,fthe enemy of democracy, liberty and human rights . • ." and M. . . a n instrument of suppression,

. * .,fl et

cetera; and those of Damon Runyon in an article the following year for the Motion Picture Herald^ in which he claimed that censorship was the only thing that kept pictures from being vulgar and offensive. Other writers included priests, educators, critics, actors, directors, and producers.


Some gave histo­

ry and data on censorship, others merely expressed opinions about it and others offered recommendations for the solutions to the problems which motion pictures presented.

1 See page 237 of this paper. ^ See pages 2lj.Q-lp. of this paper.

CHAPTER I I A HISTORY OP CENSORSHIP BEFORE THE HAYS OFFICE • • • The fundamental principle of all censorship was t laid down in 1930 by the British Board of Film Censors when they were confronted with Germaine Dulac's surrealist La Coquille et le Clergyman. It must be suppressed, said they, because it is wso cryptic as to be almost meaning­ less. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objection­ able. "1 A history of motion picture censorship is virtually a history of the motion picture industry itself.

From the

birth of the very crudest motion picture machine,

the Kineto-

scope, in l 889» to that of the first effort to check the infant, was a matter of only six years.

Between those times,

steps\were taken by Thomas Edison and his competitors toward the crbation of one of m a n ’s greatest, most powerful and, some feel, most dangerous machines.

The Edison Company

began commercial use of the Kinetoscope of "peep show" on April lp, l89lp.

The next stage of development was the motion

picture projector later that year which was improved in 1895 undet* the name of the Vitascope.

It was in this year that

zealous Reverend Wilbur Fisk Crafts organized and became f superintendent of the international Reform Bureau. The Rejverend Mr. Crafts’ objectives of attack were opium, \ -*■ Margaret Farrand Thorp, America At the Movies (New Havek: Yale University Press, 1939)# P* lHH*

10 alcohol, and sex; and when these curses of mankind found a place on film, the industry too fell under his condemnation* In 1896, the first films which seemed to f,the pure” K of the day to be detrimental to the health and well-being of their brothers, were a pair of spicy short subjects called Dolorita*s Passion Dance and The May Irwin - John C_. Rice Kiss*

The former featured a young lady doing the very

popular and emotion-provoking houchi-kouchi•

Terry Ramsaye,

in his history of the movies^ told the story of a distrib­ utor who wrote an exhibitor in Butte, Montana, that though this picture was being banned in the east, it seemed to him to be just the sort of robust film the exhibitor had re­ quested for his patrons*

Ramsaye also mentioned3 the can­

cellation of a new order for the film by a man operating a nickelodeon on Atlantic City's Boardwalk.

Some salvation-

minded up-lifter had evidently waited his turn in the long line before the Dolorita machine and, after a long and gratifying peep at her lascivious undulations, decided that this was not the sort of thing for his fellow men to be ex­ posed to.

Pressure was exerted and the order was cancelled.

The Kiss was a soul-shaking picturization of the popular


Terry Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights (New York:: Simon and Schuster, 19267* 2^6 pp« 3 Ibid., p* 256*

11 stage actor of the day, John C. Rice, planting a sensuous, J4.O foot long kiss on the not-too-inviting mouth of actress May Irwin.

It played to capacity nickelodeon lines, but

there were several reformers of the day who felt that no decent citizen could witness such lewd carryings on and not walk away utterly contaminated.

On June 15, 1896, an article

appeared in the Chicago Chap Book by publisher Herbert S. Stone, asking police intervention against The Kiss.


was done at the time, but Chicago up-lifters were soon to have their day.^The first decisive action against the industry was the result of a very physical, not a moral, fear.


On May

£j_, l897» the Bazar de la Charite' in Paris burned down, taking 180 people to their graves.

Inflammable film was

named the cause of the catastrophe and former patrons of the cinema began staying away in droves.

Actually, the cause of

the fire was a careless projectionist's filling his ether projector lamp by the light of a match; this, plus the flimsy construction of the building, caused the fire.

But the

patrons were frightened, and only assurance that the new fire regulations would be strictly observed would lure them back. This physical threat was easily dismissed, but the

Ibid., pp. 258-60.

moral issue was, and is today, quite another matter. continued and grew in number and popularity.


The novelty of

figures moving beyond an eye-piece or on a screen fascinated millions.

Because of the nature of films, immigrants to this

country were able to learn things from them in the universal language of pictures.

The poor who for centuries had been

denied commercial entertainment, flocked to picture houses which charged only a nickel.

The upper strata of society

disdained to participate in an activity which was for the masses, but the film manufacturers knew that nickels from peasants were just as profitable as nickels from aristocracy. But as time passed, so did the novelty of mere move­ ment.

The audiences wanted stories and in 1903 Edwin S.

Porter gave them one:

The Great Train Robbery.

cheered; ’’the pure” shuddered.

The crowds

They granted the magnificent

potentialities of the cinema, but to what use had it been put?

The propagation of sex (Dolorita and The K i s s ), and

now crime.

Fuel was beginning to be heaped on the pyre which

was to destroy this monster before it destroyed humanity. In the next few years, the motion picture developed. Longer pictures were being made and the potentialities for propaganda were being utilized.

Pictures such as Why Mr.

Nation Wants a Divorce appeared in protest to the rising tide of sentiment for equal rights for women. tales were another stay of the time.


The industry was

13 developing fast and production was phenomenal*

A good

picture cost up to $500 to produce and some were turned out in only a day. However, the growth of the industry was paralleled by growth of the opposition.

In 1906, the Views and Films

Index, first industry trade paper, published the following appraisal of motion pictures by a critic of the day who said that they,

• inflame the minds of the younger generation,

seriously diverting their moral senses and awakening prurient thoughts which prepare the way for future sin . . . *M->


paper’s own critic pointed out that the criminals were al­ ways caught and dishonored, thereby teaching a moral lesson. He added acidly that more prurient thoughts were evoked by nude statues than by films. This comment failed to impress the reformers who saw evil in pictures and were afraid that the rest of humanity would see it too.

The Great Train Robbery

had evidently

made some people wish to go out and rob because, when a car whs stolen shortly after the picture's presentation, It was concluded that the film had led the thief down the wrong path.

In March, 1907* Herbert' S. Stone,& writing for the

^ ”Do Moving Pictures Breed Immorality?,” Views and Films Index, ls3* September 26, 1906. (no author listed)

L 0 Ramsaye, og. cit., p. ij.73*

Chicago Tribune, lashed out viciously against


and asked for laws to protect children under 18.

A retort

came from George Kleine, a distributor of American and foreign films, who called for support against the attack. What followed was a journalistic war with such op­ posing views as those of a juvenile court judge who said pictures caused more crime than all other sources together, and those of the powerful sociologist, Jane Addams of Hull House, who requested the City Club of Chicago to act for regulation and not suppression of pictures.

But morality

claimed the day when, on November ij., 1907* the first offi­ cial censorship of motion pictures was established in Chi­ cago.

The bill vested in the chief of police the power to

issue theater permits which could be revoked by him in the event of the presentation of an obscene or indecent film. This was the beginning of a moral fervor which spread over the nation.

San, Francisco followed suit the following year

with a similar law. Motion picture historian, Lewis J a c o b s , 7 expressed the opinion that the moral attacks upon the movies were business-inspired rather than purely sociological.


saloons, vaudeville houses and churches had fallen off

7 Lewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film (New York: Hareourt, Brace and Company, 1 9 3 9 ) » P* fc>3*

15 drastically in attendance since the rise of motion picture popularity; and while some modern-minded men such as Dr. McClellen, a Philadelphia minister, suggested incorporating films with other fields, many were determined to crush the unbalanced competition which films offered. That year, 1908, saw the beginning of action within the industry which was at once a unifying and dividing pro­ cedure.

The Motion Picture Patents Company was organized.

Its major components were the Edison Company, American Biograph Company, tempestuous George Kleine who had conceived the idea to end patent wars, and seven other picture and equipment producers.

The organization became a trust which

threatened to monopolize the entire motion picture industry. But the contracts which cemented the parts together were violated, and in time the structure began to disintegrate. However, the pieces of the organization were called upon to rally to the support of their v e r y lives at the end of that year when "publicity-hungry"® Mayor George B. McClellan of New York revoked all theater licenses in that city on December 2l±.

The spark which had ignited this blaze

was the fact that one John Hauser, a film exhibitor, had been showing The Great Thaw Trial in his theater to audiences O

Morris Ernst and Pare Lorentz, Censored, The Private Life of the Movies (New York: J. Cape and H. Smith, 1930), p. lOljT

composed, in majority, of children between four and fifteen years of age.

This picture was the story of the trial of

Harry Kendall Thaw, millionaire playboy, for the murder of architect Stanford White, to whom Thaw's wife had been mistress before her marriage.

The lower classes who fre­

quented theaters were given an opportunity of seeing how their betters lived and Mayor McClelland had received com­ plaints from many offended people.

Among the offended was

the acquitted Mr. Thaw who said the screen version of his wife was poor and that the scenes of the marriage and of the unfortunate incident ending in White’s death were not true to fact. After Mayor McClellan’s unwanted Christmas gift to the industry, producers and other motion picture people were in a panic.

William Pox and Marcus Loew were among the

leaders of the loose organization which formed to battle this menace to their existence.

All companies affected, con­

tributed funds to press a law suit to revoke the ruling.


firm of Rogers and Rogers represented the industry in their battle; and when the smoke cleared the ban had been raised, but several ugly scars remained.

One was a law forbidding

children under sixteen to enter theaters unless accompanied by their parents or guardians.

Another vested in the Mayor

the right to censor films as he saw fit.

And a third stated

that Sunday films had to be educational and be accompanied

by lecturers.

The lower classes, many of whom could see

pictures only on weekends, were furious at this law which substituted education for their favorite entertainment. Terry Ramsaye9 told of some theaters which employed men on Sundays to watch the screen and to relate monotonously the actions as they appeared. The result of public dissatisfaction was the establish­ ment of the National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures by the People’s Institute of New York.

This organization

for adult education and social research was one of the earliest community centers in the United States.

The organ­

ization and activities of the National Board will be found in a later chapter of this paper.

The leaders in this move­

ment were Dr. Charles Sprague Smith and John Collier. Mareh, 1909# the new organization began to function.

In It

stood for selection and education rather than actual regula­ tion of pictures, but the word ,,censorshipM was incorporated to appease those who felt protected by it.

(This name,

however, was changed in 1916 to the National Board of Review, since this title was more truly indicative of the Board’s functions than the former had been.)

The organization worked

for the public with the fast-failing Motion Picture Patents

9 Ramsaye, o£. cit., p. 1+-79*

Company, then under Jeremiah J. Kennedy, and the rival Distribution and Sales Company*

Smith and Collier were both


firm idealists regarding films and felt that cooperation between the industry and the public would be the means of achieving true art in the cinema. The year 1909 brought a federal bill which had little immediate effect on the domestic industry of the day, in the Tariff Act which provided that films imported to this country from foreign producers might be examined and censored by the Secretary of the Treasury as he saw fit*

Several decades

passed before this power was ever used. During the period following, producers began to con­ centrate on works of literature in an effort to appease censorship agitators and the National Board of Censorship to which they were more or less responsible.

This procedure

proved to be good business in that such films carried advance publicity value.

But in 1910, only a year after the great

battle in New York, the subject of sexual depravity made its appearance in films.

Under the guise of a crusade against

the vicious white slave traffic, some of the most obnoxious cinematic atrocities were committed.

Jeremiah Kennedy who

had shortly before headed the Motion Picture Patents Company, now organized the General Film Company, a distributing organ­ ization.

He saw the corruption that was fast gaining hold

of the business methods and story themes of the industry

19 and. sought to reform them*

But such Idealism was not in the

mood of the times and he was defeated at every turn. The following year was one of the most important, both for the motion picture industry and for censorship.


Zukor rose from the ranks to become one of the greatest powers in the picture industry; and with him came what is now an established institution,

the star system.


instituted the feature picture, and his first great venture was the famous Queen Elizabeth, a picture he imported from Franee starring the immortal Sarah Bernhardt who was then past sixty.

But the most frightening event of 1911 was the

establishment of the tight-lipped Board of Motion Picture Censorship in Pennsylvania.

A whole state was to have its

films examined and censored, and the industry trembled. John Collier, National Board of Censorship-official, indi­ rectly criticized this new board in an article appearing in in> He likened the system of Playground in July of 1912.xu censorship before public showing to the methods used by imperialist Russia to suppress public thought. But other states did not share Mr. Collier's sentiments and in 1913* Kansas and Ohio followed Pennsylvania's lead and instituted state censorship of motion pictures.

Across the

John Collier, ”Should the Government Censor Motion Pictures?,” Playground, 6:129*32, July, 1912.

Atlantic, Great Britain too began a censorship which has proven an unending source of bother to the American industry ever since.

Individual cities in this country also felt

that censorship was necessary to civic well-being; and by the end of 1913* there were official boards in Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Berkeley, Seattle, Detroit and Pitts­ burgh as well as Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. The adoption of the Pittsburgh board was interesting in view of the fact that its citizens were supposedly already pro­ tected by the state board.

Mayor Gaynor of New York, Mayor

McClellen's successor, had vetoed a bill presented to him for the reorganization of the municipal board in that city, in the belief that pictures were not so bad as to warrant censorship.

He had protested that censorship might even work

harm, that it was contrary to the principles of our govern­ ment and illegal.

Nevertheless, the bill had passed to have

pictures censored and licensed by the department of educa­ tion. The year 1913 also brought another federal law affect­ ing motion pictures.

This law forbade the importation,

mailing or interstate transportation of films or pictorial representations of prize fights or encounters of pugilists on pain of a fine of $1,000 or one year’s imprisonment. This law was the result of public agitation caused by a film representation of the Jack Johnson— James J. Jeffries

21 fight in Reno, Nevada, on July 1|., 1910.

Johnson, a Negro,

had won the wo r l d ’s championship from Australian Tommy B u m s in Sydney two years before.

Jefferies, a white man and

former world’s champion, had gone into retirement after failing to find worthwhile opponents.

He emerged for this

fight against Johnson and was finally beaten.

Racial feel­

ing was so inflamed by the film that by 1913 the government saw fit to prevent any such further provocations and flatly banned fight pictures. The next year was a sort of calm before the storm. Pictures were receiving such encouragements as that in a


11 March issue of the Independent1-1-' which recommended special

programs for children rather than censorship of films be­ cause, °. • • To prohibit all plays and current events unsuitable to children is to condemn the motion picture to perpetual childishness The industry itself was growing at a great rate and such pictures as The Prisoner of Zenda and Quo Vadis? were proving to many that cinema was truly a rising form of art. Zukor had definitely started something with his star system and the result was an increase of salaries, increased cost

11 Independent, 77:i|.33* March 30, 191^» eited by Lamar Taney Beman, Selected Articles on Censorship of the Theater and Moving Pictures (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1931)» p. 222.

of production and the financial expedience of mergers. Nearly 200 motion picture companies were involved in attempt­ ing to supply the nation's demand for films.

The film

manufacturers realized that their great public had to be catered to in order to be held, for the popularity of films was causing the development of a great many enemies.


producers, in the wild confidence of their security, had even gone so far as to attempt to have the state censorship laws of Pennsylvania, Kansas and Ohio and the civil censor­ ship law of Chicago rescinded on the grounds that they acted as an infringement on the freedom of speech; but a federal board found in favor of the boards and they continued.


article by Frederic Howe in the Outlook for June, 19li|-,^^ stated that business was falling off drastically in such long established institutions as the library and the saloon. These, plus the ever-vigilant church were plotting the destruction of their popular opponent,

the movie.

The exist­

ing legal boards of the day were, for the most part, con­ cerned with the depiction of the modus operand! of criminals and less with morals.

This latter was the department of the

National Board of Censorship which was very lenient with

12 Frederic C. Howe, ’’What to Do with the MotionPicture Show: Shall It Be Censored?,” The Outlook, 10?:ij-12lp.6, June 20, 1911-1-.

23 respect to such controversial topics as sex, justice, and women’s smoking. Then came a stab which was aimed at the very heart of the industry; a bill for federal censorship of motion pictures.

The Reverend Wilbur Risk Crafts had been lobby­

ing for years for any means of squelching this celluloid Frankenstein.

In 19l£ he found a politician to champion his

cause in Georgia’s Congressman D. M. Hughes.

On December

sixth of that year, Hughes submitted a bill asking for a Federal Motion Picture Commission as a division of the Bureau of Education in the Department of the Interior.


bill provided for five members to be appointed by the President for six year terms who would censor and license all films entering interstate commerce.

The commission

would be supported amply from fees charged for the service. There were no specific standards except that a film would not be passed which was:

’’obscene, indecent, immoral, in­

human, or depicts a bull fight or prize fight, or is of such character that its exhibition would tend to impair the health or corrupt the morals of children or adults, or incite to crime• Fortunately for the industry, this bill never got

piorci MacGregor ’’Official Censorship Legislation,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, l2d:16I4., November, 192), P* 39*

34 eowboys and an argument ensued as to who would be Bill Hart* Realizing the importance of this movie star to his son and of the movies to millions of children and adults, he decided to accept the offer, regarding it, not as a position, but as a challenge and a duty.

On January l4» 1 9 2 2 ,

Hays accepted

the leadership of what is now one of the most powerful agencies in determining motion picture content. Upon his entry into the organization, Hays set forth a four-fold plan of action regarding pictures:

1 ) it was to

be made known that Hollywood was to behave itself and keep out of the tabloids; 2 ) opposition was to be created against censorship legislation in states and cities; 3 ) motion pictures were to establish their own self-regulation or censorship; 4 ) the public was to be mobilized to demand and support better pictures and thereby induce the producers to make them.

Hays felt that the corrupt type of picture so

prevalent in that day would simply go out of public favor in time and that proper education would generate interest in material of less sensational calibre.

The producers scoffed

at the idea of reducing the preponderance of sex in their films, pointing to the success of some of their most salacious atrocities.

This was one of the attitudes which Hays deter­

mined to change.

But the events of the next ten years were

to drive home to the producers more convincingly than any artful persuasion on the part of Hays just how true his

predictions were. On March 20, 1922,

the Motion Picture Producers and

Distributors of America, Incorporated, was formed by Hays and the heads of the several studios of the day.

On the

previous February 2i|_, an article had appeared in Varie ty^ stating that Wall Street support of the industry was at zero. On June 6 , Hays made an address to the American Bankers Association and within the month credit was re-established with the banks*

The industry had found its man in this

respect and awaited the next move of its czar. Morris Ernst has said of Hays, ’’Whatever else he may be, he is probably America’s greatest press

a g e n t . ”3


gave conclusive proof of this with his campaign for redeem­ ing the industry’s name before the public.

The press was

taken to task for its vicious attacks and inaccuracies.


fact, a counter attack was made in which articles appeared telling of the normalcy, calm and positive dullness of Hollywood.

The public who believed that it must be true if

the papers said so, relaxed their concern and tried to forget about the evil reports they had had on Hollywood which was evidently now a model city.


I b i d .,


Further proof of Hays’ press-


3 Morris Ernst and Pare Lorentz, Censored, The Private Life of the Movies (New York: J. Cape and H. Smith, 1930), p. 12TJ7

36 agent powers came later that year when a censorship bill appeared in Massachusetts.

The legislature of this birth­

place of democracy had passed a bill for motion picture censorship and was about to refer it to the people for a referendum.

If Hays could make an example of Massachusetts

by making the people vote against censorship, this might deter other states from making similar propositions. Hays directly mobilized his forces to fight the Massachusetts bill with every legerdemain at his command. He employed Courtland Smith to align the newspapers against censorship.

Speakers were hired to address public gatherings

and anti-censorship literature was circulated.

In the fall

of 1922, Hays himself went to Massachusetts and made a few addresses.

This was to be the test of a super-press agent,

and on November 10, 1922, Hays passed it with flying colors when the people of Massachusetts defeated the bill by a vote of 553,000 to 208,000.^ The public, within certain limits, is a malleable mass which can be shaped by hands which are either extremely strong or extremely deft.

The producers were not representa­

tive people and reshaping them from their long-set patterns was to be a deed requiring much more concentrated effort than Hays had had to employ on the masses.

^ Moley, o£. eit., p. 55*

At the outset

he had arranged for a labyrinth of contracts to be drawn up holding the corporation together by financial clauses, since no member would trust any of his fellows outside the con­ ference rooms.

He shrewdly played for contracts regarding

his own salary and the mighty power of veto over any proposal supported by less than a two-thirds majority of the l6 other directors*

Since money spoke, the various clauses dealing

with it acted to make the contracts binding until they had proven themselves in other ways.

Hays further realized that

his appointment had been made as political expediency on the part of the producers, and that unless he managed affairs properly, he would be deposed when the need for him grew less pressing.

In view of this he adopted a strategy of whispering

suggestions to producers rather than shouting commands* And thus Hays began the gargantuan task of converting the nation to appreciate pictures, to win national appreciation.

and of converting pictures

The nation was continually

offering opposition, and in 1923, Congressman William D. Upshaw spoke for some of them ?/hen he introduced another federal censorship bill.

It provided for such restrictions

that, had it passed, the industry would have been rendered halt.

But though it failed to pass that year, it was re­

introduced in 1926.

At that time no less a person than

Hays’ friend, Calvin Coolidge spoke against it, and again it was defeated.

38 By 192ij-, Hays had convinced the industry of the need for a voluntary censorship as a means of obviating further attempts at outside regulation.-5 The product of the decision to mend the ways of motion picture content was a document which came to be called the Hays ’’Formula."

It was adopted

in February of I92J4. and its provisions, were to the effect that no further adaptations for the screen would be made from books or plays of unwholesome character, and that sensational advertising of films would be modified.


spirit, the formula was a big step toward self-regulation, but in operation it accomplished very little in the way of improving films.

The writers who had been adapting non­

cinema material for the screen were frustrated by the fact that a rejected book made all stories on the same theme un­ acceptable.

The formula had not been written for the writers

but for reforming groups who had objected to screen versions of salacious books.

A case in point was a book entitled

West of the Water Tower, a best-seller by Homer Croy.


Hays Office consulted various of the cooperating outside

5 In 19214. the Chicago censor board had made the follow­ ing deletions from only 788 pictures: 1,811 scenes of assault with guns with attempt to kill; 757 scenes of attacks on women or attempted rape; 173 scenes of horror as poking out eyes, cutting off ears, et cetera; 3i+- train hold-ups; 37 scenes of dynamiting safes and bridges; 31 scenes of jail breaking; 929 scenes of nudity and other similar scenes. Ref.: Lamar Taney Beman, Censorship of the Theater and Motion Pictures (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1931 )» P» 93-

organizations and learned from the National Congress of Parents and Teachers that since the book dealt with illegit­ imacy, robbery and a dissolute clergyman among other objec­ tionable things, and since a picture would no doubt stimulate the sale of this evil book, they could not endorse it.


the producer ignored this admonition and made the film (which, incidentally, was given a clean bill of health by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America), the National Congress of Parents and Teachers withdrew its support from the Hays Office Committee on Public Affairs. The public was not pleased with the Hays Office in practice, though they approved of what it stood for.


formula was an excellent plan which was failing because it could not be forcibly imposed; because it ’’had no teeth.0 Another objection was the fact that it applied only to books and plays and not to the amazingly immoral original works of some Hollywood screen writers*

The public and its organized

representatives were further disillusioned in the new Hays Office when it was learned that Hays1 agents were perpetrat­ ing a virtual moralistic sabotage in their very midst.


himself was questioned regarding his ''bribing” organization members to speak in their several groups in favor of the industry’s self-regulation policy and against political interference.

Caught in an effort to laugh down the issue,

the glib Hays was mute.

A similar incident arose in 1928

ko when, at a meeting in Washington of the Federal Motion Picture Council,

then under Canon Chase, Hays-sponsored

representatives of national welfare organizations spoke against Federal Council proposals and, as instructed, left when the tide had obviously turned against them.

Hays suc­

ceeded in fooling most of the public with follow-up editorials calling the withdrawal of his forces a walkout of representa­ tives of prominent national organizations; but there were those who saw through the ruse and wrote of it*^ In an effort to stem the tide of public dissatisfaction because.of the vileness of some of the films of the time, Hays dispatched his lieutenant, Colonel Jason Joy, head of the Studio Relations Committee, to Hollywood to attempt to persuade the industry to recognize the advisability of sub­ mitting to regulation before production rather than censor­ ship afterward*

The advent of sound late in 1926 with the

Warner Brothers picture Don Juan, added force to Joy’s arguments*

He and Hays realized that while they could never

expect an altruistic motivation.for motion picture better­ ment, the economic approach was infallible*

With sound, a

single deletion in a scene meant the ruin of the whole scene and this was not only annoying but financially detrimental*

6 Q Ruth Inglis, Freedom of the Movies (Chicago? Uni­ versity of Chicago Press',"i.

Had prolonged, passionate love scenes.


Were predominantly concerned with the under-world.



8. 1a crime.4-0

Made gambling and drunkenness attractive. Might instruct the weak in methods of committing


Ridiculed public officials.


Offended religious beliefs.


Emphasized violence.


Portrayed vulgar postures and gestures.


Used salacious subtitles or advertising.

The next development was the Hays Formula of 19214which, as we have seen, dealt only with published material and accomplished very little. In 1927> seventeen studios agreed to abide by Joy ’s

-*-6 s ee Fritz Lang13 commentary on this point, page 21^.8.

list of D o n 1ts and Be Carefuls.

The eleven D o n ’ts were:

Pointed profanity, licentious or suggested nudity, illegal drug traffic, sex perversion, white slavery, miscegenation, sex hygiene and venereal diseases, scenes of actual child­ birth, children’s sex organs, ridicule of the clergy and willful offence to any nation, race or creed.

Care was to

be exerted in the treatment of the following subjects, Be Carefuls:


Use of the flag, international relations,

arson, use of firearms, criminal actions, brutality, murder technique, smuggling, third degree methods, actual executions, sympathy for criminals, attitude toward public characters and institutions, sedition, cruelty to children and animals, branding of people or animals, prostitution and pandering, rape, first night scenes, men and women in bed together, seduction of girls,

the institution of marriage, surgical

operations, use of drugs, law enforcement and its officials and excessive or lustful kissing. The final table of laws is the comprehensive Production Code, written by Father Lord and Martin Quigley.

In con­

struction, the Code has a short preamble stating the admis­ sion of its adopters of the need for moral standards in motion pictures.

This is followed by three general principles,

viz.: 1. No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil, or sin*

63 2* Correct standards of life, subject only to the r e - ’ quirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented. 3* Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.17 These are followed by Particular Applications, the main titles of which are: sex; tume;

(3) vulgarity; (7 ) dance;


(1 ) crimes against the law;

(I}.) obscenity;

(8 ) religion;

(1 1 ) titles;

(5) profanity;

(9 ) locations;

(2 )

(6) cos­

(1 0 ) national

(1 2 ) repellent subjects.

The last portion of the document is in three sections giving reasons for the support of the preamble,

the general

principles and the twelve particular applications. Under crimes against the law, the first item is murder. It must not be so presented as to inspire imitation;


must be no detail of brutal killings; revenge in modern times must never be justified.

Next is methods of crime

which must not be explicitly presented: safecracking, dynamiting, and smuggling methods.

theft, robbery,

arson, excessive use of firearms,

The third item is illegal drug traffic,

which may never be presented.

The last is the use of liquor

in American life when not required by the plot or for characterization. section states:

A condensation at the beginning of this ’’These shall never be presented in such a

way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation.”-^ 17 Moley, op. ci t., p. 2ip_. 18 Ibid., p. 2i^2.

6ij. The summary before the section on sex reads as follows: ’’The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld.

Pictures shall not infer that low forms of

sex relationships are the accepted or common thing.n^9


rules of this section provide that: 1.

Adultery, though occasionally necessary to plot,

must not be made attractive. 2*

Scenes of passion should be avoided or so treated

that they do not stimulate the baser instincts of the audiences• 3*

Seduction or rape, *if not avoided, must not be

explicitly presented or used for comedy* ij.*

Sex perversion is forbidden; as are white slavery,

miscegenation, sex hygiene and veneral diseases, scenes of actual childbirth in fact or in silhouette, and the exposure of children’s sex organs. The statement on vulgarity follows:

’’The treatment of

low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil subjects, should be subject always to the dictates of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the audience.” Of obscenity the Code says:

’’Obscenity in word,

gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion (even when

■*■9 Loc. cit* 20 Loc. cit.

likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is f orbidden. The rule about profanity is "Pointed profanity (this includes the words God, Lord, Jesus Christ--unless used reverently— Hell, S. 0. B., damn, Gawd), or every other pro­ fane or vulgar expression however used, is forbidden."22 The section on costume has four provisions::

(1) com­

plete nudity is never permitted in fact or silhouette;

(2 )

undressing scenes should be used only where essential to the plot;

(3 ) indecent or undue exposure is forbidden;


dancing costumes must not permit undue exposure or be design** ed to permit indecent movements. Dances are not permitted to represent sexual actions or indecent passion, and those emphasizing indecent move­ ments are to be regarded as obscene. Religion is well protected b y the following three rules:

(1 ) films may not throw ridicule on any faith;

(2 )

ministers may not be used as comic characters or villians; (3 ) ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled. The only specific location rule is that on bedrooms, the treatment of which must be governed by good taste and

66 Regarding national feelings, the Code states that: (1 ) the flag must be respectfully treated and (2 ) the history, institutions, prominent people and citizens of other nations shall be represented fairly. Titles, under the Code, may not be salacious, indecent or obscene* Seven repellent subjects requiring treatment within the careful limits of good taste are listed in the last section.

They are:

(1) actual hangings or electrocutions;

(2 ) third degree methods; someness;

(3 ) brutality and possible grue­

(ij.) branding of people or animals;

cruelty to children or animals;

(5 ) apparent

(6 ) the sale of women or a

woman selling her virtue; and (7 ) surgical operations* One of the most important elements in explanation of the code and the resulting changes it effects upon stories reviewed by the P. C. A. is the demand for ’’Compensating Moral Values.”

Themes which are at all questionable must

pass the test of sufficient compensating moral values before they are permitted on the screen.

These may be;

(1) the

voice of morality as represented by a good and sympathetic character in the story;

(2 ) suffering, which includes self-

condemnation, conscience, social ostracism, physical dis­ ability, legal retribution, personal loss, injury to a person loved, ejt cetera;: (3 ) reform and regeneration which acts to neutralize sin but must be accompanied by suffering;


67 (I4.) punishment and retribution which must occur if a wrong­ doer fails to repent*

This punishment must be commensurate

to the crime. By these standards, any sort of problem picture (one having an immoral theme) which does not treat of a subject explicitly forbidden by the Code, may be adapted successfully. The picture Scarlet Street which will be discussed later in this chapter was one which the P. C. A. felt to have suf­ ficient compensating moral values, though conventional and legal punishment was not effected for the protagonist's crime. Problems not actually stated by the Code, the deci­ sion on which is left to the producer who usually acts accord­ ing to Breen's recommendations, are offenses to particular races, classes, political or economic groups, businesses, nationalities, professions and trades.

The producer has a

choice between the sacrifice of art (or principle) and the possible loss of money through the pressure of offended people.


care is generally taken not to advertise

specific makes of products and brands. detrimental must be said of any product.

