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by the mass media. While these media are, on the one hand, reflecting the behavior of the older generation, they are, in turn, forming the minds of the younger generation, and that is where our greatest danger lies.

While social scientists, at this time, cannot fully pinpoint the exact relationship between movies and children's behavior, they do feel that to allow the indiscriminate showing of scenes depicting violence or brutality constitutes a threat to the development of healthy personalities on the part of our young people. The same scientists strongly feel that these films are often viewed extensively by the type of children who can least afford to see them. That is, by emotionally unstable children who have already developed behavior with sadistic or brutal propensities. These children may gain support and ideas from these types of film.

While these contentions have not been proven by controlled experiments, scores of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists surveyed and heard by the subcommittee--men and women who have handled emotionally warped delinquents-feel that the mass media provide fertile material for furthering the antisocial behavior of their patients.


Numerous complaints have been received about the advertising of motion pictures. Readers of even the most respectful family newspapers have noticed an increase in what they consider bad advertising. They report-sending clips from newspapers all over the country that these advertisements have reached a point close to obscenity in many cases. By the use of double-meaning phrases, these ads appear to remain within the bounds of discretion, but their total impact-especially on impressionable young minds-can only be provocative. This technique of advertising was also scrutinized at the hearings.

In these advertisements sex and violence are many times linked together and are presented with pictures that may be described as explosive. All too often the advertising is entirely misleading and does not come close to honestly describing the film it is supposed to represent. The subcommittee would like to stress at this point that these ads represent only a portion-a very small portion of the total advertising content. Yet, it is this portion that was of concern to many people.

The rapid growth and acceptance of motion pictures and their influence on American morality and ethics have added to the responsibilities of the industry. These responsibilities represent a direct social challenge to the motion-picture industry in Hollywood, and the industry has willingly answered this challenge. Leaders in both production and advertising have, of their own free will, initiated codes to control their activities-which the subcommittee believes are good codes.

At the hearings in Los Angeles, a determination of how the codes were working was made. The subcommittee heard the positive contributions that motion pictures are making to our way of life. The studio executives pointed, with justifiable pride, to the many fine pictures which they feel have helped fight delinquency, even as the bad pictures might have helped to create delinquency.

It was pointed out at the beginning of the hearings that the investigation was not for the purpose of trying to highlight the bad.

The subcommittee recognized and appreciated the fact that the industry, generally, has been a fine influence for the good. It has been a great media for the entertainment and education of our people not only in the United States but throughout the world.

It was the subcommittee's purpose to try to work with the industry for the performance of even greater good, particularly in the field. of juvenile delinquency and the impression that pictures make upon our young people.


The first witness heard from was Mr. William Mooring, television and motion picture editor of the Catholic Tidings. Mr. Mooring writes for the local archdiocese newspaper in Los Angeles and also writes a syndicated weekly column to some 50 other Catholic newspapers throughout the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world. Mr. Mooring is well qualified, both intellectually and occupationally, to discuss the content of motion pictures in terms of any trends that have developed therein. In addition to discussing motion-picture content in general, Mr. Mooring dwelt upon 10 motion pictures that he felt to be specific violations of the Motion Picture Production Code.

Mr. Mooring feels that criminal violence, human brutality, sadism, and other manifestations of psychopathic disorder have increased noticeably in motion pictures and on television within the past 2 years. Official Hollywood admission of overemphasis upon violence has been made by Eric Johnston, of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., as reported in the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety of May 23, 1955.5

The witness further stated that concurrently, and in many instances, coincidentally, the treatment of sex in motion pictures and on television has been less restrained although so far no admission of this has been made officially by the Hollywood motion picture or television producers.

Mr. Mooring reported that overseas importers of American films almost unanimously oppose those in which violence and brutality are dominant features. The British Board of Film Censors, a nonstatutory body which commands the respect of the British film industry and the public at large, has recently banned public exhibition of The Wild One, Cell 2455-Death Row, Black Tuesday, Wicked Woman, Cry Vengeance, and The Blackboard Jungle. These have all been refused certificates and negotiations are now proceeding with the Hollywood producers to try to remove the objections against them. Other recent films have been subject to heavy eliminations resulting in damage to, or destruction of, story continuity.

