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Mr. White has offered full cooperation with the subcommittee in its attempts to tone down sex suggestiveness, brutality, and violence, as was found to exist in motion-picture advertising. The subcommittee has worked with Mr. White in his efforts toward this same end. He was supplied with the exhibits used in the Los Angeles hearings and materials of a critical nature which have helped him in his efforts to persuade the industry advertising executives to change some of their advertising practices. Mr. White displayed this material in a meeting of advertising directors in Los Angeles, and then took them to New York and had a similar meeting with the executives of the various motion-picture companies in that city. It is reported that during these meetings the industry leaders promised to cooperate with Mr. White. The results of this campaign to make movie advertising completely conform to the Advertising Code should be noticeable by the latter part of 1955. It is to be hoped that the hearings and the subsequent meetings will result in stricter adherence to the Motion Picture Advertising Code.
The following montage of motion-picture ads was presented as an illustration of the objectionable type during the hearings--emphasiz ing violence, brutality, sex suggestiveness, and crime. Many of these ads also misrepresent the actual contents of films.
1. Ten Wanted Men__.
2. The Prodigal
East of Eden.
3. Fox Fire__
They Were So Young..
4. Shield For Murder_.
5. Chicago Syndicate__
New York Confidential_
6. Cell 2455, Death Row--.
8. Son of Sinbad_
The Silver Chalice_.
Harry Joe Brown, Independent.
20th Century Fox.
United Artists Release.
United Artists Release.
United Artists Release.
VI. THE MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION CODE ADM NISTRATION
Nineteen fifty-five is the 25th anniversary of the voluntary adoption by the movie industry of the Motion Picture Production Code. This
code sets forth principles to assure good moral standards and decency in motion-picture entertainment.30
The motion-picture industry was the first among the media of communication in the United States to adopt a system of self-regulation. Other media have since imitated the Motion Picture Production Code, including the recent comic book code. The television code, adopted several years ago, was patterned upon the Motion Picture Production Code and contains much the same language.30 The Production Code Administration also provides machinery for supervision during production for enforcement before a picture is seen by the public. This is the only media of mass communication that has machinery of this kind.
The Production Code Administration charged with enforcement of the code consists of eight members with headquarters in Hollywood. It is an autonomous unit responsile for its own decisions. Any producer who disagrees with a judgment made by the code staff has a right to appeal to the board of directors of the Motion Picture Association of America in New York.
The services of the administration are open to all producers of motion pictures, members as well as nonmembers of the association, foreign as well as domestic. In actual practice, all but a very few of the films made in Hollywood are submitted to the Production Code Administration for its approval.
In 1954 the Code Administration approved 303 feature-length pictures. Of these, 228 were submitted by member companies, and 75 by nonmembers.31
Members of the association, having voluntarily subscribed to the code, are required to submit their films to the Code Administration before releasing them for public exhibition. Nonmembers are not required to do so, but the majority do voluntarily submit their pictures and do abide by the principles of the code.
This code, adopted in the early 1930's by the Motion Picture Production Association, consisted of a number of rules with given reasons for each rule.
Based broadly on the Ten Commandments, these rules defined the moral and ethical principles by which matter involving crime, sex, vulgarity, profanity, costume, and racial, and national sentiments, should be evaluated and related to screen drama.
It is apparent that the current trend toward excessive crime and salacious sex treatment in films is partly attributable to some failure of performance on the part of film producers who are pledged to observe this code, and the industry-appointed officials whose task it is to administer it.
There is a belief among some film producers that this code, in spirit and effect, is censorious. They complain that to observe it in letter and spirit is to hamper the artistic expression and mature development of the motion picture.
The main arguments employed against the code are:
1. That it restricts production of films of adult appeal.
See appendix for a comparison of the television, radio, comic book, and motion picture codes. See appendix.
2. That since TV producers are bound only by token acceptance of principles and practices embodied in the film code and do not maintain an administration strictly to apply them, television is correspondingly freer than its movie competitors to engage in sensational appeal to the public.