Conversely, nothing As was mentioned

in the discussion of Hr. Breen, care must be taken in cast­ ing shows, since big stars have great followings who will attempt to emulate themj consequently, they must instruct only for good.

Another concern of the P. C. A. is that

pictures may incite mob violence and, though the Code makes

68 no apecific point of this, it is a consorable feature,


foregone assumption is that pictures of the pornographic kind used at ’’stag parties” are not considered by the P* C. A,

State and federal obscenity laws cover them.

Other films

not affected are certain sensational European pictures and a variety of government films. Illustrations of rejections of words and situations by the P. C. A. demonstrates the elasticity of the Code in covering subjects not mentioned or not implied.


are never allowed to be equipped with toilets, and cafe' restroom doors may have no designation of the sex for which the room is intended.

The vulgarity list includes (or has

included) such popular words as bag or broad (as applied to a woman), courtesan, dame, fanny, filthy, floozy, guts, hellion, huzzy,

(make a) pass (at), and wench.


pictures, however, demonstrate some relaxation of the Code on several of these and other previously unusable words. The best interests of the country is a sentiment which enters into M. P. A. A. principles.

For example, in July,

19^7, Eric Johnston withdrew prints of Tobacco Road and Grapes of Wrath from European circuits, pointing out the in­ correct and detrimental picture they painted of this country for Europeans.

69 IV.


The P. C. A. eliminated a great deal of the smutty element from pictures like those of the 1920’s.

In July

of 1938> L i f printed a few of the stills from old pictures, the like of which became tabu on the screen with the enforce­ ment of the Production Code.

A picture in 1920, entitled

Man, W oman, Marriage showed a bevy of practically nude women lying seductively about the throne of the Emperor Constantine. Old Tarzan pictures presented Maureen O ’Sullivan in a flimsy bit of leather which looked like a costume for a burlesque musical.

The year 1929 gave us Hold Your Man in which a

couple were lying together in bed.

Naughty Mignon Craig

dared to expose her absolutely bare back to the camera and the audience in her 1918 show, M a n 1s World.


drunkenness such as that in the early Thin Man pictures was reduced almost to teetotalism.

The Russian contribution,

Peter the Great, showed the Emperor planting an exultant kiss on the bare bottom of his new-born son; this is vulgar.


number of comic wedding scenes at which a minister presided have been eliminated, though the same situations are permitted at civil ceremonies. Illicit love such as that of Greta Garbo for John Gilbert in Queen Christina, is no longer tolerated.


Barrets of Wimpole Street hinted at incest and the Hays Office

70 frowned.

The publicity pieture for A Fool There Was showing

Theda Bara in a romantic pose with a skeleton would never get past the A. C. A. today.

Until the recent Whirlpool,

an actual scene of hypnotism such as the ones in Svengali in 1931* and- Rasputin and the Empress in 1932, was


Views of the insides of female legs had so often ended up on the censor board floors, that the P. C. A. simply had to rule them out.

What Price Glory in 1926, would be cut to

ribbons today with such scenes as that of Edmond Lowe re­ moving a young lady's stocking. move

In fact, women may not even

stockings themselves if men are present, though it is

permitted in the case of female witnesses. The list of foreign bans was long and entertaining, but not relevant to this paper.

It will be noted that many

of the deletions made by the Hays Office are repetitous of rules of certain political censor boards.

An example of

this is the restriction of area of a woman's head on which a man may kiss her.

John Gilbert's kissing Lili Damita's neck

in The Bridge of San Luis Ray would never have got past the P.






The Hays Offiee has been criticised and praised by


See Virginia censorship rules, pages 135-3&*

critics, people outside the industry and people whose person­ al endeavors were affected by it since its beginnings.


criticisms which are valid today are those which were made after the legion of Decency had accomplished the aim of forc­ ing pictures to observe the Code presented to it by one of its own priests.

Giving the industry a few years to test the

Code in operation, we find a wave of opinion in 1937• Martin i-n her book, Hollywood1s Movie Commandments,

Olga quoted

Walter Lippman who believed that a code of morals had force when it expressed the settled customs of a stable society. He added that a story might express the morality of an age but be of immoral philosophy today.

He said standards of

morality had to be set and that the Production Code was the book of those standards for motion pictures. Also in 1937 came an editorial in Martin Quigley's Motion Picture Herald*^ to persuade its readers that the P. C. A. was not a censorship organization, but just another stage of production such as editing.

The motion picture

editor in selecting his takes and scenes was not regarded as a censor; and since the P. C. A. did no more than select and edit, its operations ought not to be considered censorship. 25 Olga Johanna Martin, Hollywood1s Movie Commandments (New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1937), P*" 72. "censorship is Outside,” Motion Pieture Herald, 128:7, July 3, 1937.

Censorship was ’’outside.” However, a less commendatory view was expressed by writer Winchell Taylor the next year in The Nation^7 when he attacked those who had offered much opposition to Walter Wanger's film, Blockade.

The Hays Office had been unable to

find any Code rules violated by it, and Taylor charged Hays with having surreptitiously given exhibitors to understand that the picture would not be good for them, at the same time giving Wanger his approval.

Taylor claimed that the

opposition came from Roman Catholic powers who objected to the film's siding with the anti-Catholic faction in the Spanish war.

Taylor also decried Martin Quigley's playing

down the popularity of the film by misquoting boxoffice receipts in his publications, the Motion Picture Daily.

the Motion Picture Herald and

Such figures would tend to decrease

exhibitor interest in the film; and the truth about the Spanish war, as represented by Wanger's film, would be smoth­ ered to the satisfaction of the Roman Church. In his 19^5 book, The Hays Office,^® from which much of the data for this chapter was derived, Raymond Moley ex­ pressed the belief that the Legion of Decency had been an unnecessary measure, pointing,- as Breen did, to the number 27 Winchell Taylor, ’’Secret Movie Censors,” The Ration, li|.7:38-i}.0, July 9 , 1938. Moley, op. cit., p. 81)..

73 of fine pictures being exhibited and in production at the time of the boycott.

He also pointed out that though it was

the Church that had enforced the Code, Hays and his organiza­ tion had begun the same measure twelve years before with the start of the old 12. P. P. D. A. In 1 9 M 5* Allen Rivkin compiled a list of complaints directed at motion pictures in the form of letters from movie-goers other than members of pressure groups, in an article for the Free

W o r l d . ^9

The letters had gone to the

Community Service Department and Breen had relayed the griefs to the producers.

The most common complaints were: Msouln or

open mouth kissing; drinking, drunkenness, or the presence of liquor; killings, violence and murder of all sorts; low moral tone in such films as Double Indemnity, Scarlet Street and The Postman Always Rings Twice; and a general fear of the effect of pictures on children.

Rivkin dryly pointed

out that the people were afraid of "having their [children' sj[ impressionable little minds warped."30

The producers'

arguments, Rivkin went on to say, were that the letters represented less than one tenth of one percent of all movie­ goers and that they would like to see any other business which had this low a percentage of complaint.


29 Allen Rivkin, "Hollywood Better," Free World, 11: 50-51, June, 19ij.6. Loc. cit.

pointed out, however, the fear that this minority which was interested enough to write to Breen, would write to congress men as weil, and that there they would find eager spokesmen who always thirsted for such a battle as one on movie censor ship would entail.

He predicted legal action against The

Outlaw and warned that no matter what producers might claim, prohibition was begun by a minority no greater than that which wrote their complaints to Mr. Breen. Concerning the question of Scarlet Street, Dr. Helen Hirsch, just over from the horrors of Jewish persecution in Germany, said in an article for the Jewish

P o r u m ^ l

that this

picture passed the Hays Office because it was valid dramatic material; it did not make sin attractive; and it made no attempt to justify villainy.

The protagonist, a murderer,

received Cain’s punishment of wandering hopelessly over the earth, unpunished by law; and Dr. Hirsch claimed this was even more miserable punishment than the law would have im­ posed.

Yet the picture continually ran aground of censor­

ship rules for not punishing a criminal in the conventional way.

Dr. Hirsch had nothing but praise and admiration for

the Production Code and its administration, having seen the

Helen Hirsch, ’’Political Censorship, a Mental Atomic Bomb,” The Jewish Forum (reprinted in a pamphlet, no page number given) May, 19i|i>«

75 evils of political censorship in Germany.

She claimed that

it was changed from time to time to suit public needs. Harold Salemson, director of publications for the Screen Writers* Guild, in a 19if6 article for The Screen Writer^ gave as a major objection to the Code its warping effect upon the public's minds. Legion of Decency,

Because of its sudden enforcement by the the Code caused many writers of the middle

1930's to imply censorable details rather than stating them, thereby observing the letter of the Code but working a more insidious harm.

The public became educated to interpret

innuendos and a whole new symbolism was developed; a hand­ shake or a glance became a proposition of illicit love; a kiss became an overt sex act; and almost m y fade out on two characters of opposite sexes, unless what happened to them in the next scene was established, automatically became a flat statement of the fact that from there they retired to­ gether (as it were). This tendency to read immorality into pictures, Salemson stated, carried over into films which were written and produced with no such implications intended.

The Keys

to the Kingdom and The Bells of S t . Mary's were two illustra­ tions he gave on this point.

He recalled the comments of a

G. I. audience following a showing of the former.

Though the

Harold J. Salemson,”A Question of Morals,” The Screen Writer, 1:1-7, April, 19i{.6.

76 picture had been a sincere and moral story about priests and nuns,

the soldiers1 comments ranged from lip-smacking ir­

reverences about the religious not being what they were cracked up to be, to irate remarks fhom devout young boys who resented the picture’s slur at their religion. The slur, Salemson said, was in the minds of the audience and not in the film.

He blamed restrictive moral

codes for this warping of the American imagination.


Production Code, he felt, should be discarded if producers could assure pictures* being made within the bounds of moral­ ity and taste.

But the first problem was that of curing the

warped minds of movie-goers from the evil thoughts resulting from such restrictive codes as that of the P. C. A. Morris Ernst the same year, 19^4-6 , had the following observations to make on the Code in his book, The First F r e e d o m . 33

Ernst complained of the confining effect of the

Code in automatically barring from the screen stories with themes similar to any previously rejected story.

He said

the Code was the agreement of the five major studios (M. G-. M . , Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century-Fox, R. K. 0., and Para­ mount) and that, ” . . .

the moral standards by group agree­

ment are naturally pegged at the lowest possible level of integrity and courage . . .


33 Ernst, op. cit., p. 203. 3^4- Loc. cit.

Dr. Ruth Inglis echoed and expended on this idea in her 19k-7 article for Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social

S c i e n c e .35

she said of the P. C. A.,

’*. . . its power stems from a condition of monopolistic con­ trol in the movie business;

the big companies have used

economic coercion to force the other companies to conform.


Another section of her article was the final quotation in the first division of this chapter. In her book, Freedom of the Movies, 36 which also appeared in 194-7» Dr. Inglis commented on the Roman Catholic origin of the Code.

. . .although divine law is mentioned

only once, the language and reasoning of the Code belong to a moral philosophy rather than to social science . . .


She went on to remark that the reference to “natural laws’* which were not to be ridiculed or sympathetically violated were more or less peculiar to the Roman Catholic Church. She listed four major objections which have been made to the Code:38

(1 ) it was dominated by Roman Catholics;

(2) it was

socially and politically as well as morally conservative; (3 ) it defeated the purpose of true morality; and (Ij.) there

35 inglis, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, op. cTt., p . ±53* 3^ Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, op. cit., pp. 128-29 37 L o c . cit. 38 Ibid., p. 180.

was discrimination against independent producers.

An ex­

planation oT her third point was that acts which were for­ bidden b y the Code were furnished by the mind of the observer to a degree dependent upon his imagination, often creating unintended innuendoes which were more prurient'than the re­ jected features.

She approved of the Code generally, but

said it should be brought up to date.

She did not see why

the social implications of white slavery, venereal disease, or miscegenation should not be depicted; why judges and clergy should receive blanket protection from censure or ridicule; why writers should be forced to invent compensat­ ing moral values when they were often lacking in real life; or why screen adaptations should pervert history as in Con­ quest, plays as in The Voice of the Turtle, and books as in Forever

A m b e r . 39

Her suggestions for improving the situa­

tions to which she objected will be reviewed in Chapter VI \

of this paper. Within the past year, demned the Code.

critics have lauded and con­

In September of last year the Motion

Picture Herald carried an article which relayed the views of Dore Schary, vice president in charge of production at M. G. M.

Schary said the Code was entirely satisfactory in

that it was flexible enough to conform to public demand.

39 ibid.,



79 The public liked sadistic pictures now, he said, and the Code allowed as much of this as was good for them.

As evi­

dence of the Code’s flexibility, he pointed to the liberties to be found in the film, Battle Ground. ^

In October of

last year the Herald presented the views of a writer for the Los Angeles Tribune who defended the Code with an analogy: ”lt ’s better to have your own umpire,” said the writer, ’’than to let the fans call the plays. One of the most recent articles commenting on the Hays Office was one by A1 Hine in the December issue of Holiday.42

Discussing the future of pictures, Hine said:

. . . there is still a vast no m a n ’s land of subject matter bounded by the banalities of a production code which clings to the belief that the meaning of morality is limited to sexual morality, but even this may give way somewhat under the pressure of public demand for more adult films.

^0 Pred Hift, ’’Code Works, Says Schary,” Motion Picture Herald, 176:18, September 24, 1949* ^ ’’Understanding the Code,” Motion Picture Herald, 177:1, October 8, 194-9* (It is noteworthy that both these articles came from a publication owned by Martin Quigley, key man in the promotion of the Code.)


A1 Hine, ’’Some Hollywood Pare Leaves a Bad Taste, But there’s a Good Portion You Can Really Get Your Teeth Into,” Holiday, 6rl8, December, 1949*

CHAPTER IV ORGANIZATIONS INTERESTED IN CENSORSHIP There are two types of moral pressure groups: who encourage, and those who attack*


Organizations of the

first sort cooperate with such agencies as the Motion Pic­ ture Association and the National Board of Review; the others press for legal censorship legislation and organized boycotts. Both extremes and a variety of modifications appear on a list of organizations interested in motion pictures and their censorship* I.


Perhaps the most active organization acting coopera­ tively with the industry is the National Board of Censor­ ship.

The early history of this organization was recorded

in the second chapter of this paper.

At the time of its

inception, its aim was to act as intermediary between the youthful and floundering industry and the dissatisfied among the public.

An article from Survey-*- for April, 1909

give the following information about the new organization and the times:

The Board was established without legal

-*- ’•censorship for Moving Pictures,” Survey, 22j8-9# April 3, 1909.

authority but with the ^|orce of public opinion” and the con­ sent of the industry trade elements*

Agreements were reached

with the Motion Picture Patents Company which was producing two thirds of the United States films, and with various European producers.

New York at the time had lj.00 theaters,

3^-0 of which used motion pictures as all or part of their bills.

An estimated one half million people attended pic­

tures daily, a fifth of whom were children despite city ordinances governing their attendance.

Tenement areas con­

tained the most flagrant violations of this ordinance.


forms of motion picture found in that day were the stereopticon, the choral song, and the vaudeville interlude.


newly foraied board was to have authority over all of these. A minister, Dr. Charles Sprague Smith, headed the board of five members, two of whom were exhibitors.

The article

stated that the public demanded better pictures and that ’’censorship” would be the method.

This word, ’’censorship,”

it was admitted later, was to appease the moralists, though the board actually did no post-production editing on the films it reviewed. Two articles appeared in 1912 issues of Playground, written by John Collier, one of the leaders of the Board. In addition to the Motion Picture Patents Company, the Board was now reviewing films sent them by the Distributing and Sales Company.

Most of the support came from the trade

82 companies and Collier refuted the assertions of scoffers of the day that the Board's censoring committees would be in­ fluenced by this fact*

The reviewers, he said, were all

volunteers from cooperating organizations.

He complained

that there were more films than could comfortably be review­ ed, but added that the work was worthy since an estimated five million people benefitted daily from the Board’s efforts In the other 1912 article, Collier stated the views of the board in that year on political censorship.


censorship, Collier claimed, was that which edited a work before the public had a chance to judge it*

He criticised

Russia for allowing officials either to forbid or to condone a picture on their own judgments.

This was a suppression of

public art and public discussion without publicity, and an unfair power to be vested in public officials.

The National

Board did not attempt to regulate political, sectional or other controversial elements in pictures because it wished to avoid a suppression of freedom of speech and of the press. Films were becoming a form of journalism and public discussion by that time, not merely drama*

He pointed out that producers

benefitted mutually by avoiding salacious pictures, since

^ John Collier, ^National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures,” Playground, 5*4-02-014., March, 1912.

83 a bad film from one company would reflect not only upon its own producer, but upon the whole industry*

Pictures were

made to appeal to the majority, even though groups or sec­ tions of the public were offended.

"Prom the standpoint of

public protection,” Collier maintained, "the first censorship should be, frankly, a censorship of the newspapers.” Collier expressed a belief that has found many an apostle,since 1912 in this statement.

He explained it by

pointing out that newspapers did all their damage at once, while pictures took several months to disseminate the same damage, during which.time they could be recalled if necessary* He estimated that the percentage of children in attendance at theaters was 25 per cent.

He called the Hew York City

method of mayor censorship ”czar-like” in its similarity to the Russian system of suppressing free speech before it was uttered.3 The standards of the Board for classifying films were recorded in the June 20 issue of Outlook for 19li|-* prohibitions were listed:^

(1) no obscenity;

unless a moral purpose were served; unless it warned the whole public;


(2) no vulgarity

(3) no detail of crime (Ip) no morbid scenes for

the sake of sheer morbidity (A note explained that pictures 3 John Collier, MShould the Government Censor Motion Pictures?," Playground, 6:129-32, July, 1912* ^ It is interesting to compare these with the rules set down in the Production Code, q.v. pp. 62-66 in this paper.

8^ were not jutted exclusively for children, delicate women or emotionally morbid people, but that such people were consider­ ed.);

(5) no prolonged suffering, brutality, vulgarity,

violence or crime (Crime themes could be handled as long as justice was done.);

(6) no blasphemy;

(7) no libel or refer­

ence to pending criminal cases;5(8) no films having a deter­ iorating tendency on basic moralities or necessary social standards The Board was not concerned with taste which was not a moral issue.

They held no responsibility for biased or

adverse advertising, and believed that sex in pictures was permissible if handled so as to be educational.

The article

warned that a political censorship of films would eventually be extended to drama and thence to the press.

The writer,

then chairman of the Board, predicted the future of pictures in the following statement: For the motion-picture show is not only democracy’s theater, it is a great educational agency, and likely to become a propagandist agency of unmeasured possibilities.7 The Board, however,

somewhat defeated its purpose as

an agency acting against censorship when, in 1920, it acted

5 This rule was no doubt a result of the difficulties involving the Thaw trial in 1909. Seepages 1 $ - 1 6 of this paper. 8 Frederic Howe, ‘'What to do with the Motion Picture Show: Shall it be Censored?,1’ The Outlook, 107:ii.lS~i}-l6, June 20, I9U 4.. -----------7 Ibid., p. 4l6.

85 to persuade the New York State Conference of Mayors to enact a censorship bill prohibiting the exhibition in that state of pictures rejected b y the National Board of Review (as it had now come to be called).

This plan, the "Model Ordinance,"

was a measure to prevent the establishment of an official state board of censorship; but there were those who felt that the National Board had no more right to pass officially on the morality of pictures than a conventionally instituted legal board. Among those who criticized the activities of the National Board of Review were International Reform Federa­ tion superintendent, Reverend Wilbur F. Crafts, and Reverend William S. Chase, president of the Lord's Day Alliance. Canon Chase engaged in a journalistic debate with the heads of the National Board in an effort to prove the necessity of government censorship.

The content of this debate

follows:8 Chase:

The associated motion picture companies did not submit all their films and did not always abide by N.B.R. orders.

N.B.R.: All major producers submitted their films and agreed to abide by the Board's decisions.


Ruth Inglis, Freedom of the Movies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, l^If7)> PP* 80-82.

Ninety-nine per cent of all films exhibited were examined. Chase:

The revenue which paid for the salaries of Board members came from the motion picture com­ panies, and it was for the good of the industry, not of the public, that the Board operated.


The Board had begun outside the industry and the members were not affiliated with it.


state boards would have been supported by the revenue from reviewing fees just as the Board was Chase:

Volunteer censors were not regular in attendance.


There were enough to do the work and the rotation resulting from irregular attendance prevented the reviewers1 getting stale as in the ease of professional censors.


There were many sub-committees,

and the one least

likely to condemn a picture in question could have been called upon to review it. N.B.R.

(quote) mA moderately liberal rather than the most narrow opinion should prevail. Moral stand­ ards are changing, and the reformers are clinging to the outmoded mores which are no longer held by a vast majority of the population who want their movies to deal with modern p r o b l e m s . 9


The executive committee of five, appointed





salaried secretaries for censoring, and these five people controlled finances which came from the manufacturers (producers) who would not pay unless they were pleased. N.B.R.: Funds came not only from the manufacturers but also from member organizations and general con­ tributions.

Most of the work was done by non­

paid volunteers and further argument for this point appeared in the rebuttal for the second charge. Chase:

CstateJ Law did not forbid the showing of un ­ approved films.

N.B.R.: The Model Ordinance, approved by the New York State Conference of Mayors, prohibited the ex­ hibition of unapproved pictures (in New York State) and this was a good substitute for legal censorship. As was pointed out in Chapter II of this paper, though the N.B.R. had had an answer for each of Chase’s charges, the fact remained that objectionable pictures were being ex­ hibited.

The Board had no real authority over the industry

which might withdraw its support at any time if the restric­ tions became too rigid.

The Board could offer no satisfactory

proof to pressure groups that the industry was not using it as a toolj and in August of 1921, an official state censorship

88 board was adopted in New York. A statement of policy of the National Board of Review appeared in John Eugene Harley's book, World-Wide Influence of the Cinema.-*-0

The Board was:

. . . opposed to legal censorship and is in favor of the community better films plan of placing emphasis upon and building support for the finer and more worthwhile films. It is at all times glad to cooperate with any agency to encourage and guide the motion picture in developing its possibilities both as to recreation and as entertainment. Lemar Taney Beman reprinted an article b y the National Board of Review in his book, Censorship of the Theater and Moving Picture s . T h i s

article listed the following objec­

tions to state censorship and solutions to motion picture problems:

They felt that state censorship imposed the dic­

tates of a few on the many, thus depriving communities of their natural right to choose for themselves.

They claimed

there was no popular demand for state censorship,1^ an(j reiterated their opposition to a censorship of pictures and of other mediums as well.

Since the reformers felt that

10 John Eugene Harley, World-Wide Influence of the Cinema, (Los Angeles: University of Southern California Press, T 9 W , p. 88. Lemar Taney Beman, Censorship of the Theater and Moving Pictures (New York: H. W. Wilson Company^ 1931), pp. 216^17; -j p

x This article was dated March, 1921, and was evi­ dently a protest against the state legislation for the establishment of official state censorship in New York. This bill, as we have seen, passed in August of that year.

children should be protected from adult knowledge, the solution was not to make all pictures suitable for children, but to encourage the production of films specifically for children*

The public, they held, was the best judge of its

own needs; and the needs of the several communities varied* Reformers confused morals and taste, and the latter differed among societies and communities*

The solution to this

problem was individual civic reviewing authorities which could select for their own people,

those films which would

be most appreciated, rather than attempting to impose the moral views and personal tastes of a small state board upon a heterogeneous society.

In defense of their organization,

they pointed out that the members of the reviewing boards came from all walks of life; consequently, they were quali­ fied to give a more accurate consensus of public opinion on films than the small number which would have composed a state board* In summarizing these objections, Margaret Parrand Thorp said: The Board’s contention is that no individual or group can possibly decide for others what the moral effect of any art will be, what should be deleted and what condemned. Censorship, they hold, is definitely un-American.13 Mechanics of the National Board of Review are these:

11 ^ Margaret Parrand Thorp, America at the Movies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939 )$ P» 175*

90 The Reviewing committee is composed of upward of 300 non­ paid volunteer members.

Subgroups of the committee see

films each week and classify them as Mature (18 years and upward), Family (12 years and upward), and Juvenile (under 12 years).

A charge of $6.2£ is made for the review of each

1,000 feet of film or fraction thereof, and these fees form the main source of revenue for operating expenses.


work for the organization is done by the National Motion Picture Council which is comprised of groups cooperating with the N.B.R. are the National Congress of Parents and Teachers,

the D.A.R. the General Federation of W o m e n ’s Clubs,

and the International Catholic Alumnae. Publications of the N.B.R. are its Weekly Official Bulletin which lists all of the films reviewed for the period; a Weekly Guide to Selected Pictures which, as the name indicates, publicizes films of special merit; and the Nation­ al Board of Review Magazine which is published every month except July, August and September. Regarding the relationship between the N.B.R. and the Hays Office, in 1921, when Brady was seeking to defeat the censorship bill in New York State, he was actively supported by the National Board of. Review.


after the establish­

ment of the M. P. P. D. A.> sentiments between the groups cooled, though never to the point of opposition.


Ernst in his book, Censored, credited an unnamed motion

91 picture executive with opining that the Hays Office allowed the N. B. R. to-exist because it kept club women concentrated and o c c u p i e d . ^ Ernst and his co-author, Pare Lorentz, spoke very un­ kindly of the National Board of Review.

They claimed that

it was a method of making money for its leaders by charging a fee for reviewing films and by selling its periodicals, by which system they became little less than racketeers. They told of another executive who said any picture could get past the Board because dubious films were run over and over for the reviewers until the evil parts did not look evil to them anymore.

Ernst and Lorentz further ridiculed the

group’s assertion that it was not a censoring agency when its decisions determined the exhibition of films in Florida.


Florida law enacted in 1921, prohibited the acceptance of pictures for that state which had not been passed by the National Board of Review.

This law has since become obsolete,

however. II.


The other extreme in moral pressure groups is most emphatically illustrated by the W o m e n ’s Christian Temperance.

?"^ Morris Ernst and Pare Lorentz, Censored, The Private Life of the Movies (New York, J. Cape and H. Smith, 1930), p p • 112-12.

92 Union.

These sincere, albeit dogmatic, ladies were always

in the front lines of those urging government censorship of motion pictures.

An illustration of the dogmatism of this

group was its criticism of the film, The LostWeekend which argued more powerfully than any tract they might concoct for the very principle for which they exist.

Their defense for

this condemnation was the feeble ’’Out of sight, out of mind.” It was interesting, in passing, to note that an official of Alcoholics Anonymous stated that drinking had causes of personality or environment far deeper than seeing motion pictures; and he was in hearty disagreement with the W. C. T. U.1* Although the name ’’pressure group” in its most un­ complimentary connotation has been applied to the W. C. T. U., still the group had supporters for its cause even outside its membership rolls.

Allen Rivkin in his article ennumerat-

ing complaints of independent movie-goers,^-^ listed "drink­ ing, drunkenness or presence of liquor" as the objection polling more votes than any other save open-mouth kissing. A Los Angeles member of the W. C. T. U. summed up the at­ titude of her sisters In an article appearing in the Los Angeles Times in August, 19^0.

She said:

^ Ezra Goodman, "Are the Movies a Menace?," Coronet, 2lj.:38, July, 1948 • -*-6 Allen Rivkin, "Hollywood Letter," Free World, 11:50-51, June, 1946.

93 We deplore the advertising of alcholic liquors through unnecessary and prolonged drinking scenes in motion pictures and through the more subtle suggestion that home social scenes must be accompanied b y serving alcoholic drinks .3-7 III.


In considering the organized women of the United States in their relationship to motion pictures, Ernst and Lorentz had some extremely strong views to express.


censorship, they claimed, was based on fear-~fear of club women who had nothing to do but belong to women's clubs and to criticize motion pictures.

Their explanation for this

was that the m o d e m housewife had mechanical apparatus to do her work and educated children with whom she had nothing in common.

Consequently, she joined clubs to be with others

like her; clubs with which the writers had no sympathy.


pointed out that big stars from the stage had no adverse publicity trouble while they were on Broadway; but they entered the movies and, ’’Hollywood means sex to the club woman. The East Coast Preview Committees which collaborate with the Community Service Department of the Motion Picture

■*•7 "Film Drinking Scenes Scored,” Los Angeles Times, August 11, 19^0* Ernst, o£. cit., p. 112-20.

9k Association are composed of the following women's organiza­ tions:

the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Nation­

al Society of New England Women, the General Federation of Wo m e n ’s Clubs, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers,-*-9 the National Council of Jewish Women, Clubs, the American Legion

the Ifomen’s University

Auxiliary, the California Federa­

tion of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, and the California Council of Federated Church Women. Groups which maintain independent representatives in Hollywood in addition to the work of some with the Hays Office are the D. A. R., the Association of University Women,

the National Congress of Parents and Teachers,


General Federation of Jewish Women, and the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae. The activities of these organizations in connection with pictures is field work for one of the two master organi­ zations, the M. P. A. and the N. B. R., or for their own groups.

The groups work in both directions in disseminating

industry information and motion picture classification to local chapters, and in forwarding suggestions from local chapters to the industry via the M. P. A» A. and the N. B. R.


' It has not been assumed that there are no male parents and teachers; but in the main, this organization is composed of women, and for convenience I have considered it among women’s organization*


95 No standard procedure for grading and classifying pictures has ever been established.

Some of the women have

felt that undesirable films should simply be ignored on classification lists, lest adverse comments grant undue publicity for these pictures.

Others have listed such films

simply as !,not recommended.w

Still other, by way of discour­

aging attendance at poor pictures, have used such words as boresome, vulgar, unpleasant, stupid, unwholesome or common­ place.

The grading system used by the D. A. R. is I for ex­

cellent, II for good, III for mediocre, and B. for unwhole­ some.

Most of the groups classify filens as suitable for

children, adults, or both; and the results of these ratings are published in the periodicals of the M. P. A. A., the N. B. R., or the various women’s clubs. IV.


Two groups which have stood for an increase in screen freedom but which are not connected with either the M. P. A. or the N. B. R. are the Commission on Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Council on Freedom from Censorship. . The first organization which operates from funds supplied by Time, Incorporated, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the University of Chicago, claims to have no members

96 associated with the press, radio, or motion pictures. aims are:


(1 ) freedom of motion pictures as of the press;

(2 ) government anti-trust intervention for the sake of compe­ tition within the industry;

(3 ) more effort on the part of

the industry for promotion of domestic and international affairs;

(I4.) the development of artistic and intellectual

possibilities of the screen through the use of profit for experiment;

(5>) exertion by the public for the improvement

of pictures through cooperating committees,

the wider use

of film for educational purposes and experiments in univer­ sities for the improvement of pictures and the intellectual elevation of the public; and (6 ) the establishment of revised motion picture production and advertising codes# This group holds that pictures have three duties:


to help the public understand issues of national and world significance;

(2 ) to elevate the standards of popular taste;

and (3 ) to foster the creative potentialities of the writers, actors, directors, musicians, and photographers who make motion pictures.

