Thursday, March 3, 2016

This film is condemned

With 31 Days of Oscar over for another year, as I mentioned yesterday, we're getting back into the regular programming feautures. The TCM Spotlight returns tonight, as Sr. Rose Pacette, from the Pauline Center for Media Studies comes on to discuss the Catholic Legion of Decency and the films it condemned. The Legion was founded in 1933, at a time when the studios were flouting the morals code suggested by former Postmaster General turned morals judge Will Hays. For fairly obvious reasons devout Catholics had problems with many of the movies the studios were putting out. To be fair, I can see people being uncomfortable with something like the roller-skating baby peeping Tom in Gold Diggers of 1933 in general, and more specifically with it being portrayed as something funny.

Of course, there were a lot of Catholics, and in those days they were more united, I think, than today, in that more of them went to Mass and listened to what the priests were telling them. So the Legion, getting ticked at the alleged filth in movies, threatened to boycott. And the studios were worried, since something like a quarter of the population was Catholic; that's a pretty big portion of your potential audience to lose. That's what led to the Production Code, with Joe Breen enforcing it, coming into effect in July 1934.

This week sees a couple of pre-Codes, along with some foreign films. Foreign movies weren't subject to the code in the same way Hollywood movies were, in that the foreign filmmakers weren't submitting scripts to the Code office for approval; as far as I know however there would have been the same restrictions on what theaters wouldn't show movies that hadn't been approved and who would run advertisements for them. So in addition to the pre-Codes this week, we're also getting a British movie, Michael Powell's Black Narcissus, in the lineup this week (9:30 PM). That one would have been condemned because of the presentation of nuns as having desires; you can see why the Catholic hierarchy would condemn that. Later in the month we'll be getting And God Created Woman, which has much more traditional condemnable material.

Unfortunately, TCM's website for the spotlight is terrible as always. Although it's not Flash this time, it seems to be just a bunch of images with one link to a PDF. You can get the schedule from the traditional schedule pages.

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