3. That the Supreme Court has ruled that the screen enjoys the same constitutional rights to freedom of expression as the newspaper press, that therefore the public shall have the sole right to decide what is fit and acceptable in movie and television entertainment.
The following counterarguments are offered in defense of the code: 1. The Production Code offers no restrictions to those engaged in producing, writing, or directing films who care to understand and give effect to its moral philosophies and ethical principles. To the contrary, it provides a key to validity in the drama by alining worldly conflicts between good and evil with immutable principles laid down by Judeo-Christian law. There prevails a common misconception that adult entertainment involves preoccupation with the sordid side of life. The result is that so many so-called adult films (including some exploiting juvenile crime and violence) betray on the part of those responsible for them, a palpably adolescent approach to sex problems and situations.
2. It is true that the television industry, under its standard of practices and so-called television code, presently fails sufficiently to curb either in quality or relative quantity its representations of crime, violence, and sexual immorality. The result is fast-growing public resistance and a loss of public following (and consequently of patronage for commercial sponsors).
3. The Supreme Court has not ruled that the constitutional rights of a "free screen" or of a "free press" include the right to present any idea that may come to a film producer's or editor's mind. While the Supreme Court has handed down no legal definitions, it has tacitly acknowledged that that which is obscene, incites to violence, or otherwise jeopardizes law and order is subject to legal restraints on the screen as in everyday life.
Mr. Goeffrey Shurlock, director, Production Code Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America, testified before the subcommittee. Mr. Shurlock has worked for the Motion Picture Association since 1932, and has been on the staff of the Production Code Administration since its formation in June 1934 under its first director, Joseph I. Breen. Upon Mr. Breen's retirement in October 1954 Mr. Shurlock became the director.
Mr. Shurlock stated that it is his duty, and the duty of the seven members of his staff, to review and pass on all pictures produced by the members of the Motion Picture Association who are signatory to the code, and also on any and all other scripts or pictures which independent producers may wish to submit voluntarily to the staff for review. Mr. Shurlock estimated that approximately 99 percent of the pictures produced in the United States for theatrical entertainment went through the Motion Picture Production Code. Funds for the operation of the Motion Picture Production Code are secured from the producers who submit a picture and pay a fee based on the negative costs of the picture.
Mr. Shurlock stated that during the last year or so, he has been aware of criticism, both in this country and from abroad, of motion
picture content which contained excessive brutality and violence. This information was brought to the attention of the producers of these motion pictures by the Production Code Administration. In November of 1954 Mr. Shurlock went to New York and discussed the matter with the president of the Motion Picture Association, Eric Johnston. He then returned to Los Angeles and started a definite campaign to warn producers that there seemed to be an increasing resistance on the part of the public to being entertained or amused by seeing violence or brutality in pictures, or pictures that seemed to be of a violent nature. Mr. Shurlock stated that, as in former cases, the producers agreed that if there is a public reaction against any element in motion pictures to the point where pictures are not being enjoyed, they will change the type of production and their approach. He feels that motion pictures which contain crime, violence, and brutality are definitely beginning to change. With the complaints against violence and the campaign to urge producers to tone down these scenes, there should be noticeable improvement in the pictures released by fall or winter of 1955. Because of production schedules, it will take at least 6 months before the effect of this campaign will be noticed.
Mr. Shurlock explained that in the course of the 20 years that the code has been in operation, the idea of mass criticism has occurred several times. In the early thirties, there was quite an outcry against the industry because of the fact that there seemed to be an excessive number of what were then known as gangster pictures. That is, gangster pictures in the sense that they dealt with the gangs of the prohibition era. The motion-picture industry took notice of this fact. At that time they staggered the release of the accumulation of this type of picture and actually stopped making them en masse. Around 1940 there were some complaints over the fact that there were an unusual number of what were called horror pictures in circulation; i. e., Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, the Son of Frankenstein, the Daughter of Frankenstein, etc. When the industry determined that the public was reacting adversely to this type of film, motion-picture producers ceased producing them.