The system they proposed for revising the

Production Code was one of employing an advisory board of representative people who would recommend periodical changes. The aim of the American Civil Liberties Union of which the National Council on Freedom from Censorship is a division, is the abolition of state and industry censorship of motion pictures.

This would leave the control of movie morals up

to public opinion. 191^ ,

Roger Baldwin, director of the Union in

said that censorship was the product of pressure from

religious and so-called moral agencies.

He spoke for his

organization in asking for a punishment of motion pictures only after the fact, and extended this request to include foreign films which ought not to be mutilated by government censors.^® In 1933* the National Council on Freedom from Censor­ ship published a pamphlet called What Shocked the Censors. It was a compilation of all the deletions and rejections by the New York state censorship board from January, 1932, to March, 1933*

This, it will be remembered, was a period in

which pictures were at their moral worst, Legion of Decency was organized.

just before the

Most of the items cut were

of such content that one could readily recognize that practi­ cally no use was being made at that time of the Production Code.

The interesting point about this information, however,

was that the National Council had to wait months to get it, due to the regulations and red tape which bound up Informa­ tion on the state board1s operations.

Heretofore, the board

had published semi-annual reports on the number of rejections and deletions,.but nothing on the nature of this censoring.

Roger Baldwin, "Freedom of the Screen," Film News, 5:5, March, 19

Thatcher Hughes, then head of the Council, criticized state boards in his foreword to the pamphlet, the body of which comprised the actual censorship eliminations.

He said that

state boards offered as justification for their existence the exclusion of ’’dirty foreign films,” and wryly commented that questionable foreign pictures were never submitted to the- state boards.

He protested:

’’False justifications of

this sort are made to conceal a censorship which would be resented if its real operations and effects were generally understood.He

continued to point out that from the

statistical information alone which the board published every six months, the ’’protected” public never knew what happened and never got an opportunity for making a choice. The most recent attack by the organization on state censorship was made by playwright Elmer Rice, present chair­ man of the Council, against Maryland's governor, W. Preston Lane, Jr.

Rice protested because the Governor had taken

no action on the Maryland board's banning of the Polish documentary, On Polish Land.

The board's judgment had been

that the film was not a true picture of present day Poland and was Communist propaganda.

Rice cited the fact that the

sound-track was entirely in Polish and that there were no


What Shocked the Censors (New York: National Council on Freedom from Censorship, 1933)> P» 2.

99 English titles.

His statement, appearing in December’s

Time, summarized very succinctly the present day stand of the National Council on Freedom from Censorship; . . • If the . . . board is to have the power to ban pictures because the subjects are not presented with truth and sincerity, there will be very few Hollywood productions indeed which should ever be shown, censorship on this ground should be limited to documen­ tary subjects, then the attempted restrictions on free speech become all the more obvious. . . . If the Board has the power to censor for inaccuracies and hypocricies, there is no reason why such a board should not censor every book, every newspaper, every speech in the state.22 V.


THE FEDERAL MOTION PICTURE COUNCIL A decided contrast to the liberties sought for

pictures by the two preceding organizations was the regi­ mentation urged by the next three groups, the International Reform Bureau,

the L o r d ’s Day Alliance and the Federal

Motion Picture Council, all of which are chapters in the lives of two men, the Reverend Doctor Wilbur Fisk Crafts and the Reverend Canon William Sheafe Chase. The first group, organized in 1895, by Reverend Crafts, began as an agency to combat the evils of alcohol, narcotics and sex.

Later the scope was expanded to include motion

op **Moral Breach,” Time, 54*7^* October 31, 194-9•


The organization worked hand-in-hand with such

pressure groups as the W. C. T. U. in an endeavor to impose federal censorship on the industry.

The first attempt in

1915, and all subsequent attempts failed, although Reverend Crafts fought for it until just before he died in December of 1922. M



i e

Benjamin Hampton in his book, A History of the s ,

said he had persuaded Crafts to pay a visit to

Hollywood before his death at which time he was made to realize that the industry was operating not with the intent to corrupt morals but to meet box office demands. said, **. . . I found him narrow, narrow;

. •


of course; all reformers are

but continued that from that point on Chase

became an advocate of self-regulation and police control of indecent pictures.

This change of heart seemed very incon­

sistent with the antagonistic attitude which Crafts had held toward the Association of the Motion Picture Industry in 1921, when Brady had approached him for approval- of his 13 Points and had been told that they should be federally enforced; and with his denunciation the year before, of the National Board of Review. After his death in 1922, Dr. Crafts was succeeded by

23 Benjamin Bowles Hampton, A History of the Movies (New York: Covici, Priede, 1931)# P» 29"2.

101 the man who had been his first lieutenant for several years, the Reverend William Sheafe Chase, former Canon of Christ Church, Brooklyn.

Chase had received his religious training

in the Episcopal Church, but later turned to more fundamental­ ist denominations.

He was also head of the Lord’s Day

Alliance which had been one of the agitators for state censor­ ship in New York in 1919*

Canon Chase represented this group

when he engaged in his debate with the heads of the National board of review in 1 9 2 0 . ^

In 1925 Reverend Chase became

general secretary of the newly-formed Federal Motion Picture Council which had abetted Congressman William Upshaw in the re-introduction of the bill for federal motion picture censorship which he had first presented three years before. As was shown in chapter III, this bill was denounced by President Coolidge at the request of Will Hays, and failed of passage.

That same year, 1926, Canon Chase was made head

of the Federal Council while continuing in his posts as superintendent of the International Reform Bureau and head of the L o r d ’s Day Alliance.

In 1936 he became president of

the International Reform Bureau, a post which he held for the remainder of that year.

The year 19^0 found him still

a member of the Bureau, and director of the Lord's Day

25 ^ Q. v. pages 85-87 in this chapter.


He died in July of that year.

With the deaths of

the Reverend Messrs, Crafts and Chase, motion picture censor­ ship lost two of its most vociferous champions, VI.


. . . If the protests of every group in the United States were complied with there would be no motion pictures. Motion pictures often get their interest because they do not represent what Is typical. Each year the list of offended business and profes­ sional groups which cry their griefs to the Hays Office increases.

The National Billiard Association of America has

complained of the low moral tone which has come to be as­ sociated with pool halls through motion picture caricatures, Atlantic City Hotel owners have requested that motion pictures show a few more business men taking their wives to Atlantic City resorts and not so many their secretaries. The inadvertent expression read by the late Will Rogers In one of his films, 11thick as flies in a Greek res taurant, "27 brought a delegation of frock-coated members of the American Society of Greek Restaurateurs to the Hays Office with blood in their eyes.

The American Brewers Foundation is as

concerned about the favorable motion picture presentation of

Frederic M. Thrasher, ‘'Education versus Censorship, The Journal of Educational Sociology, 13:288, January, 194-0. Inglis, o£. cit., p. 6,

103 their beverage as the W. C. T. U. is about its very existence* Many a school teacher has winced at seeing her cinema counter­ part acting like a reform school matron on the screen, and then added her name to a petition to be sent to the Hays Office. The Hays Office, as was shown in Chapter Three, has no real authority over pictures concerning offended business groups; but the protests are directed to it, and its members extend warning to the industry to protect the groups against screen presentations of brutal trainmen, renegade druggists, eorrupt doctors, unscrupulous lawyers, and even eccentric motion picture people. The Hays Office also works in the other direction, however, in attempting to mollify the offended groups into abandoning their demands for retribution.

An example of

Joseph Breen's defense of the industry was the following story told b y Raymond Moley in his book, The Hays Office: A committee of offended retail grocers and gas station owners cried vehement insistence that the depiction of James Cagney as an employee of the department of weights and measures in a large city, reflected upon their honesty. Breen pointed out that the very existence of such departments pO Raymond Moley, The Hays Office (Indianapolis, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 193Tp7~P« llii*

10l|. in municipal government indicated community acknowledgement of the need for supervision of weights and measures, even for grocery stores and gas stations. Francis S. Harmon, vice president of the M. P. A. A. quoted.the following figures as an argument against the charges that newspaper men were maligned and ridiculed in films.


offered that of the 8l newsmen in 398 pictures for one year, 67 were sympathetic characters, 5 were not’ and 9 different minor roles.

i-n “

Only one of the unsympathetic men

was a major character, while there were 37 major roles from the sympathetic

g r o u p .^9

Breen echoed Professor Thrasher's point which appears at the head of this section, that if all the protests from all the groups were recognized, pictures could never be made. He said that dozens of conventional representations of each profession or trade appeared on the screen in a year, and that nothing was ever said of these.

But let an uncompli­

mentary exception show his face, and the national federation of his particular profession or trade was at the industry's throat. VII.


Better films councils are those civic groups which

inglis, o£. cit., p. 7*

105 are the capillaries to which the M. P. A. A. and the N. B. R. carry the blood of motion picture information and from which these national veins carry back to the industry the complaints of the public.

It Is these small committees and councils

which advise the people of their communities which films to see or to prohibit to their children, and which discuss methods for improving both films and public taste. One modern lady, a member of the San Francisco Motion Picture Council, made the dry suggestion that, since double bills seemed to be an established evil, the least the ex­ hibitors could do would be to make their bills either both good or both bad, "so if people want to be demoralized and degenerated,

they can .”30

a questionnaire circulated by

Dean Claude Shull, president of the San Francisco Council, revealed the opinion that very exciting pictures were the most harmful to children in the 6 to 12 age group, while the most detrimental effects on the 12 to 1? group came from the screen presentation of sex irregularities.

This council ad­

vocated' patronizing better pictures and, if necessary, pay­ ing more for them as one would for better food. Margaret F. Thorp in 1939 mentioned a group called Film Audiences for Democracy^- which worked with the industry

30 '*Women Wonder if 'Good' Movies Can Make Money,” Los Angeles Evening Mews, March 7» 1939* Thorp, op. cit., p. 101.

io6 and the public in an effort, . . . to give Hollywood every encouragement to produce films that give a true and socially useful portrayal of the contemporary scene; to encourage the production of films that will better the understanding between racial and religious groups; and to encourage the pro­ duction of anti-war films. Another such group was the National Motion Picture League which began as the National Juvenile Motion Picture League.

Its original function had been the classification

of films suitable for children, but its scope had been ex­ panded including all pictures.

A third national group was

the Motion Picture Theater Association which endorsed and publicized pictures of merit. The National Better Films Conference in 1925 published a resolution opposing federal censorship of motion pictures and gave the following reasons: 1.

National censorship was political and a minority

would have dictated policies. 2,

Its support presupposed that the people of the

United States wanted to see evil pictures,

a belief not

shared b y this group. 3*

It transferred the responsibilities toward chil­

dren from their parents to legal guardians. 4.

It would not have improved pictures but would

have been merely a political racket. 5.

There were not enough children and people of low

intelligence attending pictures to warrant ruining them for

107 the healthy-minded majority. 6.

The elimination of the obvious in films gave rise

to the imagined which might have been the more immoral. 7.

The erroneous assumption was made that pictures

were produced to be as evil as possible. 8.

A federal board would have assumed the right to

dictate non-existing standards of good and evil. 9.

Censorship caused a distortion of life because

of the restrictions on the writer. 10.

In view of the arguments above, it could be seen

that censorship defeated its own purpose, that of improving motion pictures'. This resolution was sent to the governor of New York in 1925 to persuade him to help to defeat the pending Upshaw Bill.

The group further argued that the public was opposed

to government censorship as evidenced by the results of the Massachusetts referendum in 1922. Better films groups all have the same objective:


improve motion pictures; but their methods of approach" vary and occasionally conflict.

Art groups argue that the reform­

ers are so concerned with decency that they ignore art; and vice versa.

Many art groups have held that when a picture

has been made from a good novel, the film must logically be good too.

Consequently, these groups have frequently rated

foreign films over American products.

The National Board

108 of Review annually publishes two lists of the ten best films of the year and the ten best on the basis of popular appeal. Thorp observed that the latter seemed to come from

H o l l y w o o d . 3 2

The power of better films councils is an item well worth exhibitor’s concern as evidenced by the results of some of their activities in the past.

A theater manager in

a Hew Jersey town lost his position as a result of ignoring the protests of the local board.

A wiser manager in a New

York suburb abandoned double bills in deference to local mothers who did not want their children to be indoors for too long at a time.

Children in an Illinois town regularly

consulted the recommended lists for juniors and avoided films not on it because experience had proved them boresome.


manager in Ohio always consulted the local committee before selecting holiday or matinee bills.

Not infrequently news­

paper reviews accompany the research of the councils*


group in New England published succinct and disinterested information about the pictures to be shown in their town, expressing no arguments for or against the films.

They told

the plot, the east, and the director and let the intelligent movie-goer make up his own mind.

A column in a Southern

Gazetter, however, was written by a council member who also worked for the local theater. 32 Ibid.,

p .

1 8 3 .

Her shrewd method was to

109 praise all films to be shown by her employer, under the guise of cultural uplift#33 Though some of the better films councils provide little benefit except an occasional laugh, others give serious consideration to the problems presented by motion pictures.

A suggestion which has been offered by groups

was the establishment of small theaters for specialized audiences.

There have been conflicting opinions as to the

result of this, one of which was that the audiences for such theaters would grow and elevate public taste and the demand for better pictures.

The other was that, as with

novels, there would always be two classes of people and that the little theaters would provide adult entertainment only for an enlightened and appreciative minority. An example of one of the most active better films councils was that operating in New York City in 193&.


Sidney Goldstein of the Free Synagogue of that city felt that the activities of this group showed the way to the solution of motion picture-public relations problems.


New York Council aimed at improving public taste b y supply­ ing information on films to the community, promoting junior matinees and family weekend programs and encouraging the wider use of film in churches and schools.

33 a h the illustrations given in this paragraph were from Ibid., pp. 177-79*

110 VIII.


The last organizations to be considered in this chapter, which have evinced interest in motion pictures and their censorship are a diversified lot.

The first is the

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.


organization, according to an article by Winchell Taylor,3 4 was a notoriously reactionary and bureaucratic group which had quite logically determined not to support any type of government outside that of the United States.

Their rela­

tionship to pictures was demonstrated during the controversy over Walter Wanger's Blockade in 1935-3& when the group debated with itself about permitting motion picture pro­ jectionists, who came within their jurisdiction, film in movie theaters.

to run the

While they actually did not elect

to exert this power, Taylor decried the existence of such a force for unofficial censorship. The vast resources of the Payne Fund were employed in 1932 to finance a research projeet to determine the effects of motion pictures upon people of various ages. great deal of effort and expense,

After a

the findings of the commit­

tee were compiled into thirteen volumes by the Macmillan Company and all but forgotten.

Two books, based on the

34 Winchell Taylor, "Secret Movie Censors," The Nation, 1 47 :14-0, July 9, 1938.

Ill results of the committee's findings, clashed as to Inter­ pretation.

The conclusions of H. J. Forman's book, Our

Movie Made Children, were that the movies were the Corrupter of Youth, a Maker of Criminals, e_t cetera, while Mortimer Adler, professor of the philosophy of law at the University of Chicago, stated in his book, Art and Prudence, that the report by the Payne Fund had proven nothing since, "The find­ ings of social science are no better than the common opinions of men about the same



Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has expressed the opinion that motion pictures have been one of the potent forces in hinder­ ing the progress of the Negro race in this country through the constant ridicule which has been heaped upon colored characters in films.

White claimed that Negroes as a race

have been more maligned than any other racial group.36 Another group very concerned with motion pictures is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


motion picture scene shot by any company wanting P. C. A. endorsement in which animals are used, must receive a certif­ icate from the representative of the American Humane Society

Lloyd B. Morris, Not So Long Ago (New York: Random House, 19l|-9)» P* 182* Goodman, _o£. cit., p. IpL.

112 who has been present throughout the filming, stating that no animals were actually harmed in any way.

Great Britain is

even more rigid in the matter of cruelty to animals than this country; consequently,

the American Humane Society

representative often saves American companies deletions in England which will not even allow a dog to chase a cat on the screen. The last organization to be mentioned which has ex­ pressed views regarding motion pictures and their censor­ ship is the American Federation of Labor.

While there has

been very little aesthetic intercourse between the A. F. of L. and the industry, two events in the history of motion picture censorship concerned the Federation. William Brady and

In 1921, when

the National Association of the Motion

Picture Industry were


against statecensorship


New York, Samuel Gompers, head of the A. F. of L. at the time, was listed by opposition.


as being among the leaders of the

A change of heart evidently occurred between

then and 1926 when Edward F. McGrady of that organization opposed Congressman Upshaw’s federal censorship bill with the argument that pictures should be as free as speech and the press.38

37 inglis,

o£. cit., p.


38 Harley,

op., cit., p.


CHAPTER V OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP LEGISLATION The complete lack of uniformity among the ([state] censor boards would seem to be a proof of their arbitrary and illogical nature. Five of them will look with unaffected calm at a sequence which the sixth finds shocking . . . . There is some disparity in information regarding the actual number of official censorship boards in the several states.

There are definitely six established boards which

are in operation on pictures for every day of the year.


qualification of regularity is mentioned because a seventh board exists which operates only for Sunday showings and two more are nonoperative.

The six established boards are those

in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, New York and Virginia. The seventh is in Massachusetts and the last two are in Florida and Louisiana. Margaret Parrand Thorp^ remarked that government censorship was unnecessary inasmuch as the Hay3 Office did all the necessary work.

She pointed out, however,

since the boards had been created,


the members thereof would

never cease to attempt to perpetuate themselves in their pleasant, entertaining and remunerative positions by

Margaret Farrand Thorp, America at the Movies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939) * P* l5E># ^ Ibid., p. 185*

111 *. complaining a little each, month to demonstrate their vigil­ ance and to justify their employment. Others have admitted a fear of legal censorship be­ cause of the potential power a political machine could find in it.

Examples of the political influence of pictures were

seen in Chapter II of this paper in the elections of Presi­ dents Wilson and Harding;

and a third is that concerning

Upton Sinclair in his 193^ campaign for the governorship of California.

Some of the picture companies used every un­

ethical means at their disposal to prevent his election; and, by his own admission, this fact was the cause of his defeat. Attitudes of various people of note on the subject of govern­ ment censorship will be recorded in Chapters VI and VII of , this paper. I.


Censorship for motion pictures by the federal govern­ ment like that by several of the states is not yet known in this country. since 1915>« dire results.

There is agitation for it; there has been There have also been many predictions of the In October, 19^7» Republican Representative

Karl E. Mundt of South Dakota warned the industry that unless he saw some pictures come out of Hollywood that did for America what Mis sion to Moscow did for Russia, he would legislate for federal manufacture of films and regulation of

115 American films sent abroad.3

This threat was anticipated by

more than two years by John Kouwenhoven of Harper1s Magazine who said that in return for the subsidizing of pictures, the federal government would come into a position of being able to dictate subject matter beyond that which would represent America to other countries in a proper light. The history of the existing federal censorship laws has been given in Chapter II of this paper.

These laws were

The Tariff Act of 1909 regulating the importation of foreign films; the 1913 law governing interstate transportation of prize fight films; the 1916 law regarding the wearing of the. uniforms of American armed forces; and a 1920 amendment to Section 2\\$ of the federal Penal Code including films among matter forbidden in interstate commerce because of indecent character.

The first law provided for a censorship by the

Secretary o f .the United States Treasury of such films as he deemed unfit for public exhibition.

The only instance of the

exercise of this authority was in the case of Ecstasy in 1933*

This film by the Elekta film Company of Czechoslovakia

and starring Hedy Kiesler (whose name has since been changed to hamarr), was ordered cut by the Treasurer because it was 3 wH*d [sic] Warned to Send Right Kind of Pix Abroad or Gov't May Produce 'Em,’* Variety, October lij., 19^4-7* John Kouwenhoven, ttThe Movies Better Be Good,,? Harper13 Magazine, 190:51+0, May, 191+5*

116 a story of illicit love and frustrated sex without any suf­ ficient compensating moral values.£

After sufficient changes,

the film was allowed to be shown in this country. The 1913 law about fight pictures went ignored for such a long time that it was finally repealed in 1914-0 . 1916 and 1920 laws are still in effect.


The latter, con­

cerning interstate commerce, carries a penality of up to # 5 , 000



years imprisonment or both.

An item of

interest regarding this law is that it can be enforced only after the film has been exhibited in a public place and has been exhibited in a public place and has received complaint. The first bill introduced into Congress for federal censorship was that of the Georgian, D. M. Hughes, on December 6 , 1915•

Evidently Congressman Hughes had been

considering this move for some time, for an editorial which appeared in the June 20 issue of Outlook,& 19ll|-» mentioned the provisions of the Hughes bill.

These were:

A Federal

Motion Picture Commission would be established as a division of the Bureau of Education in the Department of the Interior. It would be composed of five members to be appointed by the President for terms of six years.

The salaries would be

5 John Eugene Harley, World-Wide Influences of the Cinema (Los Angeles: University of Southern California Press, 1914-0)V PP. 149-50.

^ wThe Morals of the Movies,” The Outlook, 107:388, June 20, 19114-*

117 $14-,000 a year for the chairman and $3,500 for the other four members.

This commission would censor and license all films

entering interstate commerce and would be supported by the fees charged.

The only standards for decision were that a

film not be obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, or depict a bull fight, or prize fight,

or be of such character that

its exhibition would tend t.o impair the health or corrupt the morals of children or adults,

or incite to crime.


bill received a good deal of attention, but failed. An almost identical bill was introduced in February 22, 1922, by New Jersey's Congressman Appleby.

It and several

other bills which flooded through the rift opened by Hughes in 1915, all met with the fate of the first.

Among the

provisions of the defeated bills were the outlawing of all pictures purporting to show or stimulate acts of a variety of criminals; the establishment of a federal censorship which would begin work on the first script of a proposed picture; and the setting up of a federal motion picture commission aimed at monopolies and at the assurance of making films wholesome at the source of production. In 1921 there was

the request by Senator Myers for an

investigation into the political activities of Hollywood. This problem was covered in Chapter II of this paper. The most radical bill of them all was H. R. 6233 introduced •by Congressman William D. Upshaw in the first session of the

69th Congress on December 21, 1925, and was under considera­ tion during th^ early months of the following year.

A bill

less drastic than the following had been defeated in 1923; but considerable momentum had been created by the time of this reintroduction by Upshaw.

The 1926 bill provided for a

Federal Motion Picture Commission under the Bureau of Educa­ tion in the Department of the Interior composed of seven members of which the Commissioner of Education would be the ex officio chairman.

The other six members would be appoint­

ed by the Secretary of the Interior from a list of eighteen to be provided b y the Commissioner of Education.

Two of the

members were to be women, two of the law profession, two teachers with knowledge of the psychology of youth, and at least one had to have had experience as a state or municipal censor.

Salaries were to be $10,000 for the c h a i m a n and

$9,000 for* bhe other six.

Tenure was to be based upon good

behavior. The duties of the Commission would be to preview and license for interstate and foreign commerce all motion pictures, to examine and censor scenarios and to supervise production in the studios.

A license for a production was

to be prerequisite to securing a copyright.

Films not to be

inspected by the commission were scientific, educational, religious and current event films and news reels.

$10 would

be charged for the review of each reel and $5 for each

119 duplicate.

The commission was also to inspect and censor

posters and advertising material. Any Commissioner or deputy could inspect films, but if he refused to grant a license,

the producer could demand

an inspection by three regular members of the Commission. The final appeal was to be made to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. No licenses would be issued for pictures containing scenes which were obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious, unpatriotic, salacious or offensive to the sentiment of religious reverenee.

Films would be banned

which tended to impair the health, debase or corrupt morals, disturb public peace, impare friendly relations with any foreign power, hold up to scorn any race, nation, sect or religion, or reproduce an actual cock fight, bull fight or prize fight.

The bill also had bans concerning the

assistance or defeat of election, though pictures might be propagandistic if they were shown in some place other than a licensed entertainment theater.

Among the immoral themes

banned were illicit love, vice, white slavery, exaggerated sex appeal scenes, bed room scenes and nudity. The proposed law would further have required the registration of all persons engaged in motion pictures, and registration could be cancelled for violation of orders and regulations set down by the Commission.

All motion picture

120 practices could be investigated and regulated; and finally, if deemed necessary, the Commission might assume authority over the entire industry and place it under federal regula­ tion. This was .the bill against which Hays* friend, Presi­ dent Coolidge, spoke and which was defeated in 1926.

It had

also been opposed by Roman Church leaders and Edward P. McGrady of the American Federation of Labor whose comment is paraphrased in Chapter III of this paper. In 193^» Raymond J. Cannon of Michigan introduced a bill into Congress asking among other things for the pro­ hibition in films of actors with morals records.

A criticism

by Congressman Cannon in The Movies on Trial? in 1936, con­ tained an admission that he was judging the private actions of Hollywood stars from the stories he read in the papers. He stated flatly that pictures were bad and that though it was rather late, conditions would have to be corrected by censorship.

His bill would further have outlawed films con­

taining suggestive, objectionable or unwholesome actions; but like all the others,

this bill too failed of passage.

In 19^4-0» Senator Matthew M. Neely of West Virginia proposed the enactment of a law affecting motion pictures; 7

William J. Perlman, compiler, The Movies on Trial (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936), ppTTpT-Ip^.

121 but since its conditions were more relative to trade practices of the industry than to censorship, it will not be considered here except to state that it too was defeated. During the past war, the Byron Price Office of Censor­ ship was in operation in Washington.

The purpose of this

office was to assure the showing of America in a good light in pictures sent abroad by placing restrictions on films depicting gangsters, corrupt politics,

’'heavies’* from

Allied nations, rubber-consuming driving speeds and luxurious living.

The office and its restrictions were abandoned

after V-J Day, though there is still fear from some quarters of its readoption. II.


Pennsylvania was the first state to pass a law for the censorship of pictures, in 1911*

This board has been

considered by many to be the most severe and the most arbitrary of all the boards.

One of its greatest fears is

Communism In films; consequently, according to Margaret Thorp,® anti-Pascist films would probably be banned In Pennsylvania as pro-Communist. The Pennsylvania State Board of Censors, as the office is called, Is composed of two men and one woman appointed by Q Thorp, o£. ci t ., p. 188.

122 the governor for three years.

Each member must meet qualifi­

cations of education and experience and all must be residents of the State of Pennsylvania. The board examines or supervises the examination of all films, reels (or views) exhibited or used in Pennsylvania. It approves those which are moral and proper and disapproves such as are sacrilegious,

obscene, indecent, or immoral,

or such as tend to, in the judgment of the board, debase or corrupt morals.

These rules do not apply to advertising

slides or news reels; however, advertising material for feature films must be inspected.

When sound came in, it was

determined that the State Board had jurisdiction over all spoken dialogue and other sounds. The list of eensorable items is long and varied; what is immoral, indecent obscene, salacious, objectionable, vulgar or contains improper suggestion or incentive; what is unduly gruesome, morbid, shocking, sordid or debased; what is decadent or unwholesome;

cruelty to animals; abnormal

brutality; what reflects on national fame, patriotism, selfrespect or adversely effects international relations; what attacks or ridicules public institutions or organizations or constituted authority in law enforcement or performance of duty; what may produce riots, mob violence, defiance of proper exercise of authority or suggest action tending to same; what reflects on, is prejudiced to, or ridicules

123 particular races, creeds, religious beliefs, priests or ministers thereof; irreverent use of religious symbols, the name of the Diety or Jesus; blasphemy; profanity, except when this is essential to scene or character [H. B.J

; glorifica­

tion of crime, criminals, criminal acts and all that makes these alluring, heroic or sympathetic; depictions informative as to commission of crime or evasion of detection; what through suggestion would induce commission of crime or im­ proper acts or set up false standards of conduct of living; views showing the use of habit-forming drugs or narcotics; and infoimation as to the sale and distribution of same. The salaries for members of the State Board are as follows:

$>3>000 for the chairman, $2,500 for the vice

chairman, and $>2,lj.00 for the secretary.


fee of $2 is

charged for every 1,200 feet of film inspected, and there is an additional charge of $1 per 1,200 feet for each dupli­ cate or print. In defense of this board, called arbitrary and severe by many, Mrs. Edna R. Carroll, Board member, pointed to the films which had been passed for exhibition in Pennsyl­ vania in the past few years, having themes which had formerly been frowned upon:

incest in Hamlet, Mourning Becomes

Electra and Anna Lucasta; adultery in Edward My Son; ille­ gitimacy in Pinky; inter-racial relations in Gentlemen1s Agreement, Cross Fire, Home of the Brave and host Boundaries;

12k. international politics in Sword in the Desert; criminal sad­ ism in White Heat; and the gamut of criminal acts from arson to murder in many other films.9

This plus Mrs. Carroll’s

praise of the Production Code on her visit to Hollywood in 1 9 1 ^ 0 , might tend to create sympathy for this .hoard.


ever, the mere existence of a Pennsylvania lav/ which allows the censorship of factual l6 and 8mm films for theatrical and even home use, caused Dr. Inglis to say, ’’Here is a potential threat to the political and social freedom of the screen.”^ Kansas followed Pennsylvania's lead and in 1913# established its State Board of Review.

Since Kansas is a

dry state, one of its biggest objections is to the use of liquor in films . ^

Another sore point is nose-thumbing,

9 ’’Code Confers Liberty,” Motion Picture Herald, 1 7 7 :1» October 22, 1914-9* M. H. Orodenker, ’’See Hollywood First, Biased Censors Told,” Moti on Picture Herald, 136:22, March 9# 1914-0* Ruth Inglis, Freedom of the Movies (Chicago: Uni­ versity of Chicago Press, 1914-777 P* 177* 12 An amusing anecdote on this point was told in a I9I44 Coronet article. (Avery Hale, ’’Danger: Censors at Work,” Coronet, 15:121, May, 19I4J4-. ) Since Kansas and Missouri frequently share prints of films, the latter often insists upon replacing deleted scenes. The article gave an instance of a repaired film which was returned to Kansas after Missouri audiences had enjoyed a deleted scene of a young lady getting intoxicated. The re-unexpurgateifilm played for several days in Kansas before the Board got hold of it again, and in the meanwhile, sheltered Kansans got to see just how one went about "getting high.”

125 though, the reason for this does not seem to be recorded. Por many years the head of this board was a maiden lady who admitted that she occasionally made deletions by way of editing as well as censoring in cases of films which, in her opinion, were too long or had improper story

c o n t i n u i t y . 13

Members of the Kansas Board are three in number, must be residents of the state and qualified b y education and ex­ perience. years.

They are appointed by the governor for three

A fee of $2. is charged for each reel Inspected.


present, news reels are exempted; however, there was a time when they were not, and an illustration below will show the results of their censoring of current events films. Kansas rules, although not so many as those of Pennsyl­ vania, are most comprehensive.

The Board approves such

films and reels, including subtitles, spoken dialogue, songs, other words and sounds, folders, posters and other advertis­ ing matter which are moral and proper.

It disapproves such

as are cruel, obscene, indecent or immoral, or such as tend to debase or corrupt morals.

An interesting point which ex­

plains the emphasis on censorship of sound is that in 1930* the Kansas courts found that censorship laws did not hold good for sound pictures; consequently, a legal revision had to be m a d e • Further specific regulations are these: 1.

Pictures should be clean and wholesome, and all

126 features that tend to debase morals or influence the mind to improper conduct shall be eliminated. 2.