Warning has been given by the British Board of Film Censors to the Hollywood producers that no film scenes involving excessive brutality, criminal violence, or extreme and salacious sex situations will

3 Mooring. William, statement in hearings before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, Motion Pictures, U. S. Senate, held on June 16, 1955, pp. 75-91. Code To Make "No Concessions," article in Variety, vol. 87, No. 56, May 23, 1955, p. 1.

Producers Resist Pressure To Supplant Administrator With Catholic; Code Stiffened. article in the Hollywood Reporter, vol. CXXXIV, No. 39, May 23, 1955, p. 1.

be accepted for public exhibition in Great Britain. That the British Board of Film Censors has refused several of these recent crime and sex pictures any kind of certification at all indicates the grave view they take of their likely effect upon the national culture and upon immediate problems of maintaining public morals and good law and order. It is the official British view that the films mentioned as having been banned are not acceptable even for adults. In the United States, however, the films have been shown, and are being shown, without consideration for the age makeup of the audience. The subcommittee noted along this line the editorial Violence in Films, which appeared in the Motion Picture Herald of April 30, 1955. It stated: Writing recently from Hollywood, C. L. Sulzberger, senior foreign correspondent of the New York Times, said: "In 1953, word was spread among major studios (from the U. S. State Department) suggesting that scenes of physical violence be toned down in order to avoid giving the world too savage a portrait of ourselves."

Apart from any considerations of the effect of Hollywood product abroad, excessive cruelty, violence, and sadism also have adverse effects at home.

Despite the warnings from the State Department, the Production Code Administration, and other quarters, there is still much too much detailed physical violence and torture in too many pictures. The responsibility of controlling this situation rests on the studio heads. Effective action should be taken before grave damage is done at the box office.


While interpretation of Production Code rules involves matters of opinion, Mr. Mooring felt that there seems little room for doubt that the following films are in violation of code rules either in letter or spirit, and in many instances both. The following is a résumé of the films and the specific violations felt to be portrayed therein.

Black Tuesday: Introduced brutal killings, a new and unique trick for concealing a gun, a perfect pattern for crime (escape from the just process of law), and excessive brutality. These portrayals are all expressly forbidden by the Production Code.

Big House, U. S. A.: Dealt with the kidnaping of a child (which became a main theme despite efforts to cover the fact by introducing prison break as a secondary theme). It also introduced excessive brutality and gave details of the crime of kidnaping in violation of the Production Code. (At the time of this reports printing, a film entitled "Ransom," produced by MGM is being shown with the Code seal of approval. This was brought about when the producers appealed to the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Association on the grounds that the film would show no details of the kidnaping or the child in the hands of the kidnapers. On this basis, special permission was given to make this one picture. The code section on kidnaping is still enforced.)

Cell 2455, Death Row: Dealt with the life of a notorious criminal of current times and identified him in the screen titles. Thus, while sidestepping the rule against the use of the criminal's name in the film, it violated the express purpose of the rule. It also contained intimate reference to sexual intercourse detailed partly by pictorial means then confirmed by sound effects.

British Censors Again Warn H'wood on Crime Pictures, in the Hollywood Reporter, vol. CXXXIV. No. 28, May 6, 1955, p. 2. Editorial in the Motion Picture Herald, vol. 199, No. 5. April 30, 1955, p. 7.

Son of Sinbad: Exploits seminudity which the Production Code for bids coming under the heading of immoral actions. It also presents dances identifiable with sexual actions and after the fashion of burlesque is intended to excite the emotional reaction of an audience through exposure and movement; all code violations.

Kiss Me Deadly: Viciously combines criminal brutality and sex salaciousness in violation of the Production Code.

Five Against the House: Presents a pattern of crime conceived by four young college men and executed for fun by methods most calculated to inspire others with the desire for imitation contrary to the Production Code. It also highly suggests references to sex.

Violent Saturday: Powerfully dramatic and technically of high caliber, explicitly details the methods of a bank-robbery crime in violation of the Production Code. Some scenes also appear to break the rules against excessive brutality.