Approximately 4 years ago, the members of the Production Code were getting a great number of complaints about drinking in motion pictures. Upon discussing this complaint with the producers they decided to remove or change objectionable material which they did rather successfully. The majority of complaints seemed to be over the fact that there was too much drinking portrayed in the American home. The producers agreed that from that time on they would confine drinking to such places as night clubs and bars, and keep the display of liquor as much as possible out of the average home. This worked so successfully that the Motion Picture Production Code received correspondence from the Methodist Board of Temperance in which they acknowledged the cooperation of the industry in reducing the emphasis on drinking in the home.
The most recent volume of complaints from the public has been, of course, against brutality and violence. Once again, the members of the Motion Picture Production Code are conferring with the producers and advising them to decrease the amount and content of scenes of brutality, violence, sadism, and suggestive sex. The subcommittee
staff, after having viewed the files of the Motion Picture Production Code, is aware of communication after communication with the producers of various motion pictures warning them that the public has been reacting adversely to what has been termed excessive brutality and a penchant for sadism in motion-picture films. The subcommittee is also aware that many of the complaints against certain motion pictures, although justifiable, are submitted by complainants who have no idea of how violent many motion pictures would have been had not many scenes already been cut from the film by the code administrators. One film in particular, Fort Yuma, might be used as an example. The files of the Code Administration yielded the information that the film contained 24 personalized killings in the script. The code administrators advised the producer that the film would not be given a seal of approval unless the number of killings was reduced from 24 to approximately 10. This course of action was followed and the film was given a seal of approval.
The following excerpts are taken from letters in the files of the Production Code. They constitute a small sampling of the types of suggestions and recommendations sent to several producers who were making pictures that contained scenes of violence:
This office has been receiving many and formidable complaints about scenes of men striking women in pictures. We have been endeavoring to tone down this problem. Consequently the acceptability of this action in scene will depend on the discretion and taste with which it is actually photographed in the finished picture. This kind of action should be gotten over by suggestion rather than photographed in detail. and
In the fight between and in other fights throughout the script, please be advised that it would be unacceptable to indulge in any kneeing, kicking, gouging, or other forms of excessive brutality.
We have been receiving many and angry complaints on the score of excessive brutality in our motion pictures. Consequently, it is necessary for us to insist that scenes involving fights and beatings of any sort be handled with a good deal more care than usual, and be done within the careful limits of good taste and discretion. ***
administers to the
The beating which will have to be gotten over principally by suggestion, and not shown in detail. As you know, we have been getting many angry complaints, both in this country and from abroad, on the score of brutality. It is very important that you keep this action down to a minimum.
*this basic story violated the production code because of its portrayal of , private detective, as a cold-blooded murderer whose numerous killings are completely justified. His taking of the law into his own hands and successfully bringing the criminals to "justice" by killing them, is in complete violation of the code.
In the handling of a story of this nature, which has valid requirements for a considerable amount of violence, we wish to caution you that details of brutality should be kept to a careful minimum. You will note below those specific scenes in which there occur certain items of excessive brutality. The sequence in which with a lenth of rubber hose is unacceptably brutal. Moreover, there is the unmistakable suggestion about this brutalizing of the helpless girl that achieves a perverted sexual satisfaction,
which we are sure you realize we could not approve in a finished picture.
It was agreed that the present version of the story contained an undue emphasis on the value of a gun to a criminal. Specifically, it was agreed that the line, "That gun made me 10 inches taller," would be eliminated; as well as the lines "* That gun was a gesture of defiance,' "*** and I believe in a loaded 45 * "It's a cool 45.
Likewise, the stage directions calling for the repeated photographing of the gun would be eliminated in every possible instance.
The second important unacceptable element is the overall tone of viciousness and brutality which we feel exceeds the limits of acceptability from the code standpoint. This is particularly true in that sequence where the boys assault