Ridicule of any religious sect of peculiar char­

acteristics of any race of people will not be approved. 3*

Evil suggestion in dress of comedy characters

will be eliminated. if.

Loose conduct between men and women will be

eliminated, and whenever possible, barroom scenes and social drinking. 5*

A display of nude human figures will be eliminated*


Crimes and criminal methods such as give instruc­

tion in crime through suggestion, will be eliminated or abbreviated* 7*

Prolonged and passionate love scenes, w h e n sug­

gestive of immorality, will be eliminated. 8.

Scenes of houses of prostitution, road houses

and immoral dance halls will be eliminated. 9.

Scenes depicting white slavery or the allurement

and betrayal of innocence will be eliminated* A ruling which has since been rescinded, forbade a woman to smoke in pictures.

She might have had cigarettes,

held one in her hand or put it to her mouth, but never actually smoked it. Advocates of the free screen watched Kansas eagerly in 1 92 9 , when there was a bill in its state legislature to

127 turn censorship authority over to individual communities. Their resentment was reestablished, however, when the bill was defeated.

This resentment grew even more extreme in

1937, when Kansas censors edited a news reel showing Senator Burton K. Wheeler making a speech about the reorganization of the Supreme Court.

All pro-Roosevelt remarks had been

left intact, and opposing points of view had been deleted with the effect that the speech had become a very partisan resume'.

William C* deMille who cited this incident in his

book, Hollywood Saga,1^ as an illustration of the detrimental effects of political censorship, protested: These organized groups are the screen's only real enemies. They would limit the subject matter with which the motion picture may deal and, above all, limit what the screen may say about anything of real importance. They would keep the screen forever chanting accepted dogma, instead of letting it sing new songs of truth; they would force its characters to be moral fashion plates instead of human beings.15 Ohio follovifed hard after Kansas in 1913 > with the establishment of its Division of Film Censorship under the Department of Education.

This board has met with more in­

ternal and external opposition than any other.

It was one

of those whose constitutionality was questioned by the industry in 19l5 > along with the censorship boards of 1^- William C. deMille, Hollywood Saga, (New York: Dutton, 1939)» P* 255* ^

Ibid., p. 312.

128 Pennsylvania, Kansas and Chicago,

At that time and later

the same year in the case of Mutual Film Corporation versus the Ohio Industrial Commission, the courts found for the Ohio board.

The judgment in the latter case was to the effect

that, while opinion was free, conduct was amenable to law, and motion pictures were not classed as public thought. In 1929> the passage of the Johnson bill permitted the censorship of motion picture sound in Ohio.

In the years

of 1930 and 1935, at least, there were unsuccessful attempts to dissolve the Division of Film Censorship. The Ohio board Is headed by the Director of Education, and its two other members are civil service employees ap­ pointed by the Industrial Commission for three years.


censors receive no compensation according to Inglis. fee charged by the board for review is $1 .

for each 1,000

feet of film, or fraction thereof. A statement of Ohio’s rules Is brief but broad: Only such films as are in the judgment and discretion of the board of censors of moral, educational or amus­ ing and harmless character shall be passed and approved by such board.l? The points most offensive to the Ohio board are un­ holy love, particularly as expressed In looks and gestures,

Inglis, 0£. cit., p. 70. -**7 jack Alicoate, editor, Year Book of Motion Pictures (New York: The Film Daily, I9I4.I), p. 931*

129 any Information regarding the origin of babies, and capitallabor problems*

Of the first item, Ernst and Lorentz made

fun with, w . . • any scene between a man and a woman becomes dubious the minute they come within thirty-five feet of each other.

And Ohio doesn’t stand for it. . . .”18 Maryland’s State Board of Motion Picture Censors began

in 1916, just after the courts had upheld the legality of state and municipal censorship of motion pictures*

It look­

ed, at the time, as though the establishment of this board in Maryland would be the cue for a wave of censorship to engulf the country; but, as history has shown,

the next

board did not appear for several years* Like Ohio, Maryland is afraid of pictures containing capital-labor antagonism, and this, together with racial hatred, unusual kisses and soldiers firing upon a mob, forms the major cause for Maryland Board deletions and bans.


last item stems from Maryland’s chagrin over the unfortunate Bonus March ,fincident.”

The Maryland Board furnishes a fine

example to illustrate the claims of those who hold that private opinion frequently takes precedence over social interest among state censors.

A man who headed this board

in 1930, was a druggist who always ordered cuts in poisoning scene s. -*-9

'ph.e Board is composed of three residents of the

18 Ernst and Lorentz, o£. cit., p. 32* 19 Ibid., p. 3 6 *

130 state appointed by the governor for three years, who must be qualified by education and experience.

Two of them must

belong to the political party holding a majority of votes in the state legislature, and the third must belong to the party holding the next highest number.

The Board charges a

fee of $2 for each reel (or set of views) inspected, and $1 each for duplicates.

As a result of these fees the

Board contributed over $35*000 to the state coffers in 1 9 3 1 * ^ proving, if nothing else, the financial expediency of its existence. The Board examines or supervises the examination by volunteer workers of all films (or views) used in the state. In 1929, the Maryland censorship law was extended to include trailers films*

(previews of coming attractions) as well as feature The Board approves for license such films as are

moral and proper, and denies licenses to those which are, in the judgment of the Board, obscene, indecent, immoral, in­ human, sacrilegious or of such character that their exhibi­ tion would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime.


19^-7 proposal in the Maryland legislature asked that all Saturday pictures be selected for children, as determined by the reviewing Board.

This bill was defeated.

Earl Theisen, "Just a pew Notes on Censorship," The International Photographer, 9 * 6 , March, 1931*

131 In October of last year, Elmer Rice, Chairman of the National Council on Freedom from Censorship of the American Civil Liberties Union, made his attack on the Maryland Board through a protest to W. Preston Lane, Jr., Governor of the State.

The details of this protest are covered in Chapter

III of this paper. New York inaugurated its Model Ordinance in 1920, at the recommendation of the National Board of Review.

It pro­

vided that only films passed by that Board would be accept­ able for exhibition in the state.


in the following

year, the State Conference of Mayors who had approved the N. B. R.'s suggestion of the Model Ordinance, changed their minds and decided on an official New York Motion Picture Commission. In 1927, this board was dissolved and its duties transferred to a Motion Picture Division of the State Department of Educa­ tion.

This was the Board against which William Brady of the

National Association of the Motion Picture Industry fought so violently.

Its establishment imposed a weighty burden on the

film industry for it meant that consideration of this Board would have to be allowed if the vast income from the thickly populated state were to continue. The State Board of Regents appoints the head of the Division on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Educa­ tion.

The five other members who compose the Board are

appointed for five year terms by the governor and must be United States citizens qualified by education and experience.

132 Fees of $3 are charged for every 1,000 feet of film inspected and f>2 for additional copies.

These fees, higher it will be

noted than those of any other state board, accounted for more than four million dollars of revenue which accrued to the state between the time of the Board* s establishment and the beginning of 19l-|-7 « ^ The element in motion picture which most offends the New York board is that of political corruption.


approved by the board are licensed for exhibition in the State of New York, and licenses or permits are denied to any film which is classified in whole or part, as obscene,


cent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious, or is of such character that its exhibition would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime.

Four to five films a day are seen by each reviewer and

if any rejections or deletions are made, the applicant must be furnished with reasons for same, and a description of de­ leted scenes in cases of pictures not rejected in toto.


ther controversy is settled by an examination by all the re­ viewers.

The director of the division decides doubtful cases,

and if there is still dissatisfaction on the part of the ap­ plicant, he may appeal to the State Board of Regents and finally to the courts. events films.

No permits are required for current

Scientific films require no license if the

owner swears the picture will not be exhibited in a place of amusement.

A permit is required for scientific films,

2 1 Inglis, ££. cit., p. 178.

133 however, but no charge Is made and the films are not in­ spected.

All advertising material for entertainment pictures

must conform to the requirements for such films. In 1933» the National Council on Freedom from Censor­ ship published its booklet, What Shocked the Censors, listing the deletions made by the New York board in 1932.

A summary

of this book is to be found in Chapter IV of this paper, but one of the major issues of the work was the secrecy with which ’the board cloaked its activities.

In February, 1946,

Dr. Irwin A. Conroe, acting director of the board, issued a statement in the New York Timeg22 explaining that the deletions were not made public because of wregulations” and added that the producers dared not reveal this information for fear of antagonizing the censors.

Dr. Conroe expressed

the personal view that no deletions should ever be made as far as the adult public was concerned, but added that he deplored the evident deliberateness of Hollywood to shock ”Aunt Hilda.”

He went on to explain that the board was

mostly concerned with the children in audiences, and that while some of them could judge right from wrong,


could not and had to be protected during the impressionable ’teen age.

He concluded by pointing out that objectionable

22 Thomas M. Pryor, ”FIlm Censorship Policy Defended,” New York Times, February 10, 1946*

1314scenes were frequently spared deletions for the sake of story continuity. The first film ever to be banned by New York after having passed the Hays Office was Yes, My Dariing Daughter. This film, based on the popular Broadway show of the same name, was made by Warner Brothers in 1939 an November, 1926.

13 Goodman, op. cit., p. 38 • ^

L o c . cit.

The Reverend Paul W. Facey of Fordham University, Dr. J. C. Ward, Lord Bishop of London, and the members of the Seventh Ecumenical Methodist Conference of 19^-7 all held that pictures were undermining marriage and the home b y treating marriage lightly and by delineating divorce as glamorous.l£ The Methodists mentioned that films should reveal the true Christian home and not depict hasty marriages for no other reason than love*

This opinion about divorce was refuted

by Chief Magistrate Edgar Bromberger of the New York Magistrate’s Court and by Judge Joseph Sabath of the Cook County, Illinois, Superior Court, both of whom said they had never encountered a divorce case which could be traced to pic tures.l6 Most of the photoplays of the present time should never be exhibited before the eyes of the child or of the young folks. These pictures are unfit for exhibition before the eyes of adults.17 Judge Alonzo G. McLaughlin of New York made that statement in 192£.

He added, however, that since New York

State had censorship and since these pictures were allowed exhibition, the remedy evidently did not lie in censorship.18 William Lyon Phelps, professor emeritus at Yale, made a

Ibid., p. I4.0. Lo c . cit.


Beman, op. cit., p. l62. Ibid., p. 219*

comment in 1936, which answered Judge McLaughlin quite aptly ,?The good or bad effect of the movies depends on the use people make of



The Most Reverend John J. Cantwell, Bishop of Los Angeles and San Diego, in 1936, said that pictures of the time spoke a wrong philosophy of life.

Explaining this he

said: Sin is condoned, false moral values are instilled in young and critical minds and thus are lowered both the public and the private standards of all who see them. . [pictures]] . . . for all practical purposes, it may be well sus­ tained that twenty-five per cent of all pictures made in Hollywood in the course of a year are definitely bad and offensive. . . . ^ If Dr. Cantwell spoke for the Roman Church, he was rather inconsistant considering that it was in this same year that his temporal leader, Pope Pius XI, commended the industry in the United States for the fine work which had resulted from the enforcement of the Production Code by the Legion of Decency.

And Reverend Holmes who was fearful of

the political effects of pictures, at the same time admitted that the Legion of Decency had been entirely effective in correcting moral salaciousness.^1

3-9 Perlman, o£. cit., p. 93* 20 Ibid., pp. 18, 20. 21 Ibid., p. 197-

15k Professor .Benjamin H. Hibbard of the agricultural economies department of the University of Wisconsin, wrote in 1936, of the appeal of pictures for farmers.

He criti-

zed the industry for making pictures portraying exaggerated, realistic debauchery which

d i d

not interest rural

a u d i e n c e s .


Reverend Clifford G-. Twombly of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, agreed about the content of pictures and added the adjectives **sensual and salacious. A very current controversy about the quality of the cinema was recorded in a January issue of Time, 1 9 5 0 . ^


Protestant Motion Picture Council found that more films suit­ able for general family entertainment were made in 19^9 than in any previous year.

Taking the negative approach,


Legion of Decency of the Roman Church found that a recordbreaking total of 19 per cent of the pictures produced last year were objectionable. Applicable to all ages was the advice given by Reverend Lathrop in 1922: Emphasis should be placed upon the encouragement of the good rather than the suppression of the evil. And the motion picture screen should be thought of and talked of not as a troublesome problem but as one of the chief assets of the community for education sued betterment. 2


Ibid., pp. 72-7if* Ibid., p. l65•

^ k **Conflie ting Report Cards,** Time, 55:75, January 23, 1950.

^2 Lathrop, o£. cit., p. 38.

155 II.


Public need for censorship.

”l . . • would rather

take a chance on sullying the great American mind than stultifying it.

. . .!,26

This was the opinion of Professor

Sawyer Falk, director of dramatic- activities at Syracuse University.

Speaking of the Production Code, he said it so

restricted the industry that it stifled the imagination and intelligence of the average movie-goer*

He pointed out

that Americans decried the regimentation of people in foreign countries and failed to reeognize the regimentation of motion pictures here in the United States* Edgar Dale, associate professor of education at Ohio State University and motion picture chairman of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers in 1937, said that censorship violated freedom of speech.

He considered the censors wrong

in regarding the public as being very impressionable and weakminded. 27 Doctor Russell Potter, director of the Institute of Arts and Sciences and of the Division of Motion Picture Study at Columbia University, expressed a wish in 1939, that

^ John Eugene Harley, World-Wide Influences of the Cinema (Los Angeles: University of Southern California Press, 19^0), p. 69. 27 Mpublie Called Best Censors,” Motion Picture Herald, 126:65, March 13, 1937.

156 censorship of films would be abolished.

He further wished

pO to persuade producers to make more films on an adult level .£l0 Dr. Ruth Inglis, associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington, said, "On the whole, censor­ ship is recognized as negative and uncreative.

The post­

production changes demanded by censors often ruins films, especially talking pictures; and a rejected or mutilated movie is a social waste.

. . .”29

Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Viscount Brentford and ex­ home secretary of England, made the following statement in 1929, in answer to the title of his booklet, Do We Heed A Censor?; . . . If the people learn, not merely to disregard, but to detest all these forms of indecency in thought word and deed, the day will come when no form of censorship will be needed, . . . because the people themselves will have attained . . . by education and by personal thought, that cleanness of heart which alone can insure a clean­ ness of thought and of action.30 Censorship as a violation of freedom.

In his book,

Hollywood Saga, Professor deMille of the University of Southern California considered the development of the indus­ try and the parallel course of censorship.

He told of the

28 ’'Educator Condemns Censorship of Films,” Motion Picture Herald, 137:50, October 7» 1939* 29 Ruth A. Inglis, ”Need for Voluntary Self-Regulation,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 254-:l£6, November, 19^7• 30 William Joynson-Hicks, Viscount Brentford, Do We Need A Censor? (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1929)* p.~l?li»

15>7 parallel course of censorship*

He told of the advances made

in pictures and added: Furthermore, as the movies were beginning to reflect popular thought, even to stimulate it, and as stimula­ tion of popular thought, unless carefully directed, might prove extremely dangerous to politicians, censor­ ship was the medium by which, under the camouflage of decency and public good, all thought on the screen could be controlled.31 Frederic M. Thrasher, professor of education at New York University, gave as an illustration of his proposition that political censorship was a violation of the right of free communication of ideas on the screen, the banning in several states of a number of pictures recommended or spon­ sored by important medical and welfare agencies. films were Damaged Lives and The Birth of a Baby.

Among these He added

that there was a danger of censors deleting today and inserting tomorrow;

this had been done abroad and there were some

who would like to do it in this


Even Reverend Lathrop who said that American pictures created a wrong impression of this country abroad admitted that government censorship was not the answer to the motion picture problem.

He said that American people would resent

it as an infringement on their freedom.33

31 deMille, op ♦ cit., p. 32 prederie M. Thrasher, Education versus Censorship,” The Journal of Educational Sociology, 13:298, January, 19^0. 33 Lathrop, op. cit., p. 3 6 .

158 A thoughtful consideration of freedom was expressed by Sidney E. Goldstein, associate rabbi of the Free Synagogue of Hew York and professor of social service at the Jewish Institute of Religion.

He commented that freedom was a

desirable commodity, but he disapproved of a freedom to spread disease.

He pointed out that even the constitutional

liberties we enjoyed in this country had their restrictions: freedom of speech, but not that which was libelous or damag­ ing to the character of man; freedom of the press, but not the publication of forms or pictures that were obscene; freedom of assembly, but not to conspire against the govern­ ment.

In summary he said that we were not free in a democracy

to act in such a way as to jeopardize community

w e l f a r e . 3^4-

He added, however, that government censorship would be wrong because one man or group w o u l d dictate standards for the entire nation. Harold E. Stassen, president of the University of Pennsylvania and ex-governor of Minnesota, felt that the stage and the screen should not be restrained by a minority to satisfy their vanity, when these amusements afforded pleasure to the masses.

He said that America must always

protect the freedom of show business which in turn must

3 k Perlman, op. cit ., pp. 207 and 211.

159 always stand for the freedom of the American Professor Eduard

p e o p l e . 35

(sicj Lindeman of the New York

School of Social Research and eminent sociologist agreed with Professor Thrasher.

He feared that censorship would

eventually accrue to government authority and become a des­ tructive power of

s e l f i s h n e s s .3^

Judge Louis



of the Common Please Court of Philadelphia added his warning: It must not be forgotten that a censorship which today may be used to curb our enemies opinions may be utilized tomorrow to suppress our most cherished c o n v i c t i o n s . 3 7 Censorship as the public1s affair.

One of the objec­

tions listed by Governor McKelvie of Nebraska in vetoing a censorship proposal presented to him in 1921, was that the individual should be allowed a choice in pictures and not have a choice imposed upon him by a state board.

This, plus

a number of other points to be recorded later in this Chapter, helped to defeat this bill and to keep the screen free in Nebraska.38 Rabbi Goldstein of New York who demonstrated the limitations of constitutional freedom, believed that the 35 Arthur Ungar, HStassen in Attack on Censoring,'* Daily Variety, April 19, 19^-8• What Shocked the Censors (New York: National Council on Freedom from Censorship, 1933)» P« 37 Charles C. PettiJohn, Self-Regulation Versus Censorship (New York: no printer listed^ 1938), pT 67 38 Beman,

oja. cit., pp. 192-196*

i6o public should, have been consulted by Will Hays during the first unsuccessful decade of his regime as Hczarn of the picture industry.

He pointed out that it was utimately the

public who decided H a y s 1 problems with the boycott of 1934-»^9 One of the alternates for censorship proposed by Reverend Lathrop was the expression of public opinion via exhibitors and better films councils to the industry itself. Since it was the public which was concerned it should be they who made the decision. 4-0 Again Professor Thrasher presented a point, this time in agreement with the writers above, that individual communi­ ties should be permitted to decide whether a particular film was objectionable to them.

His statement on the matter was:

The censors and their sponsors will have to answer to an aroused citizenry who are sick and tired of having their choices in the field of screen entertainment reduced to an infantile level or made for them by the prejudiced and arbitrary notions of a small and politically created group of unknown censors.41 Setting standards of morality.

n [The censorsj

. . .

are absorbed in trying to impose their own taste, their own moral view-points,

their own

contentions upon a

patient and long-suffering people. . .


prejudices, convictions, and .*’4^

Perlman, o£. cit., p. 221. 4-0 Lathrop, o£. c i t ., p. 33* Thrasher, 0£. cit., p. 29 5>* 4^ William C. deMille, MBigoted and Bettered Pictures, Scribner1s Magazine, 76:232, September, 1924*

l6l This was how professor deMille felt on the matter of setting standards of morality.

Carl E. Milliken, ex-governor

of Maine and Secretary of the M. P. P. D. A. under Will Hays, agreed that no small board of censors could determine what millions might see and hear.

In defense of the P. C. A. at

religious criticism, he said, rtIt is inevitable that the Church should always have a higher standard than such a secular endeavor will perfectly attain.w^-3 That both the Protestant and Roman Churches recognize this fact is illustrated by the Episcopalian Reverend LathropMl■and Roman Catholic Bishop C a n t w e l l ^ who both admitted that smutty pictures, against which the Church crusaded,


were popular with the masses* Professor Thrasher said that no group was qualified to judge what would corrupt the public.

There were no cultural

standards for pictures because there were none for all people. To some a picture might be artistic while to others it might seem boring.

He continued:;

. . • It is equally obvious that no one group can justly assume superiority over others and that it is contrary to democratic principles for any one group or combination of groups to attempt to prescribe what the general public should see. This is the basic fallacy of legal

^1-3 Olga Johanna Martin, Hollywood1s Movie Commandments (New York: H. W. Wilson Company^ 1937 )$ P*" 51^. ^


o£. c i t ., p. 6.

h-5 Perlman, op. cit., p. 21.

162 cens o r s h i p . ^ He cited the example, of the failure of Prohibition because reformers tried to make people good,

according to

their own standards,.through legislation. Speaking of the present, Doctor Inglis said, "Spokes­ men for specialized and limited pressure groups have been allowed to substitute their own narrow and sometimes selfish values for those of the community at large."V? III.


". • • In eight years’ close association with the Juvenile Court Clinic in Toronto, we have on no occasion been able to lay the specific act of delinquency at the door of the movie theater.

. .

This statement was made by William E. Blatz, director of St. Ge o r g e ’s School for Child Study at the University of Toronto.

Judge Jonah J. Goldstein of the New York City Court

of General Sessions disagreed.

He felt that movies contrib­

uted to the delinquency of minors by portraying sex and crime

k.6 Thrasher, o£. cit., p. 289* k l Inglis, o|>. cit., p. 159• (For an elaboration on the point of selfishness in this quotation, see Robert Forsythe's commentary on the Roman Church and its effect on cinema under Section V, sub-heading "Criticism of the Church," of this Chapter.) Perlman,

ojc. cit., p. 2}±3»

163 in a luridly attractive light, 49 Professor Prank Fearing of the Department of Psychol­ ogy of the University of California at Los Angeles believed pictures were not to blame and that the charge of their guilt came from police chiefs who did not understand juvenile delinquency, parents detached from the world of the child and °nice elderly ladies with remarkably little experience, The motion picture is sensual, and nothing demoralizes more than sensuality. At the movies the young see things they never should be allowed to hear or think about. Under such conditions the fall of young girls is not remote.51 This condemnation of pictures was made by Judge Franklin Taylor of New York City.

Like Judge McLaughlin,

however, he added that the pictures in New York gave no indi­ cation that the State Censorship Board was accomplishing any­ thing.

This opinion on films was shared by the late Ellis

Paxson Oberholtzer, historian, biographer, and one-time head of the Pennsylvania State Board of Censors.

Dr. Oberholtzer

feared that as a result of seeing pictures, children would ask their parents about the meanings of certain scenes and


o£. c i t ., p. 39*

Ibid., p. ij.0* Beman, op. cit., p. 163* ^

Ibid., p. 218.

164 and,thereby gain information which was wrong for children to know.53 Jonah J. Goldstein, City Magistrate of New York since 1931, said in 193& that pictures were a good ehoice over bad environments since they were easily available and economical to poor and rural families, whose homes were bad and whose neighborhoods were worse.

Of the matter of children's asking

questions, Judge Goldstein heartily approved of this and felt that the education of the child should be furthered by parents' explaining things seen in pictures by their children.54 Incidently, Judge Goldstein evidently held more liberal views in his youth.

This was the who, in 194®> held that

pictures contributed to juvenile delinquency. Judge Lindsey made the following statement concerning the effects of pictures on juvenile delinquency: I am here to say, after talking it over with court officers, who have worked with me for years, that we have yet to find one case of crime among youth that could fairly be traced just to the movies. I do not recall more than two or three cases in m y experience of over a quarter of a century on the bench, where there was even reasonable ground to believe that the cause of crime was due just to what the offender had seen in the movies.55

53 Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, The Morals of the Movie (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Publishing Company, 1922), p. 23. 54 Perlman, o£. cit., pp. 79”83*


Beraan, op. cit., p. 7*

165 Bishop William P. Anderson of Boston said that pictures were suggestive and indecent and that as a result of seeing them, youth would be dicting, however,

d e m o r a l i z e d .


ge casually avoided pre­

just when this demoralization would occur.

He heartily approved of motion picture censorship.. His conjecture for the future was refuted by fact in a statement made by Dr. Phyllis Blanchard of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic:

"Numerous studies made by scientists

have failed to establish any appreciable contribution to delinquency from motion pictures, but we do find the motion picture to be helpful in many

w a y s . "57

Reverend John Haynes Holmes of New York was another who feared for the tremendously evil effects of pictures on youth, even though he had said the Legion of Decency had put an end to immorality on the

s c r e e n . 58

Professor Thrasher admitted that pictures left their mark or influence in setting fashions such as those of coif­ fure, clothes, and architecture, but asserted that there was no proof that they influenced juvenile crime.59 When William D. Upshaw was propounding his censorship

58 ibid., pp. 165-66. 57 Morris Ernst and Pare Lorentz, Censored: The Private Life of the Movie (New York: J. Cape and H. Smith, 1 9 3 0 ) ,

p T I ^ O .

58 Beman, o£. cit., p. 196-9 7 * 59 Thrasher, ci|>. cit., p. 286.

bill in 1926, one of the arguments he used was this:


motion picture business, as now conducted, is blighting the mental, moral, and spiritual potentialities of the American child,"

He went on to quote estimates on public attendance

and juvenile percentages.

He figured that 20 million attend­

ed pictures daily in this country in 1926, and that threefourths of them were young people.

He may have regarded

youth as relative, for he gave no age limitations for this majority group.^0 William Blatz of Toronto whose quotation introduced this section disagreed with Congressman Upshaw*s figures. They were much lower according to his calculations:

7 per

cent of boys and iq.*3 per cent of girls tested attended pictures oftener than once a week.

Research done at his

school showed that pictures which were most likely to corrupt youth were not popular with children.

He had studied the age

group from ten to nineteen and had found the following infor­ mation:

The 10 to 13 group wanted comedy; those lij. wanted


tbose 15 wanted musical comedy; those l6 wanted

comedy; and those 17 to 19 wanted musical comedy.

Low on the

preference list were gangster themes for the 10 to 12 group; classical pictures for those 1 3; gangster pictures for those li4.; classical for those l£; love interest for those l6 and 17

Beman, op. c i t ., pp. 163 and 170*

167 and gangster pictures for the 18 to 19 group.

His analysis

of all the figures revealed that interest in love themes increased with age, but never attained top preference. Speaking for himself and his colleagues at St. George’s School for Child Study, Blatz said: . . . We should like to c ontend that children go to the movies to be entertained, just as adults do and that the contention that they attend to store up all the evil they can discern for the purpose of perpetrating it upon , an unsuspecting and innocent community is gross nonsense. Harmon B. Stevens of the University of Tennessee dis­ cussed abstract evil in a 1926 issue of Annals of the Amer­ ican Academy of Political and Social Science and said that while it was true that people did not suddenly adopt evil, they could be made to get accustomed to it and eventually to adopt it.

Applying this to pictures, he pointed out their

capacity for evil influence, especially upon children. ^ The Schools Motion Picture Committee of the Parents and Teachers Association of New York City held that the best adult pictures were usually best for children too, an opinion which conflicted with that of those who would shelter children from adult knowledge.

A group which recommended such

sheltering was composed of the Protestant clergymen


Perlman, o£. cit., pp. 232, 235 (quote), 237* 6^ Harmon B. Stevens, '’The Relationship of the Motion Pictures to Changing Moral Standards," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science^ 128:l"5l-57» November,



168 edited, the Homiletic Review,

"the minister's magazine.”

William H. Short whose article, "Social Influence of Motion Pictures,"&3 appeared in a 193ll issue of this publication said that children should be protected from the spirit of motion pictures;

that this spirit which was "bold, daring,

rich, flaming, exciting, thrilling, stupendous" should be replaced by the spirit taught b y schools and churches t "honest, courteous, faithful, loyal, competent, patient, wise, and kind." Nob belittling the church and schools but rather de­ fending pictures, Dr. Ruth Andrus, chief of the Bureau of Child Development and Parent Education at New York University, and Dr. Ernest Osborne, associate professor of education at Columbia,

said children ought not to be protected from

realities and that motion pictures were good training for them. ^4An unnamed juvenile court judge whose estimates were recorded in Reverend Lathrop*s b o o k l e t , The Motion Picture Problem, said that between

and 60 per cent of the boys

who appeared before him could trace their crimes- to motion pictures.

A woman in charge of delinquent girls said the

^3 William H. Short, "Social Influence of Motion Pictures," Homiletic Review, 108:l8?> September, 193^» ^


0£. ci t., pp. 39~4-0*

Lathrop, op. ci t., pp. 11, 12.

169 rate was lower in. her department.

The highest delinquency

rate among boys appeared in the lif-year-old group and the offense most often was theft.

With girls, the l6-year-olds

comprised the highest number and their offenses were usually sex crimes.

Reverend Lathrop’s book also contained an

opinion by another juvenile court officer that the children who blamed pictures for their crimes were lying in an effort to shift the guilt of their deeds from themselves. Rabbi Goldstein of New York City opined that juvenile gangs were probably the result of crimes taught b y pictures*66 His use of the word, ’’gang,” would seem to indicate that such a group had formed for delinquent purposes.


the aets of such juveniles could not justly be blamed on pictures, according to Dr. Abraham A. Brill, noted psychi­ atrist and professor of psychiatry at New York University, who said, ’’The movies are blamed for almost every imaginable crime; no normal person can be influenced by the movies to do anything which is normally foreign to him.”67 In explanation of the various authorities, some of

delinquent acts

of children,

whom were included above, sub­

mitted causes which were more to be blamed for juvenile crime than pictures.

J. Edgar Hoover,

director of the Federal

66 perlman, o£. cit.,

p. 22ij..

67 Goodman, o£. cit.,

pp. 39>^4-°*

170 Bureau of Investigation, blamed ignorant and indifferent parents,68 an opinion shared by Judge Goldstein of New York (in his I93J4. article) who also felt, at that time, that schools and churches were uneducating by condemning bad pictures instead of constructively educating by encouraging good ones.69 Dr. Inglis quoted her fellow member of the Commission on Freedom of the Press, Zechariah Chafee, Professor of Law at Harvard, who made the following comment on children: 1. . . w e might . . . trust sensible parents to keep their children home from mature films. As for the children of foolish parents, they know so much already that it is doubtful whether celluloid and sound-tracks can make them any worse. At all events, it is arguable that much of our film censorship is a left-over from the era of Prohibition.1'® The longest list was that of Judge Lindsey who said crimes could be caused by the natively evil reading news­ papers, magazines, books and even the Bible.

He pointed out

that immorality was frequently to be found in parked cars, but that cars were not prohibited. often led to immoral acts.

Music and dancing too

He said that people had always

sought a ‘’goat’* on which to blame evil; that it used to be

68 Ibid.,


69 Perlman,

[}.0. o£. c i t ., 79"80.

7® Ruth A. Inglis, Freedom of the Movies University of Chicago Press! 19i+7)» P* 17^*


171 alcohol; now it was pictures; and. tomorrow it might be pet­ ting in airplanes.

Environment was another factor which

Judge Lindsey blamed for juvenile delinquency.