Not As a Stranger: Links animal mating by direct symbolisms with an illicit sex adventure between a man and woman thus imputing instinctive and animalistic nature to humankind and inferring that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted thing by implying they are not subject to reason but only to animal instinct.

The Seven-Year Itch: Deals with adultery and illicit sex as a subject for fun. The technique employed, rather common of late, is to presume that the illicit adventures existed only in the imagination of the characters and did not in fact occur. This method permits the characters talking about and going through the forms of sexual promiscuity without any restraints. If the film is aimed at adults the fact is that adolescents will be free to attend and many may be impressed that sexual promiscuity is an easy, acceptable, laughing matter and not a violation of the virtues.8


Producers in Hollywood try to cater to a common interest thought to prevail in various types of people. That is, the prevailing emphasis in screen drama is usually drawn from what the producers conceive to be subjects of major current interests of the public at any given time. There is a dependency, of course, upon stage plays and novels and today it is evident that these sources, often with the aid and approval of many who would call themselves literary or dramatic critics, are increasingly politic. Mr. Mooring ascribed the present trend toward criminal violence and salaciousness in pictures and television partly to this factor and partly to the following causes:

1. A vigorous and easily understandable competition between motion pictures and television, with the movie people insisting that television is getting away with it and why shouldn't they and vice versa.

2. The design on Hollywood's part, sharpened by some limited success of some of the sensational foreign pictures which had been imported to this country, to strive for what they called a larger adult content in American motion pictures. Here, Mr. Mooring stated that he felt it is a prevailing fetish that only those screen plays that deal intimately or sensationally with the sordid side of life contain the most desirable elements of adult appeal.

8 Mooring, William, op. cit., p. 91.

3. There is in Hollywood an increasing resistance to anything and everything identified with censorship. Too often, however, no intelligent distinctions are drawn by the Hollywood producers between what is called "blue nosed" censorship and the very sane editorial restraints proposed by Hollywood's own voluntary Production Code."

Those who defend unrestrained realism in motion pictures and television have advanced the following arguments:

1. That the habit of movie-going has accustomed youth and others to accept a film story as something to be enjoyed, not necessarily believed, let alone imitated.

2. That it is impractical to gear the dramatic content of motion pictures to the quirks of a small minority presumed of borderline mentalities: for example, deviates, sadists, molesters, and so forth.

3. That what is true to life is wholly acceptable in films and is given expression through media such as books, newspapers, comics, and therefore is equally valid and safe for the screen.10

The first argument appears to have some value, although it cannot be applied to all or even with certainty to a majority of young people who see movies and television shows.

The second argument also projects an element of truth, although if, as it implicitly admits, the incipient criminal or social moron can be excited to imitative behavior, the same, in varying degrees, is true of us all. That the so-called emotionally unstable group of youth is not such a small minority can be seen by the fact that the subcommittee has reports which indicate that approximately 10 percent of the total school population is composed of emotionally unstable adolescents. In some schools in deteriorated areas, this percentage may go as high as 60 percent." Every one of us is subject to temptation and the incidents of persuasion from the screen must depend upon individual circumstances, conditions and character qualities nobody can definitely fix. The third argument takes no cognizance of the fact that dramatized. images on a screen are far more powerful in their effort upon the human mind and imagination than the printed word. New methods of picture magnification and sound fidelity employed in the latest movies have increased this power.

In summation then it can be said that motion picture and television producers must cater to patrons whose personalities and backgrounds are different. They must endeavor to turn out a continuous stream of entertainment reflecting, in an unlimited variety, the verities of life. This leads them to cater to all tastes on as many levels of human intelligence and appreciation as they, and those they employ, can count or share.

Their emphases are drawn from what they conceive currently to be subjects of major public interest. If crime and violence assume an upswing in our social and national experience, it follows that the Hollywood movies reflect that upswing in a corresponding increase of screenplays featuring violence.

This may presently indicate a vicious circle in which the motion. picture and television borrow criminal color from current circumstance and pass it on to society at some peril of increasing the momentum of the prevailing evil.

Ibid., p. 79.

10 Ibid., pp. 80-81.

11 Abrahamsen, David. Status of Mental Hygiene and Child Guidance Facilities in Public Schools in the United States, Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 46, No. 1, January 1955, pp. 107-118.

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