He believed

that the crime rate among children would have been a good deal higher than it was then if it had not been for pictures which not only elevated,

inspired and made them happier, but

also kept them out of the streets.

Two quotations from his

article which summed up his attitude on the relationship of pictures to juvenile delinquency were: • . • By no system of wet-nursism can you solve the prob­ lem of delinquency of crime by hiding bad things or the truth about them, or by depriving children of the right, under proper conditions, to see, to hear, and to know what they are. . . . it is much easier for some parents, teachers, un­ wise, if hot ungracious pastors, to leave the job to a board of censors or some newfangled statute law with its abuses, blackmails, grafts, persecutions, stupidities and tyranies.71 IV.


Picture Problem, he included an objective list of ten reasons for and fourteen reasons against the censorship of motion pictures by state or federal agencies.

Those for censorship

were: 1.


To protect the child from shock, violence,

Perlman, o£. cit., pp. $1, 54-*


172 gruesome crime details and to avoid encouraging emulation. 2.

To protect adolescents and the mentally sub-normal

from the suggestion of evil and violence. 3.

To abolish the reiteration of crime themes.


To abolish attractive dramatic situations which

left a low moral influence. 5*

To protect religious groups and law enforcement

officials from derision. 6.

To eliminate false impressions of our nation for

foreigners. 7.

To eliminate vulgar comedies.


To lessen the emphasis on sex themes.


To lessen the use of the domestic triangle.


To substitute new laws governing the display of

obscene or immoral entertainment for old ones which were not adequate because they were improperly enforced or not used for pictures. Reasons opposing censorship were: 1.

It was undemocratic and -unconstitutional.


State or federal boards could not meet local

requirements• 3.

Release of pictures would be delayed.


The cost of pictures to the public would be

increased. 5.

Political perversion of privileges would be possible.

173 6.

Set rules laid down by law did not allow inter­

pretation according to immediate problems. 7.

Such boards afforded an opportunity for graft.


Formal standards would result in ridiculous and

unjust eliminations and deletion. 9*

Separate local and state boards would cause a

double expense to the public. 10.

Producers might deliberately put in things for

the censors to cut. 11.

State boards detracted from local authority.


Adult entertainment could not be placed on the

level of the child’s mind. 13•

Motion pictures should be regulated as books and

theaters were. lip.

Censorship imposed special and unjust restrictions

on this means of

p u b l i c i t y .


In 1925 Congressman William I. Swoope contributed the following statement to the Congressional Record: Censorship has proved its usefulness, because in none of the states where it has once been established has it been abolished. And, outside of the United States, it has spread over the entire civilized world.73 Since that time Congressman Swoope’s point about per­ manence in the United States has been disproven, as was


o£. cit., pp. 32-3 3 *

73 Beman, o£. ci t ., p. 16I4..

17k shown in Chapter V of this paper, by the repeal of Connecti­ cut* s law.

As for the part about censorship spreading

throughout'the world, Will Irwin, noted author,

in writing

of the dangers of polities taking precedence over morals in censorship regulations,

said, "Opposition would be musted

[sic] , gently at first— and afterwards not so gently.


may sound fantastic, but if it does, consider Russia, Germany, and Italy . . . ."714William C. deMille agreed with Congressman Swoope that boards were permanent because,

"Too many political

jobs are involved; there is too much money in morality."75 There were some who felt that censorship was a failure because not enough objectionable elements were removed. Among these was Francis J. McConnell, Episcopal Church in the New York area.

Bishop of the MethodistBishop McConnel com­

plained that when the censors put their seal of approval on a film after they had censored it, this sanctioned the remainder which was often too evil still to be approved.?^ Judge Lindsey agreed that not enough was deleted, but his complaint was against insipid^pictures which seemed to get the hearty approval of the censor boards *77

7 k Will Irwin,"Censorship as an Author Views Itf (Address delivered Luncheon, 75 76

at the National Board of Review Annual ConferenceFebruary 6, 1937)» P« 2. deMille, Hollywood Saga, op. cit., p. 2 ^ k » What Shocked the Censors, op.cit., p. 1. 77 Perlman, o|>. cit., p. 59*

175 One of the most ardent critics of censorship boards both legal and official in the 1920's was the Reverend Clifford B. Twombly of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

He person­

ally checked films approved by the National Board of Review and censored by the Pennsylvania State Board and found a great many objectionable features remaining.?®


Lathrop mentioned in his book that the church had found fault in both Pennsylvania and Ohio with pictures passed by the censor boards of those states.

In 1921, a church survey had

shown 20 per cent of the films in Pennsylvania to contain too much sex, crime or violence.

In Ohio the figure on

objectionable pictures for the same year was 30.3 per cent.79 Other objections to censorship were that it stifled the art of the cinema; censor boards were an unnecessary expense or the censors themselves were mercenary;

the dele­

tions made by the censors were biased or ridiculous; and censorship had a negative effect on films and contributed nothing to their improvement.

These objections which have

not been classified under any previous section of this chapter follow: Professor Thrasher of New York said that many boards censored films merely to justify their salaries;


?® Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, op. c i t ., p. 80. ?9 Lathrop, o£. cit., pp. 10-11.

176 many costly and unjust deletions were made.

He felt that

political censorship existed only for revenue for the state and for the individuals,

therefore it was a form of "racket."

Of the effect on art, Thrasher said censorship often inhibit­ ed the style of the creative artist by looming as a bogey all through production to the writer, ducer, e_t al.

the director, the pro­

This acted to stultify the film and to sap

the vitality of an otherwise virile art.

He pointed out

that upon a second screening of a doubtful film, the censors often needed their notes to remember what they had found objectionable in the first place, objections;

and the reasons for their

and that agencies reviewing appealed cases need­

ed the censors' notes to tell what had been deleted.


thought harshly of state and civil censorhip boards because, ’’Practically, the laws cannot be easily applied because of the vagueness of their provision {Y|

and the actual dele­

tions and banning of films depend on the personal religious, and political bias of the censors.1’®® The introduction to the book, What Shocked the Censors, was written by Professor Eduard C. Lindeman whose admonition that censorship might accrue to unscrupulous authorities appeared earlier in this chapter. 1933 >

The book was published in

and a description of it appeared in Chapter IV of this

Thrasher, op. cit., pp. 295-97*

177 paper.

Many of Lindeman’s remarks related only to the

censorship regulations of New York, but others applied equally to all regulations.

He told that the five elements which

were most considered by the New York Board in censoring films were sex, crime, violence, religion and government.


according to the New York laws, were not to be obscene, indecent, immoral or tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime.

Lindeman wondered:

could be set for these;

(1 ) whether explicit standards

(2 ) whether contact with the reality

of the five elements named above would actually corrupt morals or incite to crime;

(3 ) whether agencies might not impose a

cure worse than the disease;

(i|_) whether agencies so impowered

as state censorship boards might not use their power to bar progress. He pointed out the divergency of opinions or morality that existed in the world, and condemned the negativeness of the censors’ approach. . . . . Sex, Crime, or Violence. These are realistic themes, Jsaid LindemanJ especially in a civilization still dominat­ ed by the Puritan conception of sex and by the midVictorian fantasy of romance; . . . . But, we cannot blame the producers for the choice of these themes; these are vivid and graphic items in our culture. . . .”2 He questioned the right of censors to make elimina­ tions from pictures when newspapers did as much harm and were


x What Shocked the Censors, op. cit., p. 8 . 8 2

I b i d . ,

p .


178 unchecked.

He illustrated the relativity of right and

wrong with a story about the film, I_ Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

Public sympathy had been inevitably thrown to

the side of the protagonist, played by sympathetic Paul Muni, because, though he had broken a law, his punishment was more evil than his c r i m e . j n summary of censorship Lindeman said, ” . . .

a society cannot be reared.upon an edifice of

fear, and all censorship is at the bottom a manifestation of fear.

. . .”814. More comments from the Motion Picture Herald article

by Dr. Russell Potter of Columbia University included a criticism of censorship for its inhibiting effect on the growth of pictures.

He told of the examination at Columbia

of pictures rejected by the New York Board of Censors, and reported that none of them were found to be obscene, in­ decent, immoral,

sacrilegious or of a character which would

tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime.

He further spoke

disparagingly of the Legion of Decency, the D. A. R., other women's clubs and church w o m e n 1s groups, calling them "pres­ sure g r o u p s . D r .

Potter's recommendations for the

83 ibid., p. l^. The New York Board had tried to avoid sympathy for the criminal by deleting the indication of the fact that prisoners were made to labor for l6 hours a day. ^ Ibid., p. 12 . Potter, loc. cit.

179 improvement of pictures appear in the final section of this chapter. In addition to the data on the motion picture prefer­ ences of children given by William Blatz of the University of Toronto, there was also a statement by him regarding the character of the censors themselves*

Blatz asserted, ". . .

censorship, prohibition, and boycotting have always assisted the unworthy to survive..


Other arguments besides the right of the individual to make a choice in pictures, presented b y Governor McKelvie of Nebraska against the proposed censorship bill presented to him in 1921, included the item of the additional expense of a state agency.

Further, he listed crimes published in

the news papers and pointed out that since the press was not censored, pictures also ought not to be.^7 One of the members of the forum which met in Kansas City, Missouri, to decide the worth of the municipal censor­ ship board there, was Dr. Burris Jenkins, pastor of the Kansas City Community Church.

Dr. Jenkins told the assembly

that he had opposed film censorship in his sermons many times, and that until the board was dissolved, he would


op. cit., p. Pipij.*

Beman, _o£. cit., pp. 192-93*

180 continue to do so.®® Professor deMille, writing retrospectively of his ex­ periences ed in

with censors in the early days of pictures, remark­

hisHollywood Saga:

. . .Once holders of public office had learned that the motion picture, with its vivid, emotional appeal, might stimulate new ideas among the people, steps were taken to throttle the voice of the infant a r t and prevent its being used to set forth any thought which was not com­ pletely endorsed by the various churches, the Constitu­ tion of the United States (except that part about free speech), the W. C. T. U. and the D. A. R. Public policy made it better to let sleeping dogmas l i e . 9 In his Scribner1s article,

deMille said that history

had proved in the past that while censorship damaged art, it had not acted to preserve public morality.

He wondered what

would have happened if Cromwell, whose condemnation of Shakes­ p e a r e ’s works was well known, had come into power in England a few years earlier.

He felt that censors caused a distor­

tion of life on the screen and ruined pictures because they distorted human laws "to conform to those of Pennsylvania.’1 He criticized Hamlin Garland for approving censorship and pointed out that Garland doubtless had never had his work ruined by a censor to the point of "mid-Victorian mediocrity." Continuing with this he said: . . . It is difficult, however, for anyone who has not been through the bitter experience to realize the ®® Kenneth Force, ”K. C. Forum Against Censorship,” Motion Picture Herald, 127:j?8, April 17, 1937* deMille, Hollywood Saga, op. cit., pp. 86-87

3.81 asininity, the prudery, the blatant bigotry exerted by some of these experts In i n d e c e n c y . 90 He also pointed out that laws provided for punishment of abuses of the freedom of speech and of publication, but only after the fact and not before it had been proven that any harm had been done as in the case of film censorship. In criticism of censors for being mercenary, deMille again recalled the old days and continued: . . . Inasmuch as these prophets of prudery usually accepted a good fee for their operation of artistic sterilization, we who made pictures were sometimes led to wonder whether commercialized virtue might not be as unhealthy for the country as commercialized vice, while utterly lacking the latter1s brighter side.91 Judge Lindsey's final arguments against censors in­ cluded a reference to the failure of Prohibition.

He suggest­

ed that some reformers got so enthusiastic about their cause that they lost sight of the best way to achieve their aims. He pointed out the disagreements among the various censor boards in their conflicting judgments on the same film.


a plea for the freedom of the screen he said: . . . The progress of art, scienee and literature in this country depends upon an unfettered, original creative imagination. There can be no progress or creative work anywhere with the hobble of censorship on these things at the helm. Freedom of thinkers, scientists and artists does not mean degeneracy. It means justice, truth, progress, happiness, health and beauty. The chains of

deMille, Scribner's, op. cit., pp. 231-36. deMille, Hollywood Saga, op. cit., p. 2£2.

182 censorship mean irritation, reaction, bigotry, vice, immorality, gloom, degeneracy and death.92 V.


Actions of the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has

been the target of many an irate writer, artist and critic for many years. morality,

What the Church has done in the name of

there critics have condemned as bigotry, suppres­

sion, and selfishness.

The following is a compilation of

some of the actions of the Roman Church in the way of censor­ ship • The Papal Index which lists writers whose works are forbidden to be read by the members of the Paith bears, among others, the names of Bacon, Locke, Addison, Goldsmith, Macauley, Spinoza, Dante, Moliere, Voltaire, Dumas, Rousseau, and Zola. In more modern times the Church was responsible for many of the provisions of the Motion Picture Production Code which was written by one of its priests under the direction of one of its most eminent laymen.

92 Perlman,

In 193^ it organized the

op. cit., p. 60.

93 1 have insisted in this chapter, as well as through­ out the entire paper, upon referring to the Roman Catholic Church by that name and not by the word "catholic0 alone, be­ cause of the possible confusion with the Anglican Catholic or Episcopal Church whose views and doctrine differ in many ways from those of the former. The word "Church" in this section, unless otherwise indicated, refers to the Roman Catholic Church.

183 National Legion of Decency to boycott the industry into sub­ mission to its demands.

It was estimated that between seven

and nine millions of people signed the Legion's p l e d g e . 9^4In the past twenty years its hierarchy has issued bans and restrictions on such films as Dodsworth, Rembrandt and Anna Karenina for not conforming to the regulations on the sacred­ ness and permanence of marriage; The Shape of Things to Gome by H. G. Wells because it admitted of no higher Being in the world of the future; Prankenstein because it implied that others than God could create a man; The Birth of a Baby be­ cause it might ’’shake the £Roman3

Catholic attitude that

marriage and birth are phenomena exclusively subject to ec­ clesiastical d i c t a ”95; all films whose plots were resolved by suicide; Blockade because it painted a bad picture of Roman Catholics in Spain; Gentlemen's Agreement (in Spain) because it was ’’poison” to say that a Christian was not superior to a Jew9&; The Devil is a Woman (in Spain) because this was contrary to scriptural teachings;

and Per Apfel 1st

Ab because it presented an unorthodox picturization of Hell. It was also through instigation by the Church that the plot 9U- Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, op. cit., p. 123. 95 ’’Legion of Decency Exposes Itself,” Film Survey, 12:5, August, 1938. 98 itipke Qensors Raise a Howl,” Life, 25:57, October 2 5 , 1914. 8.

of Les Miserables was changed from that of the book which was banned because the church had failed the protagonist. Because of the objections to Blockade, pressure was exerted by the Roman Church on the manager of the Radio City Music Hall in New York to prevent his running the film; was a Roman Catholic).

(the manager

Parewell to Arms was given an "A"

rating by the Legion of Decency after the

Church had forced

the producer to add a distinctly non-Hemingway impromptu wedding ceremony into the script.

And the Church was respon­

sible for the removal of mention in the recent Three Musketeers of Richelieu’s having been a cardinal.

The Church had been

able to learn nothing of the carefully guarded German pro­ duction of Per Apfel 1st Ab (The Apple is Down or "Plucked” ) until a Bavarian priest put aside his habit long enough to get a job at the studio and steal a script, where upon the Church banned the film.

While it is true that not all of

these restrictions occurred in the United States, neverthe­ less the meaning of the word "catholic” is "universal.” Reasoning of the;Church. . . . The Church does not wish to deny or conceal the existence of divorce or adultery or suicide .or any other evil but it feels that it is important that they should be presented aesthetically from an orthodox point of view. . . .97

^ Margaret Parrand Thorp, America at the Movies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939)* P» 2o6.

185 The method of classification used by the Legion of Decency is that of giving each motion picture a letter designation as to its suitability for audiences of various age levels. h A 2'’


r,Aln films are approved for general patronage;

are approved for adults; f,B fl are objectionable in part; classifies condemned pictures.

Examples of forbidden

material are honorable, birth control, lightly treated divorce and double entendre in dialogue.

Thorp pointed out

that in their concern for morals over aesthetics, some of the intelligent reviewers for the Legion of Decency who may have admired the art in a picture were forced to reject it on moral grounds.

Since the enforcement of the Production Code,

this situation has arisen more often with foreign films than with those from Hollywood.

After the affair of Blockade in

which the Church stood with the Roman Catholic and Fascist element, there was resentment because of the inference that the Church opposed the Communists who were being ruthlessly oppressed.

To defend itself against any such further miscon­

ceptions, the Church issued an edict saying it would oppose any film propagating teachings contrary to those of establish­ ed moral leaders.

This edict came from L'Office Catholique

International du Cinematographe,

the federation to which the

Legion of Decency and similar organizations of eleven other countries belong. A writer for the Hollywood Reporter echoed the quotation

186 which introduced this section by saying that the Church recognized sin and objected to its presentation only when it was pictured as anything less evil than sin.98 The arguments offered by Bishop Cantwell were that bad films were the product of the evil minds of the producers, and that education was helpless in the face of so many morally injurious films. 7

One of his explanations was that

per cent of the motion picture writers were pagans.99 Criticisms of the Church*

As if in protest against

Bishop Cantwell's statement that paganism was prevalent in the industry, Ernst and Lorentz maintained that the Produc­ tion Code was wrong to rule that the

Church should always

be protected while agnostics and atheists were criticized. They argued that freedom to worship, as guaranteed by the Constitution, meant also freedom not to










An article in a 1938 issue of the now extinct Film Survey-*-0-*- said that after bringing the industry to its knees in 193^i on moral issues,

the Church was now attempting to

impose regulations on social subjects.

The unnamed author

W. R. Wilkerson, "Trade Views,'* Hollywood Reporter, January 29, 19^4-7 • 99 Perlman, o£. cit., p. 20-23* -*•00 Ernst and Lorentz, o£. cit., p. 97» Film Survey, op. cit., pp. 1 and 3*

187 of the article derided the Church-demanded deletion of material which the public would probably overlook*

He point­

ed out that the strongest powers in the P. C. A., Breen and Quigley, were Roman Catholics who were both very interested in their own advancement and "Pascistic'1 ideas, and that through them the Roman Church dictated the policies of pictures which the whole world saw* from the Protestant organ,

He quoted an article

the Christian Century on the

question of censorship, regulations imposed by the Roman Church: There are at least three reasons why Protestants and Jews cannot delegate their authority in this field: first, because it is as much theirs as anyone’s; second, because the Roman Catholic identity of Morality is not identical with the Protestant or Jewish; third, because a [^Roman] Catholic campaign for ’decency’ inevitably works around to a program of censorship under [Roman] Catholic control, going far beyond the requirements of mere decency. . . . The exclusiveness and unwillingness of the Legion of Decency to cooperate with any non^ Catholic agency or even to recognize the existence of such, invites the interpretation that the defense of what is commonly understood by decency is not its sole objective.102 The writer of the Film Survey article went on to s ay that the P. C* A. rulings on suicide,

divorce, and birth

control were of strictly Roman Church origin. even if moral issues were granted,

He felt that

the Church's dabbling in

politics indicated a lack of regard for interests other than its own.

He gave illustrations of pictures of the time which

102 Ibid., p. 5.

188 demonstrated, that in defending its own beliefs, it inadvert­ ently or deliberately recommended films which glorified militarism, were detrimental to labor, or were anti-Semetic or anti-Negro.

Regarding the incident of the Church's

objection to Walter Wanger's Blockade, he commented: Powerful support for the picture which rallied from religious, peace, labor and educational groups through the country indicates that the Legion speaks for the Roman Catholic hierarchy and for no one else.103 The Jewish attitude toward the Roman Church's censor­ ship action was expressed by Rabbi Sidney E. Goldstein of New York whose thoughtful consideration of the limitations of Constitutional freedom appeared in a previous section of this chapter.

Goldstein observed that the rulings of the

Code on suicide, divorce, and birth-control were easily identifiable with the Roman Church.

He did not attempt to

justify suicide morally, but he did 3ay that many believed divorce was a desirable way out of a degrading and humiliat­ ing marriage,

and that birth-control was a fundamental move­

ment which had both social and scientific support. Perhaps the most scathing criticism of the RomanChurch was that of Robert- Forsythe in his New Theater article, f,Who Speaks for Us?H.l®^

The Pope's encyclical letter on

-*-®3 L o g . cl t. 10i|. perlman,

op. ci t., pp* 218-2 1 ,

105 p0bert Forsythe, MWho Speaks for us?H, New Theater, 5:609> August, 1936.

motion pictures to the bishops of the United States was the initial target of his attack*

In addition to praising the

industry and the enforcement of the Production Code, the Pope had warned the bishops to be vigilant against further mis­ behavior on the part of American films..

This, Forsythe felt,

was an appeal for the imposition of further church dogma upon the industry.

He claimed that, n . . . every censorship

which starts out as a moral crusade ends up as an Instrument for suppressing thought.

. . .",106 an£ that while the Church

wanted to protect the home and the family, it was most inter­ ested in protecting the status quo.

He said, f*. . . Progress

has been brought about by constant warfare upon religion, magic and superstition.

. .,**107 and cited several of the

illustrations listed under the first division of this section on the Church.

He pointed to the fact that during the

Italian rape of Ethiopia nothing was said from the Vatican, but when American films threatened to weaken the Pope's power, he sent his encyclical.

He added that emphasized sex in

such leg display shows as those of Earl Carroll and George White was not disapproved, but anything conflicting with Church dogma was banned.

He cried out that Americans had

always fought against religious suppression and that they

Ibid., p. 6 . 1°7 Ibid., p. 7.

190 ought not to give In now to the selfishness of the Pope in the matter of film censorship, because: . . . Even those who profess to be philosophical rather than vicious find themselves discovering immorality in actions which are really only threats at their posses­ sions. So censorship which begins as the purest re­ proach of vulgarity eventually ends in suppression of thought . . . ,10o VI.

THE EFFECT OF ADVERTISING ON MOTION PICTURE CENSORSHIP . . . If the pictures were as bad as the posters sometimes indicate, the conditions would be much more serious. Un­ doubtedly some of the harsh criticism of motion pictures ased on what the critics think ’ the films are. . . .x This observation was made in 1922 by the Reverend

Charles N. Lathrop.

It was by such statements as this that

Will Hays realized the need for a clean-up, not only of films themselves, but also of the material which advertised them. William Lyon Phelps of Yale expressed a similar' opinion, how­ ever, in 1936, after the A. C. A. had gone into effect.


said, u . . . the advertisements of movies, either in the news­ papers or at the portals of the theater, usually give them away; apparently some appeal to lust and some to idiocy.

. ."HO

One of the items of the Declaration of Purpose b y the Protestant Churches in a modified movement similar to that

108 Ibid., p. 9 « Lathrop, op. ci t ., p. 8 . 110 Perlman, op. cit., p. 93*

191 of the Roman Church's Legion of Decency was the denunciation of salacious advertising of pictures and commendatory news­ paper reviews for immoral films. A possible explanation of Reverend Twombly's crusade against films was the conclusions he was forced to draw from their advertisements.

Examples cited by him of pictures in

the middle 1920*3 follows:

Helen of Troy was put before the

public with the initials of each word in the title in red (HOT) and a caption for the film read quaintly ”An A. D. Mamma in a B. C. town.11

The Secret Ho ur1s advertisement

was ’’Guilty of a Secret Hour of Sacred Love.”

A review of

Grass Widows said, ”ln these divorcing days you never know exactly who's who.

A sparkling comedy pepped up with just

the proper dash of sex.”lll Some, however, felt that advertising could be used successfully as a measure of creating interest in better films and in classifying pictures for audiences of various levels of age, intelligence and moral standards.

This was one of

the methods used by the Legion of Decency and b y many of the better film councils. Dr. Inglis of the University of Washington listed this method in her plan of Improvement for pictures and the censor­ ship problem.

She would have had membership in the M. P. A. A.

Beman, o£. cit., pp. llfY-i+S*

192 be optional for all branches of the industry so that exhibi­ tors could select pictures for the audiences to which they catered, and could advertise these films as P. C. A. endorsed for those who wanted their entertainment pre-expurgated, or independent for those who preferred liberal entertainment. This method would also extend to the content as well as the tone of pictures which would be advertised as mature content as opposed to the musical comedy or cowboy type of picture. She felt that this system would win friends for pictures and decrease the demand for c e n s o r s h i p . H 2 VII.



Professor deMille advocated parental guid­

ance as the measure for preventing juvenile crime, since all motion pictures could not logically be made for c h i l d ren . H 3 Governor McKelvie of Nebraska agreed with those who said children should be protected, but believed that parents should perform this duty.

He said that with proper parental

rearing, children could not be corrupted by films,

and that

letting a state agency decide in matters affecting the child, the importance of the home would be minimi zed.^

112 Inglis, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, op. cit., pp. If?6-5?7* deMille, Scribner* s, op. ci t ., p. 235* Beman,

op. cit., p. 195* '

193 Rabbi Lee J. Levinger of Columbus, Ohio, echoed the opinions above by saying, . * . it is merely mental laziness that makes most parents bewail the effect of the movies on their children, declar­ ing that Hollywood is a debaucher of the young. Censor­ ship, like charity, should begin at home. If the parent is really on the job, the movies will not hurt his child. In fact, instead of a curse, they may easily become a blessing.115 Education.

’’The remedy against improper movies Is

not to be found in a censorship, but in the education of the public to take a stand against such movies.”ll6

This was

the solution offered in 1925* hy the same Judge George W. Martin of New York whose comment on the sensuality of pictures is the second quotation in this ehapter.

The advice

has been given by a number of other legal authorities and educators since that time.

Among them was Professor Thrasher

of New York University who said that though education was slow, it was a more lasting method of public betterment, for it would encourage the people to undertake programs of selection rather than agitation for censorship with its negativeness.117 Dr. Potter of Columbia suggested using education oh the production end of pictures by teaching cinema courses as Martin, oj>. cit., p. 71. Il6 Beman, o£. cit., p. 218. 1:L7 Thrasher,

oje. cit», pp. 291 and 300*

19k his school did.-*--*-®

Judge Goldstein of New York, as mentioned

under the section on youth in this chapter, believed in education over censorship.

Judge Lindsey used the illustra­

tion of St. George and the Dragon of Evil.

Reformers, he

claimed, would kill the dragon so that St. George could go unhampered on his way.

But, stretching his analogy further,

Lindsey recommended that St. George be provided with armor in order to battle with the dragon himself.

By the same

token, he would have provided the child with education and encouragement so that he could enter life’s ways equipped to cope with evil.

Quoting a prophet of old Lindsey said,

’’’Overcome evil with good.*

He never said to overcome it

with governmental suppression and the hate-breeding violence of forcible censorships. Boycotts.

. . .”H 9

Professor Dale of Ohio pointed out in his

article entitled, ’’Public Called Best

C e n s o r s ” 1 2 0

that people

staying away from films was much more effective than official regulation of them.

This opinion was shared by Rabbi Goldstein

of New York City and Dr. Inglis of Washington. Production Code.



also endorsed certain

118 potter, loc. cit. 119 Perlman,

o£. cit., pp. 63 and

120 ’’public Called Best Censors,” loc. c i t . 121 inglis, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, o p . cit., pp. l^Jp-^7*

195 features of the Hays Office method because, she said, com­ plete freedom from all censorship has been proven in the past to be unsuccessful; the public will not accept every­ thing as evidenced by the protests which resulted in the formation of the M. P. P. D. A. in 1922 and in the Legion of Decency in 193lj-«

Her approval was won particularly by the

branches which accumulated information about the public’s complaints and disseminated it throughout the industry. Bishop Cantwell of Los Angeles admitted that the Code which was written by one of his brothers of the Cloth was a very good idea, but it had proven a failure.

While he did

not advocate federal censorship, nevertheless, he predicted its enforcement unless the Code were observed more carefully.122 The Reverend James K. Friedrich, president of Cathedral Films and an Anglican priest, was so in favor of the Code that he threatened that if it were raised,

the Protestant

Churches would organize their own legion for decency to com­ pel pictures to be moral.

His 19^9 article stated that there

was not too much censorship and that if producers would remedy the current box-office slump, they should make better films

and not employ so much sex,sensation

122 perlman, Hews,

and sub tie t y * ^ 3

o£* cit., pp. 22-2 5 *

123 «priest Scores Goldwyn Talk,**Hollywood September 17* 19^4-9•


196 Another clergyman whose praise the Code had w o n was Dr. Daniel A. Poling, editor of the Christian Herald, who claimed that nothing could work better than the Code and that any industry was at its best when self-governed.-^4 Completing an appraisal of the Code by all the major religious denominations in this country, Roman and Anglican Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, Rabbi Sidney Goldstein of New York represented the last group.

He ap­

proved of the Code under the present system which enforced its powers, but feared for the possible decrease in this power if the producers who sponsored the Code became inclined to ignore its provisions*125 Other recommendations.

M . . . I f censorship were

removed, the practice of endorsement of films by such adver­ tising agencies would become more common and effective.

. . « 126

The advertising agencies to which Professor Eduard Lindeman referred in this quotation were those resembling the National Board of Review.

He felt that the most satisfactory system

of motion picture regulation would be that of a more widely publicized National Board of Review classifying films which would no longer be hampered by official censor boards.

’’church Leader Lauds Industry Production Code,” - Motion Picture Herald, l62:37> March 9* 1946. 125 Perlman, _o£. cit., p. 22lj.« 126 what Shocked the Censors, op. c i t ., p. 11.

197 Another advocate of the National Board of Review was Professor Thrasher of New York University who recommended the use of its lists in conjunction with his plan to educate instead of censor.

He felt that better pictures would result

from an educated public’s selection and demand.1^7 Dr. Inglis favored a revised Motion Picture Associa­ tion which would represent, equally, the interests of all producing companies, the small independents as well as the Mbig five,” M. G. M., Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox, R. K. 0., and Warner Brothers.

She believed that coopera­

tion among all the studios would act to discourage any pro­ ducer whose flagrant ignoring of rules of decency would cast reflection upon the industry as a whole.

As mentioned above

under advertising, she favored voluntary observance of the Production Code with the stipulation that P. C. A.-endorsed films be pointedly advertised as such so that the public could anticipate the tone and scope of pictures not so en­ dorsed.

To obviate the fear of misuse of this regulation as

was often felt against government control, a board of reliable people would report annually to those of the public who felt concern,

the number and kind of rejections and changes made

during production.

She further recommended an,

agency of

distributors and exhibitors to whom could come recommendations

127 Thrasher, o£. cit., pp. 305>-06*

198 from the public who were, in the last analysis, the final judges of the worth of pictures#

She felt that the various

artists’ guilds of the industry should be represented in the determining of Code policies so that they might voice their opinions.

She further recommended periodical changes in the

Code that it might most fairly represent the changing moral and social standards in the United









Other recommendations were offered by Dr. Inglis in her book, Freedom of the Movies.

Pursuing her suggestion to

allow exhibitors the right to select the picture-s they wanted for the audiences they wishes to attract, she pointed out that the standard local decency regulations of communities would be sufficient to permit police control over pictures which were drastically obscene, lewd, e t .cetera.

By way of

encouraging the artistic development of the art of cinema, she suggested the production of experimental films to be exhibited in small art theaters and subsidized by the major companies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and by the profits from foreign films and re-releases of old American films which had been unsuccessful for the general public but which would attract the smaller audiences which patronized art theaters.129

128 jnglis, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, op. cit., pp. l|?6-5>8. 129 Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, op. c i t ., pp. 202-03*

199 The solution offered by Rabbi Goldstein,

in addition

to the popular boycotting of films and a strict enforcement of the Production Code, was the establishment of a .committee composed of members of the industry, the schools and the churches to decide on subjects before they were ever selected for production.

This ncommittee of experts in the field of

social psychology and social ethics’* would be under the direction of an executive staff which would enforce their rulings.

He said the judges of-the group would be trained

experts in social science, psychology and ethics.


felt that since the Production Code had proven a failure, the only hope the industry had of preventing federal censor­ ship was social control from thq outside,130 Reverend Lathrop presented a list of means which would be equally or more effective than censorship for solving the motion picture problem.

Reverend Lathrop's booklet appeared

in 1922 and it will b e noted that while some of the recom­ mendations he listed are obsolete today, others are being employed or were repeated by more recent authorities as this fifty-year-old problem. 1.

License producers and distributors according to

the rules governing interstate commerce, and exhibitors under the usual regulations for public entertainment.

130 Perlman, o|>. cit., pp. 227-31.

200 2.

Organize local clubs, church organizations, et

cetera to enforce existing laws. 3*

Familiarize local exhibitors with the kind of

pictures desired. !}..

Organize to publicize good pictures and to

encourage their display. 5.

Organize pressure to force cheap theaters in

foreign sections to raise their standards. 6.

Show children's films at matinees and on certain

nights, and have all other pictures for adults. 7*

Organize local groups, especially in small towns,

to establish amusement regulations. 8.

Have the press review films which were to play

for several days in one city. 9.

Have exhibitors give advance summaries of films

to be shown. 10.

Have picture advertisements watched by citizen

committees or the police. 11.

Encourage greater and wider regard for the advice

of better films councils.-^l Reverend Lathrop added a note of encouragement by saying that true art was not likely to be condemned as immoral,

except by extremists, and cited as an illustration

Lathrop, o£. cit., pp. 33—3^4-*

201 that there were no draped statues at the Metropolitan museum.

His final statement, used elsewhere in this chapter,

is worthy of repeating: . . . Emphasis should be placed on the encouragement of the good rather than the suppression of the evil. And the motion picture screen should be thought of and talked of not as a troublesome problem but as one of the chief assets of the community for education and better­ ment. 132

132 Ibid., p.


CHAPTER V II OPINIONS OP MEMBERS OP THE INDUSTRY AND PROFESSIONAL CRITICS If poets and players are to be restrained, let them be restrained, as other subjects are, by the known laws of their country; if they offend, let them be tried, as every Englishman ought to be, by God and their country. Do not let us submit them to the arbitrary will and pleasure of any one man. Lord Chesterfield, 1737^ Through the ages artists have cried for freedom from censorship and critics have either supported or vituperated them.

With the birth of art of motion pictures came a new

band of artists who have been fighting for the liberty of their medium for more than fifty years, and new critics who have encouraged or impeded their contentions.

This chapter

is a chronological compilation of the views, arguments and suggestions of critics and motion picture people for the past three decades on the subjects of freedom and of censor­ ship.

Critics representing particular organizations or

vocations or who have considered specific phases and stages of censorship included in previous chapters of the paper whose personal comments have not been mentioned, will be reviewed below.

John Palmer, The Censor and the Theater (New York: Mitchell Kennerly, 191377 P» 7* '

203 1921-1930 In May of 1921, Heywood Broun attacked the Pennsylvania censors in an article for Collier1s Weekly.^

He observed

that in many of the rules of that board for pictures there seemed to be a train of reasoning that films should be adapted to the capacity and mentality of the lowest possible person who might view them.

"The picture-loving public,*1


gibed, "seems to be honeycombed with potential murderers, . incendiaries, and counterfeiters•”

He went on to say that

detective stories containing all sorts of modus operand! of criminals were read by many, including several presidents of the United States who seemed to have been unaffected by them. Why then, he asked, should the censors expect the public to be affected by pictures? One E. J* Dupuy, in August of the same year, made a blanket condemnation of pictures by saying, "The false con­ clusions of screen productions are ruining our girls.”3


explanation was, ’'The [moving picture] producers want the money, and they are willing to make the money at the cost of our national moral health. "4-

These statements were

^ Heywood Broun, Collier's Weekly, 67:15 and ll}.* May 1[|_, 1921, cited by Lemar Taney Beman, Censorship of the Theater and Moving Pictures (New York: H. W. Wilson Company, X93 1')'” pp7”226 £n d 230;---3 Ibid . , p. l60. ^ Ibid., p. 1 6 2 .

2Oi|. transcribed from Transactions of the Coromonwealth Club of California, the members of which were evidently not in com­ plete accord,

sinee the same issue contained the following

observation by Peter B. Kyne:

"It i s n ’t nice to spend

$150,000 on a production, and then have some fellow, who is absolutely unqualified to judge, say whether the thing is moral or immoral, for, after all, immorality is largely a question of geography**’5

However, in the same article, he

opined that motion picture people generally would be pleased to eliminate children entirely if that meant they would be rid of censorship.& In 1922, Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer,

one-time head of

the Pennsylvania State Board of Censors, published his book, The Morals of the Movies*7

In addition to the remark pre­

viously recorded about children’s questioning their parents about pictures, Dr. Oberholtzer further warned against the dangers inherent in the probable discussion of films which would occur between young couples.

He also feared that

small communities would have their thoughts and conversations affected, and claimed that such problems as pictures

^ Ibid., p. 220. ^ ibid., p. 88. 7 Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, The Morals of the Movies (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Publishing Company, 1 9 2 2 )“ 'p, 2 3 .

205 .presented ought not to be dwelt


In the January 10 Issue of the New Republic In 1923,9 Charles Merz made the following observation:


costs more in surrendered intellectual freedom than it can possibly save in any theoretic cheek upon 'temptation' and, meanwhile, It may actually whet an interest in the very evils it struggles to suppress.”10 The following June, 1923, Mrs. Charles E. Merriam ex­ pressed the belief that, ’’Films are more injurious to our young people than the smuttiest magazine ever published, for they [the young people, presumably] are led unsuspectingly into the web.”H

The ”web” which Mrs. Merriam mentioned

was the false standards set for children by their screen heroes.

When they innocently attempted to emulate the

actions they saw on the screen, they got Into moral, physical, and legal difficulties.

She said that censors were ’’self-

appointed moralists” just as policemen were who protected us from crime, and heartily approved of censorship as a means of reducing the evils caused by films. 8 A reference to the first chapter of this paper will show that 1922 was the early period of the unbridled exploita­ tion of sex themes which had followed the ’’great War.” 9 Cited by Beman, op. cit., p. 219• 10 Examples of this remark are given by William C. deMille and Avery Hale in the section of Chapter V of this paper devoted to Philadelphia. 11 Beman, op. cit., pp. l6l. 12 Ibid., p. 80.

206 The October 8 issue of the Los Angeles Examiner in 1923, carried an editorial protesting against federal censor­ ship of motion pictures.

Evidently there had been a 1917

equivalent to the Byron Price Office which operated during the Second War; and though the writer admitted the possible need for such a censorship while hostilities were still in progress, he now felt that such restrictions constituted a curtailment of freedom. Inaccurate adaptations for the screen caused a critic for the World1s Work to ask in 192i|., "What is the use of employing our teachers to inculcate in our children a love of good literature if that taste for the classics is to be nullified by films which give a distorted view of life and which often distort and pervert the classies?”13 The following year the Independent attacked censorship of motion pictures as a negative protection for children. The writer mentioned that our civilization rested on virtues rising from the home, not those imposed from above by authority. He claimed that boys and girls properly reared would not be made into criminals by looking at motion pictures.

He ad­

mitted that censorship could eliminate some of the "experi­ ments in indecency" which were put on the screen, but added that only a positive public opinion could effect good movies,

13 cited by Beman, o£. cit., p. 162.

207 schools or newspapers. The censorship idea can be overdone, {the writer continued^. If we assume that American are pallid degenerates who must be protected by authority from every temptation, we can logically proceed to censor everything and destroy self-reliance and character .lqCharles C. Pettijohn,-1-^ former official of the M. P. P. D. A., defended that organization in an article which appeared in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in November, 1926.

It was he who quoted the

figures on the Massachusetts referendum of 1922, which showed that of the 1^8 towns endorsing the censorship proposal, not one had either a theater or a newspaper.

This fact supported

Pettijohn's contention that criticisms and condemnations of pictures came from those who seldom, if ever, saw them.


indicated that unpopularity of state boards by the fact that only seven states (he included Florida, but not Massachusetts) had them, and added that there was no less crime and immoral­ ity in these states than in those not protected by censor­ ship of pictures.

He ridiculed the exactness of the Chicago

board on lawlessness, pointing to the obvious inefficiency of censorship in curbing crime in that city.

The censors,

he claimed, were arbitrary and opinionated; and there was no uniformity in the rules of the several boards which would give motion picture producers a standard to Cited by Beman, op. cit., p. 225* Charles C. PettiJohn, nHow the Motion Picture Governs Itself,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, H?8:15>8-52, November, 19^5.

208 guide their work.

He also admonished the public of the

threats to their liberty which might result from a censor­ ship which began as a preventative, but might ultimately become a dictation.

Regarding the sheltering of children

from the evils of life shown in films he said, "Prepare the child for the path of life— not the path for the child.”1^ In October of 1927* William Randolph Hearst outlined a plan to eliminate corrupting films by the establishment of a federal censorship board which would be composed of representatives of every state.

He said that state boards

had proven themselves inconsistent in their judgments and destructive in their deletions from even wholesome pictures. The federal board, Hearst suggested, would cooperate with the industry through the Hays Office.I? Also in 1927» Will Hays himself gave a statement which echoed several of the points mentioned by Pettijohn the year before.

Hays said pictures were as important as tie

public demand for entertainment and that to stifle them was to stultify nature.

He likened censorship of motion pictures

to the straining of ideas through a sieve. heeling

He objected to

to minorities who had always cried, wThou shalt notlM

^ Ibid., p. l6 l. 17 William Randolph Hearst, MPurer Films Vital to Industry and Public Morals; Federal Censorship Alone Will Guarantee Them,M Los Angeles Examiner, October 13 » 1927*

209 because even when these minorities had their way, there was inconsistency among their decisions.

Nineteen boards might

pass a scene which a twentieth would reject.

If one board

contained a lawyer, unscrupulous lawyers were forbidden.


inland state might forbid bathing suits which coastal states advertised.

One local board had eliminated most of a scene

of a Charleston dancer from a picture which played in a house featuring living Charleston dancers in its stage show. After a consideration of the small number of sucessful state censorship bills and the large number that were defeated, Hays went on to praise pictures for their effec­ tiveness in keeping the family a unit by entertaining all members together.

Censorship, he felt would kill pictures

and cause harm to the public.

Since obscenity was already

a crime, producers would not dare to make obscene pictures. These producers should be granted the same treatment as news­ paper publishers who are punished after they have printed illegal matter. Of children Hays said the attendance at that time was only 8 per cent.

He admitted that all pictures were not made

for children but that many were.

Rather than preventing

children from being bad by censoring pictures for them, Hays felt that they should be encourage to be good and that this was the duty of the parents. The article told of the logic of producer-regulation

210 of the industry and of the mutual agreement not to adapt many of the popular books of the day because their immoral subjects would be a matter of bad business.


tion was best, Hays said, because it started at the source of production and determined content rather than at the end, as censorship did, and distorted it.

His solution to the

problem of poor pictures was that the public should support the better pictures to encourage their production.


wise the producers would continue to turn out the sort of films which made the most money. In 1927, George Jean Nathan's Art of the Night^-9 was published.

Nathan was very unflattering in his appraisal

of pictures and disagreed with those of the

industry and the

press who blamed

In fact, Nathan

bad movies on


claimed, the parts deleted by the censors were better left . unseen.

He blamed bad pictures on mercenary producers.


explanation of the failure of the movie to reach art status was that it tried too laboriously to imitate the stage.


predicted the decline and eclipse of pictures with the coming of sound because the only people who contributed to them in entertainment were pantomimists who were unable to t alk, and

Beman, o£. cit., pp. 196-2 09 . 19 George Alfred A. Knopf,

Jean Nathan's Art of the Night (New Inc., 1928), pp. 106-39.


211 because the importation of stage actors who could talk would add further to the destructive imitation of stage technique and plot situations. Another 1928 book was the bitterly sarcastic T_o the Pure by Morris h. Ernst and William

S e a g l e . 2 0

They repeated

the argument that there was no consistency of interpretation as to what was obscene, lewd, lascivious, e_t cetera, no unity, no harmony and no common purpose in the censorship of the several arts*

They questioned the capacity of one art over

another to excite passions or to gain sympathy.

They gave

as the origin of the much used word "obscene,” nobscena” which was ancient G-reek for that which may not be seen upon the stage* They questioned the legality of motion picture censor­ ship because, though the producer was not subject to criminal prosecution,

still his films were censored in advance.

’’This,*’ they said, ”is the only example of an admitted previous censorship in the land of the free.”^l

To explain

what must have been the reasoning behind such a breach of freedom, they said:; . . . The censorship is based . . . upon the assumed low character of the masses of movie patrons [ratherj than

20 Morris Ernst and William Seagle, To the Pure (New York: The Viking Press, 1928), pp. vii, 33~37,T3-I£87~27lj.-75, 200 -2 0 1 . 21 Ibid*, p. lj.3*

212 upon the greater capacity for demoralization which is inherent in the movie as an art form . . . .^2 They compared

this censorship with the action of the

New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in more rigid censorship of literature.

calling for

This, they claimed,

n . . . amounts to the same thing as urging that since our population is feeble-minded we should take steps to make them even niore feeble-minded.

. . .'*23

They complained that critics of literature were apathetic toward the cinema because they did not consider it an art.

Ernst and Seagle pointed to The Cabinet of Dr.

Caligari and Potempkin as classics of this art.


tinued, to say that when classics of literature were adapted for the screen they had to undergo purification before pro­ duction to reduce deletions afterward, tions the novel,


the short story,


and cited as illustra­

Scarlet Letter, the opera,

Carmen, and

Like many others of the day they blamed much of the troubles of the industry on false advertising.


such as Madame duBarry becoming Passion and The Admirable Crichton appearing as Male and Pemale either frightened intelligent people away frorrrworthy pictures or lured

22 Ibid** P* Loc. cit.

213 sex-seekers in to dull ones; but always brought down the wrath of ’’the pure.” The writers argued obscene words or saw lewd

that almost every adult heard pictures or indecent

poetry before

or during adolescence; and though these people would admit that they had suffered no harm as a result of this, yet they condemned such things for their children.

Of the subject

unsexed medical diagrams they said, ” . . .

Mystery concern­

ing these scene.

[sexj organs, not the organs themselves, is ob­

. . .”^4-

And they believed that ” . . .

a frankness

of approach is replacing evasion to questions and dishonesty in replies. parents.

. . ,”25 in the raising of the child by modern

Their advocation of frankness extended, almost to

the ’’indulgences of license” against which Eric Johnston spoke a few years

a g o .


of the possible topics for future

screen treatement they said: . . . If society thinks that there are certain themes which no author should, touch under any provocation, it is comparatively easy to forbid any book or play which handles such themes. . . . The depiction of Lesbianism and homosexuality can be forbidden 'till such time as we change our mind. . . .27 The book's title came from the


Titus, 1:1$, ”To the pure all things are pure.”

quotation in Ernst and

24- Ibid., p. 275. 25 L o c . cit. 26 gee Chapter III, page 4-9 > of this paper. 27 ibid., pp. 200-01.

2llj. Seagle felt that since ’’the pure” were supposedly the ones who were insisting upon motion picture censorship,

the quo­

tation adapted to m o d e m times would have the last word changed to ’’impure.” An editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in February of 1929, was directed against the impending Johnson bill in the Ohio Legislature calling for legalization of the censor­ ship of motion picture sound*

The writer admitted the need

for censorship in the early days of film and supported Ohio’s adoption of it in 1913•

But now he felt that pictures were

so improved that the intelligent community needed no politi­ cal overlord to protect its morals* producers were shrewd enough

He pointed out that

to realize that bad pictures

were bad for business, both in the matter of increasing the popularity of films and in obviating the need for political regulation of their moral content*

He advocated leaving

the matter of morals in the hands of the producers and punishing them legally if they abused this trust, but only after they had abused it.^® In June of the same year Edwin W. Hullinger quoted various motion picture figures in an article for the North American Review^9 on the subject of free speech for talking 28 Beman, _o£. cit*, pp. 2l6-17« 29 Edwin W* Hullinger, ’’Free Speech for the Talkies?,” North American Review, 227:737“43> June, 1929*

215 pictures,

Lewis Innerarity, then secretary of Pathef E x ­

change, Incorporated, opposed censorship of Htalkies” after the preposterous deletions made during the silent era.


example was the cutting of a scene in which an expectant mother held up a pair of booties to indicate the imminence of a blessed event,30

Another was the deletion of a scene

in which a puppy was dropped from an airplane and landed in the back seat of a moving car.

The S. P» €• A, had objected

in spite of the fact that during the production the dog had actually only fallen a few feet,

Innerarity wondered whether

the Society feared emulation of this manifestation of cruelty to animals. Hullinger also reported on Harry Warner who said that censorship was the tyrany of one generation over another with different standards.

Warner was quoted as having s aid:

. , , • Everybody . . . knows that America is throwing off the prudery of the past. And yet to 'protect* these 'impressionable* young people, who have grown up in an age of wholesome frankness, the censors cling tenacious­ ly to outworn pruderies which mean nothing to anyone but themselves. . . .W31 Also in 1929, two booklets entitled Keeping it Dark or The Censor's Handbook and The Political Censorship of the Films appeared in England on Censorship of motion

30 Hearts of Humanity. (This was also one of Pro­ fessor deMille's anecdotes in The Hollywood Saga, p. 133*) 31 Ibid., p. 7I4.O.

2 l6 pictures.

While most of the information in them was

peculiar to England, some of it was applicable to motion pictures everywhere.

In the introduction to the first book,

authoress Rebecca West illustrated her thesis that censor­ ship only made people curious, by pointing out the publicity given to homosexuality by the degrading trial of Oscar Wilde and the banning of The Well of Loneliness by Radcliff Hall.

She wrote that she was further convinced of the use­

lessness of censorship after seeing a film which was passed by both the American Hays Office and the British Board of Film Censors which was vulgar, Causton and Young,

dull and worthless.3^

the writers of the book proper,

likened the action of the censors to that of a person who held the handlebars for a beginning cyclist rather than tell­ ing him how to ride and letting him learn by his falls.


claimed that censorship caused evils resulting from sublima­ tion and that abolition of it would: . . . . release for public expression all sorts of pre­ judices that have been magnified by being kept from view, including many grievances that are the more formidable for being partly imaginary. . . .(|33 In the second booklet, the writer, Ivor Montagu voiced some of the complaints that have been heard so often

■xp ^ Bernard Causton and G. Gordon Young, Keeping it Dark or the Censors1 Handbook (London: The Mandrake Press, n. d.77 PP* 3-13. 33 Ibid., pp. l6-22, and (quote) 82.

217 in this country.

People might say or write anything they

liked, subject to prosecution for slander, blasphemy, ob­ scenity or sedition.

They might write a play and show it

privately or, with slight changes, publicly.

But motion

pictures were censored (by the government in

E n g l a n d ) . 3^

At the end of the first of the three decades to be considered in this chapter, came a book, parts of which have been used liberally throughout this paper, by Morris L. Ernst and Pare Lorentz called Censored; The Private Life of the

M o v i e s .35

Much of the book was apparent facetiousness,

but underlying this humorous veneer was determination sup­ ported by illustrations and facts.

Such illustrations were

their observations on the following pictures;

Hain was

severly cut to conform to censorship regulations while Old San Francisco went untouched because God sent an earthquake to save the heroine who had been sold into white slavery. A film called The Prodigal contained a great deal of of­ fensive sexual material but was barely touched because the hero

was chastened, punished and repented, all in

one short


at the end.

the sex in

The authors claimed that

all of

Cecil deMille*s The Ten Commandments was passed because of 3^-1vor Montagu, The Political Censorship of the Films (London: Gollancz, I929T* PP« 3~^-» 35 Morris L. Ernst and Pare Lorentz, Censored; The Private Life of the Movies (New York: J. Cape and H. Smith,

193077"p p 7 ~ 5 -io , 7 9 - tfo, 89, 92- 96 , lij.2- 58 , 170.

218 the big fireworks display by God to Moses; while Jannings' film classic, Variety, was deleted to vapidity by the censors in



After a consideration of the eccentricities of the several state boards,

they summarized their observations by

saying, n . • • each censor has his own pet fears and horrors, and each board views the dangers of life differently.


two censors agree and no two boards coincide in their judg?ment.

. . .”37

They berated the modesty of the censors in

causing pictures to deny and to refuse to show sex on the screen, saying, ” . . • much of this is on a par with Com­ stock's wild fury at seeing a dressmaker's bust-form in a show window.

. . .”38

They pointed out that if modern censorship had operat­ ed during the early days of America, we would still have stocks and whipping posts; there would have been no Revolu­ tionary War; disobedience to Sabbath laws still would not be tolerated; and the conscription in 1917 would have been illegal governmental tyrany.

They further claimed that

pictures of the day were made with the assumption that newspapers were either not read or were wrong to present

36 p

saw this film recently and realized that the story had been entirely altered through censoring which had eliminated almost the entire first reel.


Ifoid., pp. 79~80* 38 ibid., p. 8 9.

219 social ills.

They questioned the right of the censors to

suppress ’’robutness of speech1’ since it was a prevalent part of American speech.

They complained that people who

saw pictures were helpless against censors they did not even know. Regarding federal censorship they said Americans were too heterogeneous to come under one set of standards. They described various federal bills and explained their failures because under them all adults would have been censored to the level of the feeble-minded,

and every motion

and emotion in the country would have been standardized. Several of the bills had provided that statesmen and the clergy should have been protected from ridicule, a provi­ sion with which Ernst and Lorentz vehemently found fault. They pointed out that if semi-nudity were a danger, there was a good deal of peril to be encountered at bathing beaches where impressionable children could see it in three demensions in flesh and blood.

They felt that since the

psychology of the day taught children about l i f e ’s truths, pictures should not be made to distort these facts.


admitted that ideally there should be pictures for children, but insisted that all pictures should not be censored for child audiences. As for religion,

they disagreed with those who would

have children believe that success was a product of Will

220 Power and virtue, and asserted that childish pictures based on this premise would emotionally cripple an adult popula­ tion.

Their explanation of the part of the Bible in which

Genesis said God forbade eating from the Tree of Knowledge, was that early leaders were afraid of education’s changing the status quo (a comment which has since been made of the modern church).

They pointed to" the dangers of ignorance

with, Those who said: ’Keep away from the fruit of knowledgestay pure at the risk of staying dumb,’ brought on the very battles against the early Christians, the Inquisi­ tions of the ages and all of the other tortures develop­ ed in the conflict between those who feared the exper­ iences of life and those who felt that life must be fully experienced no matter what the perils. . . .39 They went on to discuss censorship through the ages and illustrated that when Queen Elizabeth raised the censor­ ship rules of England for a time some of the greatest work was done.

They mentioned the early Americans and their

intolerance of censorship, and pointed out that the Bill of Rights was not even included in the first draft of the Con­ stitution because the freedoms it guaranteed were taken for granted.

They expressed the opinion that censorship of

pictures was a violation of the constitutional right to publish one’s sentiments on all subjects, and that states which had political censorship of pictures were violating

39 Ibid., p. 15£.

their own laws providing for trial and conviction for obscene pictures ex post facto.

That most states realized this was

illustrated by the fact that ij_8 bills for state censorship had been defeated between 1922 and 1927 .

1931 19^0 -

The first article in the second decade of this analysis of critics of censorship was one in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly by William O r t o n ^ who waxed hotly against censorship after reviewing several of the official boards of the day.

He pointed out the divergencies of

tastes among Americans and questioned the right of any person or group to standardize them.

In his vehemence he suggested

the founding of a society in defense of the right to be vulgar.

His solution to the problem of poor pictures was

the production of non-profit art films for the advancement of style and technique. Benjamin Hampton in his History of the M o v i e s ^ - which was published in 1931* ridiculed the appearance of censors as professional reformers sniffing an opportunity to extend the areas of their occupation.

He pointed out that they

k o William Orton, ’'Hollywood Has Nothing to Learn," Atlantic Monthly, 114.7 :681-89* June, 1931 • ^

Benjamin Hampton, History of the Movies (New York: Covici, Priede, 1931)* PP« 28T-8£.

222 disregarded the sex that appeared in forms of art other than motion pictures, but were mercilessly attacked in the latter.

Like many others, Hampton pointed out that one of

the major causes for public censure of Hollywood and the resulting agitation for censorship was adverse newspaper publicity. The year 1931 also saw the publication of Lamar Taney Beman's book, Censorship of the Theater and Motion P i c t u r e s , ^ from which have come many of the references of this paper. One section of the book was an outline of the reasons against censorship in which Beman summarized the objections to censor­ ship expressed by his references.

This outline follows:

Pictures were a young industry which was developing experimentally; therefore,

they should not have been hampered

by unsympathetic restrictive and regulatory legislation. They were no more obscene or immoral than older arts.


theater was worse as evidenced by the fact that there were more arrests there for violation of decency laws.


books were worse and pictures made from there were made more acceptable during adaptation for the screen.


magazines were worse but they were on sale all over the country as were newspapers carrying articles on every vice. Motion pictures provided entertainment for millions

1+2 Beman, op. cit., pp. 34”*M^.

223 in this country and those abroad preferred American films to those of their own countries.

Criticisms of films came

from those who seldom saw them but who formed their opinions from imagination and from the loud advertisements.


are often the self-righteous type of meddlesome people who want to regulate the lives and conduct of others. There had been no evidence presented,

. . ."1*3

the outline con­

tinued, to show either that pictures had caused crime or that crime had increased.

Indeed, figures from the United

States Census Bureau in 1923 showed a definite crime decrease in proportion to the population:

penal institutions in

I89O accounted for 106.7 of every 100,000 citizens; 99 In 190!}.; and 9i|_,6 in 1923*

George W • Kirchwey, one of the lead­

ing American criminologists, said that official records covering the period from 1910 to 1927 showed a decrease of from 35 pen cent to ij.0 per cent in the general crime rate, ’•and this notwithstanding the immense number of new crimes resulting from liquor, drugs, and traffic laws enacted since

1910 .”^ People had always worried about the younger generation and no doubt always would.

But children were better prepared

now to face life because more went to school and college and

Ibid., p. 36 ^

Ibid., p. 37

22[|_ the education systems have been improved*



were no figures to prove that more children attended pictures than adults. This was followed by an irrelevant praise of moving pictures generally. Regarding the need for censorship, the outline con­ tinued:

Existing laws were sufficient to protect communities

from abuse and harm through motion pictures.

Laws existed

against shows, displays and utterances which were obscene, immoral, vicious, indecent, corrupted morals or incited to crime.

Laws existed against sending obscene matter through

the mails or across state lines.

The National Board of

Review was doing a good job of protecting people by using friendly cooperation rather than hostile antagonism toward the industry.

Their principle was selection rather than

suppression or deletion; and they welcomed opportunities to recommend proper films to any exhibitor, community,


tion or institution. Federal control and censorship were unwise and un­ desirable because;.

They were undemocratic and un-American.

Such censorship provided for punishment before commission of any crime,

therefore assuming guilt without proof.

It limited

the freedom of expression and publication guaranteed by the Constitution.

It would be a class legislation since the

center of culture, Washington, would dictate standards of

225 entertainment for the less cultured.

It would increase

centralized government by curtailing states’ rights and civil police regulation.*

Some communities would choose

pictures that others would not and a government censorship would impose a norm which did not exist.

Most states had

no censorship laws because they did not want them. Misuse of censorship powers could perpetuate a politi­ cal party in office since the board members would be politi­ cally appointed.

Federal officials had been c orrupt in the

past and would be so again.

Pictures could be made to

influence the voters, a practice which had proven effective in the past. Boards would reflect only the tastes of the reviewing individuals since there were no universal standards for good and bad pictures.

Boards in states having motion picture

censorship used different standards and were inconsistent among themselves, the same film sometimes having been passed by one, but by a second and totally rejected by a third. Some boards had made the same ruling about a point but for different reasons. Federal censorship in other countries had affected smaller societies more homogeneous than ours as to wealth, ideals, tastes and cultures.

State and local boards in the

country might nulify the federal board by rejecting films passed by the latter*

226 Licensing would be a more effective method.

Pear of

losing licenses would be an incentive for making better pictures.

This method had proven more effective than Pro­

hibition on Saloons.

Censorship became little more than a

contest to see how much filth a producer could put into a film and still get it passed by the censors.

This ended

Beman1s outline and the remainder of this section (half the book was devoted to censorship of the stage) consisted of individual articles and quotations. In the September issue of State Government in 193i|-»^ a writer reviewed the history of censorship through the boycott by the Legion of Decency.

He quoted an article from

Mews Week which estimated that half the population of the United States would be affected by the boycott.

The final

statement in the article was a quotation b y William Brady who was identified merely as an old theater man.

Brady, it

was seen in Chapter II of this paper, was the head of the Association of the Motion Picture Industry, the organization which preceded the Hays Office.

His comment was that motion

pictures could be effectively cleaned up only after someone' had cleaned up American minds. A writer identified simply as "Y. Y." in an article

^ "Censor and the Government," State Government, 7:183-86, September, 193^4-.

22? for the Hew Statesman and Hati on commented further on the American mind the following November.^1-6

He told of his own

pleasure at seeing the torture and dictatorship presented in a film called The Catspaw, starring Harold Lloyd.

He likened

censorship of films to the dictatorship in the picture be­ cause it sometimes did not know when to stop.

He explained

the the m o v i e ’s appeal lay in the fact that it did what many people (even nice old ladies) wanted to do--be a sadist. Also in 193^4-. Harry Alan Potomkin’s booklet, The Eyes of the Mo vie,^-7 was printed.

Potomkin assumed a very

belligerent and a dmittedly Leftist attitude toward censor­ ship.

It was, he claimed, a tool of the upper classes to

protect themselves on the screen.

He gave all sorts of

illustrations of the domination of the aristrocracy over the masses and of the condonemerit of this by the censors.


such illustration was the care taken with characterizations of naval officers while seamen were ridiculed.

Jews and

Negroes, he claimed were ruthlessly maligned in films and the censors who were supposed to protect minority groups did nothing about this. communist films.

He even went so far as to condemn anti­

Church pressure, he said, was exerted as a

Ij.6 iiy. y.« ’’Screen florals,M New Statesman and Nation, 8:712-13? November 17? 1934* ii.7 ^ Harry Alan Potomkin, The Eyes of the Movie (New York: International Pamphlets, 193^), p p . 3-21|_, 27, "31.

means of preserving the ecclesiastical aristocracy.


final statement quite clearly expressed his views on pictures ”We must build— On the left--the Movies I The next year, the November 29 edition of the Spec tatorM? contained a word of advice to those who proposed censorship.

It was:

The public will not encourage what it does not find interesting or amusing. The public can be the strongest censor of all. . . . What the public doesn't like doesn' pay. . . . Leave the producer more to his own experience allow him more scope; the reaction of the public will wisely restrict his choice of subject and preserve the public morality* In May of 1936, Rose Macauley appraised censorship in another Spectator

a r t i c l e * 5 0

She argued that government

censorship could not be a success because no one was quali­ fied to judge for others what was proper on the screen. Further more, she charged, censors acted according to their own likes and dislikes,

[censorship seemed to be affecting

English critics in the same way that it did in AmericaJ} In December of the same year, 1936, Samuel G-oldwyn of Hollywood heartily approved of the Production Code and self­ regulation.

He defended the industry's products by saying

Ibid., p. 31. 49-1* Dalrymple, ’’Film Censorship,” Spectator, 155: 89£_96 , November 29 , 1935* Rose Macauley, ’’Marginal Comments,” Spectator, 156:976, May 29, 1936.

229 that they had been what the public wanted.

Now he advised:

”What may amuse the adult may be injurious to the child. We must keep to a cotnmon denominator of good taste and

[jthe italics are mine]


The year 1936 also saw the publication of a collection of opinions on pictures and censorship edited by William J. Perlman,

The Movies on Trial.

The first article was writ­

ten by William Allan White, editor and owner of the famous Emporia Gazette . ^

He was very unkind to pictures, saying

they were fit only for morons.

His solution was the establish­

ment of small art theaters for intelligent patrons, which would have signs barring entrance of ’’lowbrows, cripple-wits and sex-seekers."

He proposed that these art theaters be

set up in every United States town of more than 25,000 inhabitants where the minority who loved truth could find it in pictures.

He explained, however,

That does not mean ’’clean, wholesome plays’’--nothing like it. That means, rather, a selective reality in the presentation of life that makes truth rise and shine in pictures. It does not mean salacious plays— quite the contrary. It means sex would not be snubbed or repressed, but also neither emphasized nor exploited, but take its place candidly as a part of life and its m o t i v e s . b3

Q Samuel Goldwyn, ’’W h a t ’s the Matter with the Movies?,” Motion P^ cture Herald, 125:5l> December 5> 1936. Perlman, The Movies On Trial (New York: The Mac­ millan Company, 1936), pp. 3-12* ^

Ibid., p . 9•

230 All this was to occur so that pictures might develop as an art, 11. . . without the accursed censorship of the aesthetically lame and the halt and the blind forever snuf­ fing out the fire of truth in the movies as ignorance puts out the divine fire. The opinions of a theatrical artist were expressed in this book by stage and screen actor Edward G. Robinson, fresh from his long-to-be-remembered title role in Little Caesar.

Robinson pointed out that the actor, like the

artist, was neither moral nor immoral during his performance, simply as truthful to life as he could be.

He defended the

virtues he had played into his gangster roles because no man was all evil.

He claimed that pictures were healthful be­

cause they provided vicarious thrills that society would not permit in reality.

He told the story of an old woman who

had accosted him on the street one day to berate him for being so evil and for teaching crime to children.

Her proof

that such pictures as his were a bad influence was that she had had to take her young grandson to see Little Caesar eight times. Robinson suggested that reformers devote a little more of their time to cleaning up the press which was more


L o c . cit.


Ibid., pp. 26-lp..

231 vicious than pictures; and mentioned the details given in the cases of John Dillinger and Bruno Richard Hauptmann*


further attacked the press itself for its unnecessary empha­ sis on indiscretions of movie stars. He compared censorship to Prohibition which he called a villainous and unnatural law,.and observed that the illegal bootlegger during that era had come to be regarded as the champion of liberty.

Pictures, he claimed, acted

merely to mirror the degeneration of a civilization, not to initiate it; and illustrated this claim with examples of the arts of the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance and the Eliza­ bethan periods.

H . . . the public is capable of choosing its

own screen entertainment without the guidance of self-ap­ pointed moralists.

. .

Robinson stated.

Pursuing the matter of adverse publicity, he gave the reasoning of the reformers on the matter of actresses’ virtues:

If a woman had been twice divorced, how could she

be convincingly virtuous on the screen?

On the other hand,

if she gave a convincing portrayal of an immoral woman on the screen, how could she be virtuous in life?

He criticized

newspapers for stressing the femininity of actresses rather than their acting ability, and pointed out that little was known of the private lives of such stage actresses as

56 Ibid., p. 37

232 LeGalliene, Cornell or Fontaine, but that they were remembered as artists. Regarding the trend in motion picture themes, he con­ cluded, ” . . . tomorrow will take care of itself.

And so

will the public, without the aid of professional reformers to tell it what it should reject or accept.”57 Don Marquis, playwright and columnist,58 said censor­ ship only hindered good pictures and did nothing to improve bad ones.

He felt that:

The only censorship needed is the encouragement of good taste artistically in the manufacture of films, and this through its artistic quality will inevitably take ^ care of the question of an indecency in the pictures. . Edwin Schallert, drama critic of the Dos Angeles Times, t h o u g h t

censorship was a recurrent manifestation of

public vicissitudes which acted as a tonic for improvement. He added, however, that these vicissitudes included changes in taste and wondered whether such fine films which followed the Legion of Decency in 193lf as David Copperfield, The Lives of aBengal Lancer, larity

and LesMiserables

in 1933 when Mae West

would have won

was thequeen


ofthe screen.”

He believed that the public had a way of becoming wearied

57 Ibid., p. ij.1* 5® Ibid., pp. 89-9 1 . 59

Ibid., p. 91.


Ibid., p. 99-112.

233 with even too much decency and pointed out that there had to be pictures of all types to meet popular demand.


blamed the objectionable features which accompanied the advent of sound on the blase theatrical people who migrated to Hollywood from Broadway.

He commended the Legion of

Decency for acting as a prod and spur for the Hays Office. Seymour Sternal who had worked in motion picture pro­ duction for many years and had written a number of screen treatments and continuities, expressed the belief that pictures had become tawdry and worthless after D. W. Griffith ceased to be a power in the industry.

He mentioned that

some improvements had taken place in certain phases of pro­ duction and claimed that, . . . this improvement has come about wholely within the industry itself and in spite of the repressive influence of those perennial pests, the Church and the censor boards, which continue to have a deplorable effect in film-making in this c o u n t r y . ° 2 The opinion of Gabriela Mistral^3 the Chilean poetess and consul to Spain who is more widely known by her nom de plume, Lucila Godoy, was that teachers were wrong to ask for children's films which were soley educational.


she claimed, were for entertainment, not learning, and that


Ibid., pp. 113> 131j and 139-^J-O

62 Ibid., p. 131. ^3 Ibid., pp. li]_l-52.

23k children accepted them as such in the same way they sought water for their boats and wind for their kites.

To the

Church she recommended they offer something more appealing to the child and they would accept that in place of pictures. She advised worried parents to tell their children stories and read to them rather than flatly condemning pictures for providing the entertainment which parents should give. In April of 1937> Viola Brothers Shore presented an article in New Theater and Film called, mockingly, trYou Can't Say Thatl”^

She assumed a rather flippant attitude

at the start and then grew most serious and metaphorical. She likened deletions made by censors to incisions through which the life-blood of a picture flowed.

After listing

several popular American words which were objectionable in England, she went on to advocate the use of such robust and expressive words as !,damnH as a necessity, to verisimilitude. Sex, she felt,

should go almost unbridled because it was a

constituent part of life. appeal to

In an effort to emphasize her

Congress not to permit federal censorship,


pointed to the Fascistic principles involved in such a re­ striction of social liberties.

nDon*t do this,M she claimed,

would eventually become, "Do this .,f Also in 1937, Olga J. Martin's book, Hollywood's

^ Viola Brothers Shore, f,You Can't Say Thatl” , New Theater and Film, k * 3 ^ » April, 1937»

235 Movie Commandments,^5 came out, to explain the philosophy behind the industry's Production Code.

In defense of the

need for censorship of the screen and not of the stage, Martin expressed the opinion that the majority of the popula­ tion of this country disliked sophistication, but that those who did were the financially secure who could afford to go to the legitimate theater.

She explained that censorship

of the theater was obviated to some extent because children seldom attended its features, while motion pictures were a medium attended by whole families.

Her explanation for the

popularity of pictures was their capacity for affording relaxation and an escape from life.

Hence, she reasoned,

happy endings were a prerequisite to this capacity since they gave the audience relaxation and encouragement to face real life.

In support of her contention that sex, sensation,

blood and thunder were not preferred to stories of average American home life, she quoted an article from the Ladies Home Journal: The major plea is for clean, virile pictures that bring out right ways of living and. thinking, illustrating the ideals parents and teachers are trying to teach. Clean plays. Good educational features on manufacturing, industry, animal life. Stories of the lives of great men and women. Travel and adventure stories. These are what our correspondents call for . . . ^5 Olga J. Martin, Hollywood* s Movie Commandments (Hew York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1937). pp* 66 Ibid., p. S k *

236 By two lists of pictures of the day which showed the popularity ratings by the critics and by the public, Martin illustrated that the critics were not representative of American opinion.

An analysis showed that the public

attended pictures to see stars, not stories.

She called

attention to the fact that among the stars drawing the larg­ est audiences were Will Rogers and Shirley Temple.

A con­

sideration of her lists also showed (though she made no point of this) that high on the popularity list for the public were The Kid From Spain and Roman Scandals, starring Eddie Cantor, and I'm No Angel which featured the still popular,


somewhat censorable, Mae West. In argument against realists who would have shown such phases of life as adultery, divorce and prostitution, she cited the laws governing these phases, pointing out the drastic consequences which each met in the courts.


assumption, however, was that the realists who advocated these themes would glorify the sins rather than punish them. The remainder of the book was an expansion of the final section of the Production Code which explained the three previous divisions, and advice to writers of stories which would have to meet Code requirements. Another work which appeared in 1937 was Will I r w i n ' s ^ 67 Address delivered at the National Board of Review Annual Conference-Luncheon, February 6, 1937* Pp» 1“3*

237 Censorship as an Author Views it.

Though the book was mainly

about literature and drama, some of it applied to all arts. Censorship, Irwin claimed, began as a political measure to establish a party in office, to the pill.,t

and morals were added "as sugar

It was Irwin whose quotation illustrating the

effectiveness of censorship in Russia, Germany and Italy was used in the preceding chapter of this paper.

He urged that if

censorship were a necessity, it should be controlled by people who understand art and literature and not simply those working for political ends. A booklet entitled Self-Regulation Versus Censorship by Charles C. Pettijohn was published in February of 1938.68 In it the author, then a Hays Office official, listed argu­ ments in defense of the title of the work.

These were:

Censorship is the enemy of democracy, liberty and human rights. It is un-American. It is an instrument of oppression. It is intolerant and intolerable. Censor­ ship is based on the arrogant theory that the people are incapable of thinking and judging for themselves. It is the weapon of despots to bind people in intellectual slavery. Censorship curbs investigation, stifles ex­ perimentation and prevents the dissemination of opinions. It Is a ban to progress. It violates the principles of freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution. . . . Through censorship small groups of dictatorial, selfappointed super-beings attempt to Inflict their whims, fancies and tastes on the many. . . . Censorship is a relic of the Dark Ages and has no place in America. . . . Bernarr Macfadden wrote an editorial in the May 13

68 Charles C. Pettijohn, Self-Regulation Versus Censorship (New York: no publisher named, 1938), pp. 3-1+*

23 8 issue of his magazine, Liberty,69 in 1939 in opposition to the then pending Neely bill to abolish the distributor prac­ tice of ”block-booking.”70

Of censorship, he said that the

people were the best censors because their instinctive demands were normal and healthy.

He suspected that graft

was one of the motivations of censorship agitators.


booking, he claimed, was an economic necessity in the in­ dustry; and added that in a time when European dictators were banning American films to exclude democratic contamina­ tion, the provisions of the Neely bill would effect ruin. He assured the public that producers would make clean pic­ tures because other kinds did not make money. In an October, 1939* article for Foreign Affairs called ”120,000 American Ambassadors,”71 producer Walter Wanger attacked censorship and the industry* s complacency. He denounced professional groups which exerted pressure on the industry for unflattering representations of their several professions and commented that they were fortunate that producers did not make whole pictures airing the cor­ rupt practices of their various fields.

Instead, he com­

plained, the producers begged the pardons of the offended

69 Bernarr Macfadden, ”The Motion Picture Business, a Political Football?,” Liberty, l6:lf, May 13, 1939* 70 See definitions in Chapter I of this paper. 71 Walter Wanger, ”120,000 American Ambassadors,” Foreign Affairs, l8:Ij.5'-59*

239 and promised henceforth to include explanations that all members of insulted professions were not to be measured by the exceptions depicted. He devoted one section to the story of his film, The President Vanishes, which dealt with a munitions manufacturer who placed profit above patriotism.

The film had been se­

verely deleted by the releasing studio after it had received the P. C. A. seal which had been secured by a law suit after a verbal approval by Joseph Breen.

This editing, Wanger

claimed, ruined the picture. Government censorship, Wanger asserted, was a sly measure to gain political control of -what was presented on the screen, gained by a pretense at business reform or with the aid of moral forces.

Such control, he believed, would

reduce the screen to the level of a government pamphlet and put an end to pictures as an entertainment medium, as evi­ denced in every nation which had tried it.

He explained

that producers were afraid to contest censorship action be­ cause of the power and organization of the forces which supported it; forces strong enough to threaten the very existence of pictures.

His solution to foreign dictation of

material in domestic pictures was the withdrawal of American films from demanding countries to show a determination to maintain standards. A short item in the Motion Picture Herald in December

2[|_0 of the same year by Damon Runyon called ’’Movies Clean Despite Vulgarists, Says Runyon,” 72 contained that critic’s ’ opinion of Hollywood films.

They were good, he said, but

only because censorship prevented them from being vulgar and offensive.

He admitted that newspapers contained a great

deal of objectionable matter, but stated that even these were more acceptable than motion pictures would be without the moral check rein of the Production Code. In his annual report to the Motion Pictures Pro­ ducers and Distributor of America on March 26, 19l|-0» Will Hays73

said that motion pictures had to be protected from

undue political aggression as well as guarded from misuse with­ in the industry.

Pictures, he held,

should be given the

same freedom for artistic expression and inspirational devel­ opment as other modes of expression.

Since the cinema was

evidence of that human thought on which all progress depended, it could not be tampered with safely.

The results in the

past had been bigotry, fanaticism, racial, religious and class prejudices, hatreds and tyranies.

He repeated many of

the points of his 1927 statement at which time he had been defending his unsuccessful ’’Formula.”

One such repeated

7^ Damon Runyon, ’’Movies Clean Despite Vulgarists, Says Runyon,” Motion Picture Herald, 137 t £1+., December 9* 1939• 73 John Eugene Harley, World-Wide Influence of the Cinema (Los Angeles: University of Southern California Press, I 9 W 7 PP. 91-93.

2lp. argument was that the straining of ideas through the censors’ sieve was a discouragement and an affront to conscientious men. The report continued:;

Individuals on censor boards had

personal prejudices which resulted in a non-conformity of opinion as to what was objectionable. he believed,

If censors persisted,

they would be doing an ill service to America

because of the significance of our films in carrying the message of our nation to the remote corners of the world* Self-regulation, he pointed out, should be encouraged be­ cause it had succeeded where forceable measures had failed in bettering films. Official legal censorship \ihich was claimed to be ’*community selection,’* Hays pointed out, was in reality ’'self-appointed censors’ selection.’*

The former, he admitted,

was a real and powerful thing in that films which did not appeal to a community could not survive there.


however, would be a selection without community consent; and public taste and opinion would not have an opportunity of asserting itself for the public’s never having seen objectionable films before deletion was made.

Hays believed

that such a censorship would be irresponsibly operated by pressure groups.

In conclusion he stated:

. . • Dictation by even well-intentioned groups as to what picture shall or shall not be shown in any given theater, not to mention dictation from groups with an

2i^2 ax to grind, would stultify the art. It is a scheme destructive of the very basis of free speech, a free press, the freedom of the air or a free screen.On­ screen writer Dudley Nichols expressed his views of censorship of pictures in a statement in John E. Harley’s 191^0 book, World-Wide Influences of the Cinema.05


wood has fashioned itself a censorship of timidity and bad t a s t e , t h e Screen Writers’ Guild official said.

It was no

longer possible to deal with the everyday scene.

He opined

that ’’moral-censorship” was a self-contradictory expression since the essence of morality was truth, and censorship con­ cealed the truth.

He agreed that the several phases of life

which could not be truthfully handled on the screen without offending ought to be avoided; but added that there were still thousands of phases which could be dealt with dramat­ ically in the strictest sense without giving offense.


required only courage and imagination, he felt, to make pictures dealing with these subjects. point about timidity, he continued* was

Returning to his MIf a newspaper publisher

[sic] as timid in publishing his paper as a Hollywood

producer is about making pictures, within one week he wouldn’t be able to print anything butmarriage notices and obituaries•” Ibid.,

p. 93.

7^ ibid., p. 89.

2k3 Harley quoted an earlier book by Pred Eastman and Edward Quellette7& in which these writers had said that though censors might eliminate objectionable material from films,

they could never improve them by doing so.

They felt

that censorship of films should be exerted only upon popular demand since government boards, even state boards/ were not sufficiently close to communities to be representative of public opinion which varied with the size of communities. Censorship,

they felt, became little more than a battle of

wits between the reviewing boards and the producers.


biggest objection, however, was to the principle of censor­ ship.

Of this they said:

. . . Censorships are dangerous to the liberties of free people. Even a censorship established by the state to protect its people against moral pollution is to be distrusted. We have purchased our liberties in this country at a great price. We must not sacrifice or relinquish them, even when they are so grossly abused by the makers of unwholesome pictures.

191A-1950 The Christian Century in December of


the story of the Legion of Decency’s ban on Two Faced Woman starring Greta Garbo.

Archbishop Spellman had castigated

76 Pred Eastman and Edward Quellette, Better Motion Pictures (Boston and Chicago: The Pilgrim Press, 193&)» p7 ij.8. Cited by Harley, op. ci t ., p. 90* 77 “Legion of Decency’s Attack Shelves Garbo Film,H Christian Century % Q z l $ 6 } ± 3 December 17* 19^1*

21*4 tiie film as ”a danger to public morality” and pronounced witnessing it "an occasion of sin.” Variety had said it was full of double entendre and intimacies which could only have passed the censor boards because the principals were married. M. G. M. had been forced to withdraw the film.

The Century

wondered, ’’What is there about Hollywood which makes it always seem so eager to purvey entertainment in terms of sex, lust, drunkenness, double entendre and playing fast-and-loose with marriage?”

The writer opined that Hollywood could not

be trusted without the thread of censorship, and not even then unless it were exerted. A 1 9 k 2 item from England's Southwestern Social Science Quarterly by D. G. H i t c h n e r ^ described the censorship system in England which was mainly of political origin.


wondered whether government matters were of such a biased nature that the public ought not to be trusted to see both sides of questions which motion pictures might present. "Danger;

Censors at Work” was the title of a 19^4-

Coronet article by Avery

H a l e , 79

parts of which have been

used in previous chapters of this paper.

Most of the items

7® D. G. Hitchner, "English Film Censorship During the Munich Crisis,” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, 23:133-31» September, 1942• 79 Avery Hale, "Danger: 15:117-21, May, 1944.

Censors at Work,” Coronet,

245 in the article were examples of strange delections and their effects on audiences.

However, in a review of censorship

history, Hale said that, ’’Many of the censors were political hacks who theorized that their official efficiency was in direct ratio to the number of feet they cut out of a film.®^ He went on to predict that because of the strictness of censor regulations,

such great plays as Hamlet and Macbeth

could never be made into motion pictures.®! It was in May of 1945* that John Kouwenhoven gave his warning in Harper1s

M a g a z i n e ® 2

that if the federal govern­

ment began to subsidize films, the nation might expect a dictation of subject matter beyond that which would represent a becoming picture of America abroad. The following year, another book by Morris Ernst appeared on the market. F r e e d o m , ®3

This one was called The First

and in it Ernst quoted Dudley Nichols, former

president of the Screen f/riters’ Guild, who said, . . . Hollywood, in its fear of losing profits by making enemies, in its mad desire to appease the prejudices of every group, has submitted to an ever-tightening censor­ ship under which it becomes impossible to deal with reality. The field of picture writing has become fenced in until it is dry. . . .®4 80 Ibid., p. 119. ®1 Both films have since been made; in 1948. John Kouwenhoven, ’’The Movies Better Be Good,” Harper 1 a Magazine, 190:534“40* 83 Ernst, The First Fredom (New York: The Macmillan Company, 194®)> PP* 200-206. 84 Ibid., p. 205*

2i|.6 Er n s t ’s solution to the problem of the need for better pictures was the encouragement of competition among the studios, since cooperation among them had limited the horizon of story material by what they could all agree upon. Brooks Atkinson proposed the abolition of censorship of motion pictures in the March 2 issue of the Los Angeles Times in 19^4-7•

He claimed that there was a censorship of

public opinion to which every successful writer had to submit or relinquish his success.

Courts and criminal law, Atkinson

claimed, obviated censorship* To believe in democracy [he said] is to believe that in the long run the combined wisdom of all people is superior to the wisdom of any individuals or groups. Not to be­ lieve in that is not to believe in democracy but in supermen, tyrants or censors. The following June, Sydney J. Harris of the Chicago Daily News®5 said that motion pictures caused divorce through their persistently happy endings with the hero and heroine getting married.

Marriage, Harris pointed out, was based

on more than mere love; and yet pictures showed only homes which were smooth-running and filled with affection.


sequently, he concluded, in actual, beginning American house­ holds, the slightest quarrel became a situation warranting divorce, compared with the domestic tranquility and bliss of

Sydney J* Harris, nThe Films Tell Far From Alll,,f Chicago Daily News, June 27, 19^-7•

2k7 screen households.

The solution, Harris believed, was

realism in pictures* The Los Angeles Daily Hews was almost prophetic in a September issue of that paper in 19^7 * ^

It carried an

article written by Robert Rossen who last year wrote, direct­ ed and produced the prize-winning All the Kings1 M e n .


the article Rossen had urged the production of controversial films for the development of the sociological potentialities of the screen.

He quoted virulent Adrian Scott who had just

produced Crossfire, on the matter of the Production Code. Scott said: This self-censorship is a virus infecting all of us. It can cause creative senility, hackery, and lousy {sic] pictures. It constitutes conservatism to the point of reaction. This creative reaction results in cliche* thinking, cliche* work, and cliche’ pictures. On December 11 of that year, the Los Angeles Examiner carried a cartoon of a pair of rats representing vice and Communism gnawing at a wall labeled the ’’Production Code.” The article was entitled, ’’L e t ’s Make it Rat-Proof” and called for public action against Hollywood ’’Reds” disseminating

their Communistic

propaganda through pictures.

This was


of the Examiner's

swords in the crusade, of which J.

Parnell Thomas was leader, which never reached fruition.

Robert Rossen, ’’Censorship of Pear,” Los Angeles Daily Hews, September 3» 19^-7•

214.8 Perhaps the views in the following article by screen director, Pritz Lang, were an example of the sort of thing which the Examiner opposed.

The article appeared in the

December, 19^7> issue of Theater Arts and was called "Freedom of the

S c r e e n , "^7

The European-born artist said, " . . .


idea that people are poor just because they are lazy or that they commit crimes simply through weakness of character is as outmoded as the doctrine of original sin from which it stems.

. . ."88

Lang suggested that with freedom,

the pro­

ducer could show the cause of crime and prepare the way for reform and progress.

"Reform," he said,

"is always the

dream of the young and the nightmare of the old."89


argued that the dangers of sex in films arose from halftruths about it instead of whole truths, and that since sex was taught in schools, it should not be misrepresented on the screen. Censors, he continued, had no more claim to maturity than the public and, according to investigations by psychol­ ogists and social workers, were inclined to over-emphasize the effects of pictures on children.

Children absorbed

only what they learned from environment.

Furthermore, Lang

Fritz Lang, "Freedom of the Screen," Theater Arts.

31:52-55. 88



Ibid., p.- 53«

89 Ibid., p. 52.

2k9 argued, censored pictures taught of a dream world which never could be found but was sought after by children, to their detriment. young child.

He also stated that sex was boring to the

He could see only disastrous results from

leading the younger generation, through false films, into believing that life was good to the pure and that all people were kind and trustworthy human beings or else came to a bad end in the last reel. By what decree £LangJ asked are the descendants of those who left Europe to escape religious or political persecution . . . now to be told what they may think and what they may not? . . . 90 Marlene Dietrich ’’sounded off” in an interview for the Hollywood Citizen News in February of 19i}-8,91 Gn the matter of the nature of films and their effects on children. Censorship was too prudish, the veteran actress asserted; and it caused evasion which actually made films more sug­ gestive than open statement would.

As for the children, let

them go to matinees, Dietrich recommended.

They should be

in bed at night anyway. The effect' of advertising on censorship was brought out by Ezra Goodman who said, ’’The movies, even the better ones, are sensationalized and distorted by advertising and

9° Ibid., p. 55. 91 "Marlene Sounds Off," Hollywood Citizen News, February 6, 19^8•

250 p u b l i c ! t y .


This was one of the moot points in his

Coronet article in July of 19^8.

Goodman illustrated the

statement by pointing out that Wilson was advertised as a musical, a color spectacle and a love story, but never as the political document it actually was.

In The Corn is Green

the advertisements continually indicated that there were romantic implications in the relationship between the char­ acters portrayed b y Bette Davis and John Dahl.

The Adven­

tures of Mark Twain was often misconceived to be a cowboy picture,

judging from the posters.

The anti-Semitic elements

-*-n Crossfire were completely concealed by publicity men, while Howard Hughes permitted such slogans for The Qutlaw as, ’’How would you like to tussle with Russell?” On the question of over-simplification of subject matter, Goodman transcribed an opinion expressed in Fortune Magazlne93 that American intellegence was higher than the low level set by Hollywood.

In trying for the lowest common

denominator, Fortune claimed, pictures lost their art. Goodman's last point in the article was that pictures failed to mirror the world truly.

”By depicting a Cinderella-

land that lacks truth and integrity, they have not lived up to their obligations as a potentially potent force for 92 Ezra Goodman, ’’Are the Movies a Menace?,” Coronet, July, 1914.8 . ^

Ihid., p. 45*

251 human progress and understanding.,r9li took to discuss this point. being senseless and dated:

Goodman himself under­

He ridiculed the P. G. A..for twin beds for married couples;

no ncleavage,H but very snug sweaters; no indecent exposure, but plenty of brief bathing suits.

He went on to disparage

pictures for not saying anything about life, a fault which he attributed greatly to censorship. He presented the opinions of various Hollywood person­ ages, among them Dore Schary95 wb.o said that if Hollywood continued to try to accommodate all it3 accusers, it would eventually become so inhibited that pictures would become worthless and accomplish nothing.

Another was the late

Mark Hellinger who said quite candidly, Hollywood is gutless. You can't make an honest, force­ ful picture here. Hollywood is the whipping boy for all kinds of pressure groups, and the movie industry does not stand up to them. If you make a movie with punch, you are sure to get protests. If, on the other hand, you make a movie that is all sweetness and light, nobody comes to the box office.9o George Stevens, head of the Screen Director's Guild, said that films basically reflected the conditions of life around them.



He admitted the need of some sort of regulation

ikifl* * P* Ibid., p. 14.6 ,

96 Ibid., p. 1^7.

252 in order not to evade common moralities, but added, ". . • censorship that keeps someone from saying something or seeing something is wrong, because it is determining in advance what the American has a right to see on the screen and closing the doors to new thoughts and

i d e a s . "97

The following August li|_, Francis S. Falkenburg98 wrote the opinions of an exhibitor on the points presented in the preceding article by Goodman.

One of the points on

which he argued was that of the effects of pictures on youth.

To a juvenile court authority on girls who had said

25 per cent of them learned their crimes from pictures, he asked where the other 75 per cent had learned theirs.


for maligned professions who exerted pressure on the Hays Office, he pointed out that motion picture people were also "maligned1* but that they seemed better able to take it. A year later, in August of 19^9? the honored film actress, Bette Davis,99 added her arguments to those of Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich.

Her stand waa in

defense of the honest portrayal of sex on the screen which censorship denied.

Sex, Davis claimed,- was woman’s basic

97 Loc. cit. 9® "Exhibitor Answers Critics of the Screen," Motion Picture Herald, 172:16. 99 Aline Mosly, "Bette Davis Asks ’Honest S e x ’ in Pix," Los Angeles Daily Hews, August 13, 19^-9-

253 problem; it was a part of life and ought not to be hidden. As for the effect on children, she contended that they would not understand it.

She added that they were permitted to

see murder on the screen, and believed that this was more harmful to them than sex would be. Samuel Goldwyn* s speech to the members of the Theater Owners of America in September of last year, was reported in the Los Angeles Examiner and the Hollywood Reporter, among other publications, on September l 5 . ^ ^


the motion picture magnate maintained, caused pictures to be so juvenile that the age group from 31 to 60 was being discouraged from attending pictures.

This group, if it

attended once a week, Goldwyn calculated, would spend $>800 million every year.

He did not want to make pictures which

offended public decency, but asked that pictures be made ” . . . free from interference of petty,



tracked dirt-sniffers who feel they have to justify their official existence by using their scissors instead of their heads.

. .

Another comment from Goldwyn* s speech furnished

an interesting comparison with his 1936 a r t i c l e . I n

19l|9 ,

100 **Goldwyn Hits Censorship”, Los Angeles Examiner, September 15, 19^4-9* Also ”Goldwyn Blames Censors for Holly** wood 'Fairy Tales*” , Hollywood Reporter, September 15, 19^9• 101 q. v., pp. 229-3 0 .

25k he e ont inue d :: In practice, censorship results in the lowering of the general level of motion pictures to the lowest common denominator (jbhe italics are mine] . As a result^ although we produce some very fine pictures, we find that most of our pictures have little, if any, real substance. In December, 19^-9 > Al Hine^-®2 in his Holiday review of motion pictures through the years, declared that: . . . Despite an overwhelming number of groups devoted to the theory that they have the God-given right to censor movies, Hollywood has been able to treat some problems which would have been untouchable as little as five years ago. . . . He named among these problems alcoholism in The Lost Weekend, insanity in The Snake Pit, anti-Semitism in Gentlemen* s Agreement and the Negro problem in Lost Boundries, Pinky and others, Lloyd B. Morris, in his 19^-9 book, Not so Long Ag 0^-03 gave a history of pictures and of censorship and explained that, ’’The issue of censorship stemmed directly from the capacity of the motion picture to tell a story more elo­ quently than any other medium.” A recent article by playwright, Elmer Rice, brought this final decade up to date on the matter of censorship.

102 "gome Hollywood Pare Leaves a Bad Taste, But There's a Good Portion You Can Really Get Your Teeth Into,” Holiday, 6:18, December, 191+9* •*•^3 Lloyd B. Morris, Not So Long Ago (New York: Random House, 19^4-9)» P* ^9*

255 In a letter to the Saturday Review^ ^

of Literature in

April of this year, Rice agreed that a blow had been struck against censorship in a recent account of the practice in Russia.

But he pointed out that pressure groups operating

in this country were having an equally appalling effect on our freedom.

Among the pressures he listed was that of the

Legion of Decency writh its ” . . . stranglehold upon the motion-picture industry that [makes itj almost impossible to produce a movie that offends the hierarchy*” Jewish organizations had prevented the English film version of Oliver Twist because of its anti-Semitic elements, and Protestant ministerial groups were demanding the sup­ pression of Stromboli because they had w . . . enunciated the frightening doctrine that a work of art may be proscribed because of the personal behavior of its creators.

. . .”

He listed other pressures which affected drama, literature, music,

and radio and pointed out that only the

Civil Liberties Union and other organizations fighting against censorship were preventing even more vigorous at­ tempts on the part of pressure groups*

In conclusion he

called for action on the part of Americans who only shook their heads in despair or smiled Ironically when they read

Elmer Rice, 11Free Expression in the U. S. A.,” Saturday Review of Literature, 33:25, April 1, 1950*


of censorship in other countries, b y admonishing: Let us not in our fixation upon the man-eating bear behind the Iron Curtain, overlook the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines of our cherished democracy.



History of censorship before the Hays Office.


tures began in 1889, when Thomas Edison invented the motion picture camera.

Six years later, Reverend Wilbur P. Crafts

began the International Reform Bureau which was eventually to become a potent factor in censorship agitation.

In 1897,

motion pictures came to be regarded as a danger to life when a devastating fire occurred in the Bazar de la Charite1 in Paris.

This plus the controversy over The May Irwin - John

_C. Rice Kiss and Dolorita1s Passion Dance made people start to regard movies as a menace. The first feature picture, The Great Train Robbery, appeared in 1903*

Pour years later the first official

censorship board began in Chicago.

In 1909, with the begin­

ning of censorship of pictures in New York City, the National Board of Review began in an effort to obviate censorship by educating the public to demand better films.

In 1911, the

first state censorship of films began in Pennsylvania. was followed in 1913, "by Kansas and Ohio.


In 1915 Reverend

Crafts found a spokesman for federal censorship in Congress­ man D. M. Hughes.

His bill failed.

2^8 In the early 1920’s, the newspapers played up the scandals Involving Patty Arbuckle, Mary Pickford and others, and public sentiment began to turn against pictures.


ship bills had succeeded in Maryland, New York, Florida and Virginia, and the industry realized that someone was needed to redeem it and to forestall further demands for censorship. The person selected was President Harding's Postmaster General, William Harrison Hays. Censorship since the Hay3 Office. Office:

History of the Hays

Hays accepted in 1922 and organized the Motion Pic­

ture Producers and Distributors of America.

He won admira­

tion by re-establishing credit with the banks for the industry and by defeating the censorship proposal in Massachusetts. To reform pictures he instituted his '’Formula” which failed. He sent Colonel Joy to Hollywood to try to check bad films, and out of his conferences with Hollywood executives came the ’’D o n ’ts and Be Carefuls" which also failed. Martin Quigley offered his help and in 1928, with Father Daniel J. Lord, he wrote and submitted the Production Code.

Like its predecessors,

this document failed too.


1933 the Roman Catholic priests, supported by various other groups, organized to act against pictures.

Hays got the

producers, to sign a re-affirmation of the Code, but it was too late.

The Legion of Decency boycott began in 193^- and

259 the industry was forced to adhere to Code regulations.


191+6, Eric Johnston replaced Hays and the M.P.P.D.A. was changed to the Motion Picture Association of America, but very little else was changed in the organization. Hays Office organization:

Under self-regulation are

the Production Code Administration which regulates film con­ tent; the Advertising Code Administration which regulates film advertising; and the Title Registration Bureau which regulates and registers film titles.

Under public relations

there are the Public Information Department which releases institutional publicity; the Community Service Department in New York which works with civic, education, religious and club groups and the New York Previewing Committee; and the Protective Department which fights government censorship in cities, states and Washington.

The Legal Department warns

and protects members against legal and legislative dangers and works with studio lawyers.

The International Division

works with legal and legislative problems of foreign distri­ bution and with committees of foreign managers.

The Theater

Service Department advises exhibitors regarding trade prac­ tices and conciliates in disputes wherever possible.


Conservation Department is concerned with fire prevention and safety measures in film exchanges and theaters. Principles of the Hays Office:

The Thirteen Points

were the first motion picture morality rules.

They were not

260 forcibly enforced and failed.

The Hays ’’Formula" applied

only to literature and was also not properly enforced.


"Don'ts and Be Carefuls” contained many prohibitions used today but were not enforced either. The Production Code, now in effect, is a table of rules in two parts containing three divisions each.


first part contains a preamble stating admission by the adopters of the need for self-regulation, a statement of three general principles summarizing the aims of the Code, and a list of specific prohibitions.

The second part is an

explanation of these three divisions. Illustrations of Hays Office effects:

Many features

objectionable to state boards, religious and pressure groups and public sentiment have been eliminated from pictures, which were existing and sometimes prevalent in pictures b e ­ fore the enforcement of the Code. Critics of the Hays Office:

Critics interested in

morality have praised the Code or complained of its laxity in either principle or operation.

.Critics concerned with

the freedom of expression and advancement of the art of cinema have condemned it as a block to progress and art and as the cause of many warped imaginations among movie-goers. Organizations interested in censorship. Board of Review:

The National

This organization works with the industry

26l to encourage the production of good pictures, and with the public to educate them to patronize worthwhile films. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union:

This group

is opposed to liquor in pictures and works with any group which will legislate for government censorship.


wo m e n ’s organizations cooperate with the National Board of Review and the Hays Office to convey their complaints to the industry and to disseminate information and recommendations to the public. The Commission on Freedom of the Press and the Ameri­ can Civil Liberties Union oppose censorship as a curtailment of freedom and encourage pictures to do better and more use­ ful work. The International Reform Bureau, the Lord’s Day Alliance and the Federal Motion Picture Council all agitated strongly for federal censorship while they were under the Reverends Crafts and Chase.

Since the deaths of these men,

little has been heard from them regarding pictures. Many business, professional and trade groups have been offended and offered objection to pictures.

The producers

recognize the adverse effect some of the more powerful groups might have on pictures and respect their sentiments to some extent; but inadvertent offenses are still criticized. Better films councils exist all over the country for the purpose of relaying public griefs to the industry and

262 for classifying and publicizing pictures for their several communities. Other interested organizations have included the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees,


Payne Foundation, The National Association for the Advance­ ment of Colored People, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Federation of Labor. Official government censorship legislation.


federal laws are the Tariff Act of 1909 regulating the impor­ tation of foreign films; the 1913 law governing interstate transportation of prize fight films which was repealed in 19ij-0; the 1916 law regarding the wearing of uniforms of Amer­ ican armed forces; and a 1920 amendment to the federal Penal Code to include films among matter forbidden in interstate commerce because of objectionable character. Federal bills which have been defeated after much consideration have been those of Congressman Hughes in 1915, Appleby in 1922, Upshaw in 1923 and 1926, and Neely in 194-0. Existing state boards in order of their adoption are Pennsylvania, Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, New York and Virginia. There are also inactive boards in Florida and Louisiana and a board for Sunday exhibitions only, In Massachusetts.


state, Connecticut, has adopted a censorship board and then abolished it.

263 Among major cities having municipal censorship of films are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Kansas City (Missouri), Memphis, Atlanta, Detroit, Providence and Portland (Oregon). The Church, the law and education.

Criticisms made

of pictures by representatives of the Church, the law and education were fairly well bala.nced as to stand.


it was evident that it was predominantly the Church which favored censorship and felt that films were contaminating. Furthermore, the arguments against pictures were, for the most part, made before the Production Code was enforced, and applied to pictures in an era in which no restraining influ­ ences were at work. Many of the comments favoring censorship were made with the assumption that pictures were a corrupting and crime-inciting influence, while those opposing it were based less upon conjecture than upon facts, statistics and surveys. Educators considered failure to treat of mature sub­ jects while clergymen were concerned with moral aspects. Many of the people of the legal and teaching professions con­ sidered the misuse which could be made of a political control of films, while the Church took little cognizance of this possibility. While a number of the people felt that something should

26if be done to guard youth against possible ill effects from pictures, many of them believed that the way lay in some direction other than censorship.

Some of the writers named

causes which were more likely to be the reasons for any mis­ behavior in children than films.

The primary fault found

was with improper parental guidance. The most restrictive measures exerted upon pictures by the clergy have been those by the Boman Catholics.


stand was that sin should never be presented in any but an unfavorable light.

Critics of church action, however, have

implied that ulterior motives of selfishness and dogmatism were the Church's true concern. Most of the writers agreed that false and sensational advertising was a distinct fault in the management of pictures. Others recommended constructive advertising as a means of bettering public taste and,

subsequently, pictures.

Alternates offered were parental guidance; education both of the public and of the film-makers; popular boycotts; the Production Code or variations of it; the National Board of Review and similar agencies; and increased public action for attending and recommending pictures. Opinions of members of the industry and professional critics.

Members of the industry and its allied arts have

been manifestly opposed to censorship in all times.

265 Censorship, in their opinion, had ruined many of their best works, and a continuation of it would stifle their several arts in the future. The opinions of critics have mellowed since 1920. Then, pictures were truly indecent, according to many moral standards, and regulation was needed.

As the need gave rise

to action, their cries subsided until a point was reached at which there was too much restriction.

Since then, most of

them have aligned themselves with those of the industry who urge more freedom. II.


One of the most controversial problems in pictures is the handling, or indeed even the mention of sex.

This is

one of the strongest human motivations, whether the moralists will admit it or not.

The promise of sex in pictures is a

feature that will win the masses of the public who are more concerned with entertainment than with moral standards.


sex in pictures reaches a point of obscenity in the language of even the most jaded and liberal.

Such pictures as ’’stag”

films which are shown at fraternity pledge parties or at private orgies depict actual sexual extravagances, and laws exist against such pictures.

Other films, however, are con­

ceived in the purest attitude of artistic creation and, while they may treat of sexual manifestations, are no more obscene

266 than a painting by O.tto Dix or a statue by Carl Miles. Such a picture was Fireworks by Kenneth Anger.


film was a prize-winner at the Belgian International Film Festival in 19if-9, because the judges regarded it as a work of art.

Illustrating that immorality is largely a question

of geography, this film could not be shown, even at the Coronet art theater, in Los Angeles, because of a warning by the police department that all persons involved in showing it, including the audience, would be subject to prosecution. Fireworks treated abstractly of homosexuality and masochism, and while the implications were immoral, according to Ameri­ can mores, nevertheless, the picture had been awarded honors in Europe and was legally banned here. Another example of American reserve, if not prudery, was given by production designer William Cameron Menzies in a lecture at the University of Southern California.


pointed out that while nude statues are not draped in American museums, nevertheless, great care is taken to avoid placing them in such positions that they can be seen from the outside through windows and doorways, a precaution not exercised in Europe. Critics of censorship tend to defeat their own arguments, however, in asserting that boards governing pictures for great numbers of people cannot adequately judge according to the several standards within this number.

But then,


2 6? conversely, they ridicule the lack of conformity among the decisions of the hoards.

If standards vary with locale,

then of course the judgments of the several boards will not be uniform. But one cannot get a fair idea of either censorship or pictures from critics of the screen, because they also have their foibles.

Some have claimed that pictures cause

divorce by showing only marriage for the sake of love, and homes which are models of domestic bliss.

These conflict

with those who hold that only correct and accepted (and ideal) standards of American life should be presented.


anything detrimental to the home is depicted, this is re­ garded as a belittling of this cherished institution; and yet concurring members of the same organizations (frequently women's clubs) will condemn the lack of reality in pictures. The producers grow understandably bald pondering the demands of those who call for truth in pictures and. those who feel that there are subjects which must be concealed lest they teach wrong philosophies of life.

As the situation

stands now, the latter have unquestionably succeeded in their insistance that unbeautiful truths be utterly cloaked in obscurity.

History has proven that a blatant mirroring of

the actual American scene brings down the wrath of "the pure.”

Producers do nothing about it because they are

bound hand and foot by standards imposed by moralists.

268 But moralists have their arguments too, very graphic ones:

the pictures of the 1920"s; pictures which actually

advocated free love and trial marriage and made these things beautiful to impressionable children, removed from their parents, without qualifying these themes with indications of their possible consequences.

Perhaps the parents were to

blame, but this fact alone cannot possibly justify the propa­ gation of themes which, completely aside from moral aspects, might lead to physical harm to children.

Adolescents are

capable of procreation; and pictures which advocated sexual experimentation without companion precautions, could be and were, according to the critics, the’cause of physical suffer­ ing, social jeopardy and sometimes death to innocent, eager pioneers. And so we arrive at the situation today, the middle of the Twentieth Century.

The pictures of the *20*s are gone,

the Production Code is in full force and the picture business is faced with one of the greatest slumps in its history. Does the solution lie in a return to sex? The Outlaw thought so.

Does it lie in vulgarity and innuendo?

The producers of Battle Ground thought so. sensational spectacle?

The producer of

Does it lie in

Cecil deMille has always believed so.

A note in the Production Code states that pictures "for adults only” are not entirely satisfactory.

And yet this system

would seem to be the only method of meeting the demands of


269 all concerned.

Federal censorship could not represent the


wishes of all the people, and it affords too ready an oppor­ tunity for misuse* The mere existence of a law to protect armed forces indicates the dictatorial potentialities of a system which could glorify militarism and prevent pictures from fighting against military oppression.

State and

municipal censorships have proven a miserable failure in that almost all those operating today were in operation during the "roaring *2 0 *s" and accomplished nothing in the way of bettering films but a great deal in making them incom­ prehensible and, as illustrated in previous chapters, even . more suggestive. In my opinion, the Production Code has gone too far. With the Legion of Decency acting as its "prod and spur", it has performed to choke the very breath out of pictures and to educate audiences to^read unintended innuendos into \

innocent situations.


In\principle it is good.

The idea of

finding out what the public wants and what will be rejected or resented is entirely commendable.

But as would probably

be the case with an official federal censorship,

it applies

all the objections of all the pressure groups to all the pictures.

This is wrong. 1

Pictures for the general public

which includes children, especially "teen agers", should be regulated; Church classification lists aid in this function. But pictures for modern adults deserve a leniency which

2?0 cannot possibly apply to those for juvenile audiences. If the Roman Church chooses to proscribe films not conforming to the letter of the Code, let it do so.

I am

not acquainted with a single layman of that Church who does not decide for himself what pictures he chooses to see; but I do know a great number who deliberately attend "B” pictures for the sheer purpose of seeing what it was that offended the reviewers.

In most cases it has proved to be

some obscure point of doctrine which would have been entirely overlooked if attention had not been called to it by the classification.

In view of the obscurity of these

objections, I do not believe that a boycott of pictures today would be effective, as it was in


The result then, would be two classes of theaters, one showing films following the present restrictions of the Code, the other exhibiting liberal films, both appropriately labeled.

Let membership in the M.P.A.A. be optional so that

independent producers with vision and maturity may make pic­ tures worthy of adult and intelligent patrons.

This would

not mean exclusively esoteric pictures nor pornographic ones. The former would not draw sufficient audiences to be profit­ able, and the latter would be checked by municipal police. It would mean a consideration of themes of sociological, scientific and artistic import.

Through them, the screen

would be able to sing new songs of truth and not be bound by

271 moralistic conventions.

Attendance of minors could be

regulated just as is their patronage of liquor stores and bars.

If their betters:

the Church, the school and their

parents, choose to shelter them or to acquaint them with life's truths, the burden of this education will not be placed upon the industry.

If "the pure" do not want to be

insulted by pictures which show life as it is or should not be, let them attend those theaters showing P.C.A. films.


If any picture made be libelous or detrimental to

anyone, let the producer be tried at the insistence of the injured party, as newspaper editors are, after he has in­ flicted the injury.

Most producers are shrewd enough to

know how far they may go; those who are not will furnish an example for those who follow. State and municipal boards will probably continue to exist because of the element of political patronage which


enters into the appointment of members of these boards and because of money involved.

The figures on revenues and

salaries given in Chapter V of this paper demonstrate this point.

However, if the system outlined above were instituted

in all free states and cities in this country, its success might induce those in other places to act for removal of their boards. The system I have described is an ideal,

just as the

abolition of war or universal observance of the Ten Command-

ments are ideals. is an abomination.

Regulation is necessary but regimentation When the day comes that all mortals are

pure in heart, there will be no further worry about the production of corrupting or damaging motion pictures, because the producers too will be pure.




Alicoate, Jack, Editor, Year Book of Motion Pictures. New York: The Film Daily, 32 Volumes. Used volumes for 1930 and 19l|9. Beman, Lamar Taney, Compiler, Selected Articles of Censor­ ship of the Theater and Moving Pictures. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1931 • PPBrentford, Viscount (Joynson-H'icks, Sir William), Do We Need a Censor? London: Faber & Faber, Limited, 192^7 2lj. pp. Causton, Young, Bernard and G. Gordon, Keeping it Dark or the Censor's Handbook. London: Mandrakes Press. nd. t h t i w t :—

B 3~ p w : -----

Creel, George, How We Advertised America. and Brothers, l950"! PP-

New York: Harper

deMille, William C., Hollywood Saga. and Company, 1939~ f?l9 pp.

New York: E. P. Dutton

Ernst, Morris L . , The First Freedom. Company, 19i|-0 . PP*

New York: The Macmillan

Ernst, Morris L . , and Pare Lorentz, Censored; the Private Life of the Movie. New York: J. Cape and H. Smith, 1930. TWpp. Ernst, Morris L . , and William Seagle, _To the Pure. The Viking Press, 1928. 3^-7 pp.

New York:

Hampton, Benjamin Bowles, A History of the Movies. Covici, Friede, 1931ij-56 pp.

New York:

Harley, John Eugene, World-wide Influence of the Cinema. Los Angeles: University of Southern CaTxfornia Press, l9i|-0 . 320 pp. Inglis, Ruth A . , Freedom of the Movies. of Chicago Press, 19^7. 2l[.l pp.

Chicago: University

Jacobs, Lewis, The Rise of the American Film. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939. pp.

275 Knowles, Dorothy, The Censor, the Drama and the Film 1900-1934. London; Allan and Unwin, 1934* 29"4 pp. Lathrop, Charles Newton, The Motion Picture Problem. New York; Commission of the Church and Social Service, Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, 1922. 51 PP. Louisiana, The Legislature of the State of, Acts Passed at the Third Extraordinary Session 1935. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Printing Office, 1934* 72 pp. Martin, Olga Johanna, Hollywood1s Movie Commandments. York: The H. W. Wilson Company" 1937• 301 PP-


Massachusetts, Commonwealth of, Law Relative to the Observance of the Lord* s D a y . October 1, 1954 " September 30, 1935. TBoston) 1935* 37 PPMichi, Sublett and Stedman, A. Hewson, Charles W. and Beirne, Editors, Virginia Code of 1942. The Michie Co. Char­ lotte svilTeT- vTrginTaT T9lf-2. 316 pp. Moley, Raymond, The Hays Office. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1945266 pp. Montagu, Ivor, The Political Censorship of the Films. Victor Gollancz, Limited, 1929. 44 pp. Morris. Lloyd, Not So Long A g o . 504 pp.


New York: Random House, 194-9.

Nathan, George Jean, Art of the Night. Knopf, Inc., 1928. 2^96 pp.

New York: Alfred A.

Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson, The Morals of the Movie. Phila­ delphia: Pennsylvania Publishing Company, 1922. 251 pp. Palmer, John, The Censor and the Theater. Kenner ley, l'9l3^ 3^7 pp.

New York: Mitchell

Paul, Elliot, and Luis Quintanilla, With a Hays Nonny Nonny. New York: Random House, 1942. 186 pp. .!\Perlman, William J. , Compiler, The Movies on Trial. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936. 254 PP*

276 Pettijohn, Charles C., and Gaylord R. Hawkins, Memorandum on the Constitutionality of the Censorship of Hews Reels, Et Ai: January 3, 193VT 31 pp. Ino pubTTsher listed). Pettijohn, Charles C., Self-Regulation Versus Censorship. New York: Allied Printing Trades Council, 1938. 1 1 pp. _______ , Statement . . . Appearing in the Hearing Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce . . . on H. R." 9697 and H.“ R. 868S 7 ~ Washington, D. C. : United States Government Printing Office, 193m-* kb- PP* Potomkin, Harry Alan, The Eyes of the Movie. International Pamphlets^ 193^-* 31 PP*

New York:

Quigley, Martin, Decency in the Motion Picture. The Macmillan Company, 1937• 100 pp. Ramsaye, Terry, A Million and One Nights. and Schuster, 1926. Two volumes.

New York:

New York: Simon

_______ , Editor, Motion Picture Almanac. New York: Quigley Publishing Company, 2l volumes. Used volumes for 1930 and 19^-9 . Rex, Frederick, Motion Picture Censors * and Reviewers' Manual. Hubbard Wood's^ Illinois: Home Study Circle, l93if* 3 b PP* Thorp, Margaret Farrand, America at the Movies. Yale University Press" 1939* 313 PP*

New Haven:

United States Congress, House Committee on Education, Extracts from Hearings . . . on H^ R. l[-09ll and H. R. 6233 ♦ Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1926. 98 pp. _______, Senate, The Neely Bill (S 208). Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1939. 173 PP* Virginia, General Assembly of the State of, Acts and Joint Resolutions (Amending the Constitution). RichmoncT* State Printing Office, 1922T 995 PP* What Shocked the Censors. New York: National Council on Free­ dom From Censorship, 1933* 98 pp. Who's Who in America. Chicago: A. N. Marquis Company. 26 Volumes. Used volumes for 1922, 192if, 1925, 1926, 1930, 1938, 19lf0 and 19!j.8.

277 Young, Donald Ramsey, Motion Pictures, a Study In Social Legislation. Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing Company,


3Wpp. B.


"Bad Politics Will Kill Hays Censorship,11 Pic, 7:7-9, April

16, 19U.0. Baldwin, Roger, "Freedom of the Screen," Film Hews, 5:5, March, 19^4-* Barrett, Wilton A . , "The Work of the Rational Board of Re­ view," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 128:175-06, November, T92HT Boring, E. G. "Capacity to Report upon Moving Pictures as Conditioned by Sex and Age," Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, 6 :82O-3I4., March, I9l6. Bostwick, A. L . , "Censorship of Moving Pictures Films," National Municipal Review, 2:332-3, April, 1913"Censor and the Screen," State Government, 7:183-6, Septem­ ber, 193^-"Censors Raise a Howl, The," Life, 25:57* October 25, 19if-8« "Censorship is Outside," Motion Picture Herald, 128:7, July 3, 1937. "Censorship for Moving Pictures," Survey, 22:8-9, April 3, 1909. "Church Leader Lauds Industry Production Code," Motion Pic­ ture Herald, 162:37, March 9, 19^4-6 . "Code Confers Liberty," Motion Picture Herald, 177:1 October 22 , 19I4.9. Collier, John, "National Board of Censorship of Motion Pic­ tures," Playground, 5 :14-02-014., March, 1912. _______ , "Should the Government Censor Motion Pictures," Playground, 6:129-32, July, 1912.

278 "Conflicting Report Cards," Time, 55?75, January 23, 1950. Dalrymple, I., "Film Censorship," Spectator, 155:895-96, November 29, 1935* deMille, William C., "Bigoted and Bettered Pictures," Scribner1s Magazine, 76:231-36, September, 1924Dickinson, Thomas H . , "Theory and Practice of the Censor­ ship," Drama, 18:2^8-61, May, 1915"Do Moving Pictures Breed Immorality?," Views and Films Index, 1:3, September 22, 1906. Eastman, Elaine G. . "Handmaidens of Hollywood?," The Chris­ tian Century, 48:268-70, February 25, 1931. Ernst, Morris L . , "Freedom to Read, See, and Hear," Harper’s Magazine, 191:51-53, July, 1945. Falkenburg, Francis S. "Exhibitor Answers Critics of the Screen," Motion Picture Herald, 172:16, August l4, 1948. Force, Kenneth, "K. C. Forum Against Censorship," Motion Picture Herald, 127:58, April 17, 1937Forsythe, Robert, "Who Speaks for Us?," New Theater, (volume # not available) August, 1936.


"Freedom of the Films," Spectator, 154:109-10, January 25, 1935. "Gains Sighted in Fight Against Censorship," Motion Picture Herald, 124:28, July 18, 1936. Goldwyn, Samuel, "What’s the Matter with the Movies?," Motion Picture Herald, 125:51, December 5, 1936. Goodman, Ezra, "Are the Movies a Menace?," Coronet. 24:35-50, July, 1948. Hales, Averv, "Danger: Censors at Work," Coronet, 15:117-21, May, 1944* Hift, Fred, "Code Works, Says Schary," Motion Picture Herald, 176:18, September 24, 1949.

2?9 Hine, Al, "Some Hollywood Fare Leaves a Bad Taste, but there’s a Good Portion You Can Really Get Your Teeth into," Holiday, 6:14, December, 1949. Hirsch, Helen, ’’Political Censorship, a Mental Atomic Bomb,” The Jewish Forum, March, 1946(this was in a pamphlet, no other data available). Hitchner, D. G., "English Film Censorship During the Munich Crisis,” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, 23:133-39, September" 1942* Hodgins, Eric, ”A Round Table on the Movies," Life, 26:90, ---June 27, 1949. "How Movies Are Censored," Look, August 2, 1938. information).

(no other

Howe, Frederic C., "What to do with the Motion Picture Show: Shall it be Censored?," The Outlook, 107:4^2-16, June 20, 1914Hullinger, Edwin W . , "Free Speech for the Talkies?," North American Review, 227:737-43* June, 1929Inglis, Ruth I., "Need for Voluntary Self-Regulation," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 254": 153 “59, November, 13747. "Iowa Movie Battle," Life, 24:97-100, April 19, 1948. Kidd, Ronald, "Censorship of Films," New Statesman and Nation, 9:170-70, February 9, 1935* Kouwenhoven, John, "The Movies Better Be Good,” Harper’s Magazine, 190:534“4°, May, 1945Lang, Fritz, "Freedom of the Screen," Theater Arts, 31:52-55, December, 1947* "Legion of Decency Exposes Itself," Film Survey, #12:5, volume number listed), August, 1938.


"Legion of Decency Tells How to 'Judge Morality' of Films," Motion Picture Herald, 125:35, November 14, 1936. "Legion of Decency's Attack Shelves Garbo Film," Christian Century, 58:1564, December 17, 1941*

280 Lurasehi, Luigi, "Censorship at Home and Abroad," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 25ft: llj.7-^2, ”November,T977* Macauley, Hose, "Marginal Comments," Spectator, 157: H 7 ; 156:976, January 25, 1935; May 297 1936. Macfadden, Bernarr, "The Motion Picture Business, a Political Football?," Liberty, l6:7, May 13, 1939* MacGregor, Ford H . , "Official Censorship Legislation," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, T 2 8 :163-77, November, V 9^6. "Moral Breach," Time, 57*76, October 31, 1979* "Morals of the Movies," The Outlook, 107:387-88, June 20, 1917* "Movie Front," Homiletic Review, 108:267-68, October, 1937* "Movies Enter Another Censorship Fight, This Time with a Clean Record, The," Life, 5:50-55, July 18, 1938. "Nurse Cavell Film," Spectator, 170:288, March 3, 1928. Nugent, J. C., "What's New?," Variety, (39th Anniversary Issue) 157:7°, January 3, 1975* Ockham, D . , "Freedom of the Films," Saturday Review, 150:783, December 13, 1930. , "Mandarins of Wardour Street," Saturday Review, 179:516, April 26, 1930. Orodenker, M. H . , "See Hollywood First, Biased Censors Told," Motion Picture Herald, 136:22, March 9, 197°• Orton, William "Hollywood Has Nothing to Learn," Atlantic Monthly, l77:681-89, June, 1931* Pettijohn, Charles C., "How the Motion Picture Governs It­ self, " Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 12b: 158-62, November, T92loI Potter, Russell, "Educator Condemns Censorship of Films," Motion Picture Herald, 137:50, October 7, 1939*

281 "Public Called Best Censors," Motion Picture Herald, 126:65, March 1 3 , 1937Ramsaye, Terry, "Motion Picture, The," Anna13 of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, l£8 :1-19, November, 1926. _______ , "Perennial Issue," Motion Picture Herald, llf6:7-8, January 2if., 195-2. Rice, Elmer, "Free Expression in the U.S.A.," Saturday Re­ view of Literature, 33:25, April 1, 1950. Rivkin, Allen, "Hollywood Letter," Free World, 11:50-51, June, 195-°. Runyon, Damon, "Movies Clean Despite Vulgarists, Says Runyon," Motion Picture Herald, 137:54, December 9, 1939Salemson, Harold J., "A Question of Morals," The Screen Writer, 1:1-7, April, 195-6* Scott-Jones, R. A., "Film Censorship," Saturday Review, 151:8-9, January 3 , 1931. Shore, Viola Brothers, "You Canft Say That.1" New Theater and Film, I4.:3 6 , April, 1937Short, William H . , "Social Influence of Motion Pictures," Homiletic Review, 108:187, September, 1935-. Stephens, Harmon B . , "The Relationship of the Motion Pictures to Changing Moral Standards," Annals of the American of Political and Social Science, l28:T5l-57, November,

1^267 Taylor, Winchell, "Secret Movie Censors," The Nation, 1^7:38-5.0, July 9, 1938. Theisen, Earl, "Just a Few Notes on Censorship," Intemational Photography Magazine, 8:3, 9:32, 9:6, January, February and March, 1937• Thrasher, Frederic M . , "Education Versus Censorship," The Journal of Educational Sociology, 13:285-306, January, T9W"Understanding the Code," Motion Picture Herald, 177:1, October 8 , 195-9*

282 Wanger, Walter, ”120,000 American Ambassadors,” Foreign Affairs, 18:14.5-59, October, 1939Williams, John, “Films and the Blue Pencil,” The World Review, l|.8:5l, September, 19I4.8 . Y. Y . , "Screen Morals,” New Statesman and Nation, 8:712-13, November 17, 193^* Zanuck, Darryl F . , “Free Speech on the Silver Screen," Free World, 9:58-61, March, 19^1-5• C.


Irwin, Will, Censorship as an Author Views It, Address deliv­ ered at the National Board of Review annual conferenceluncheon, February 6, 1937D.


Hollywood Citizen News Issues for June Ip, 19^4-1 April 29, I9I4.6 July 17, 19^7, August 16, 194-7 September 19, 19^4-7 December 9, 19l|-7 February 2, 194-8 February 6, 194-8 September 17, 19^4-9 Hollywood Reporter Issues for January 29, 19^4-7 ! April 15, 19i(-7 April 18, 194-7 May llj., 1914-7 July 28, 194-7 December If, 191-1-7 April 22, 19^-8 September 15, 191-1-9 Daily Variety Issues for September 2I4., 1936 March 17 , 194-7 January 28, 19I4-8 April 19, 19l|-8 February l6 , 19^4-9

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