National League of Decency

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline
User avatar

drednm

  • Posts: 6827
  • Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:41 pm
  • Location: Belgrade Lakes, ME

National League of Decency

PostMon Jun 26, 2017 7:20 pm

Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Lorusso/e/ ... 203&sr=8-1
Offline
User avatar

westegg

  • Posts: 1221
  • Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2008 9:13 am

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 6:58 am

Their ratings today would be off the chart: A-IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

:lol:
Offline
User avatar

bobfells

  • Posts: 2884
  • Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:03 pm
  • Location: Old Virginny

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 7:57 am

Thanks for sharing Ed. I remember reading the Legion of Decency ratings when I was a kid and would see them listed in our weekly diocesan newspaper. The ratings reflected an era when American movies were meant to influence people's attitudes and manners. Indeed, I learned a lot about how to handle myself in various situations by watching films of the 1930s. I'm not confrontational by nature so when I found myself in such a situation I recalled a movie line, "You're forcing me to become unpleasant." That actually worked on the rare occasions I used it!

As to the ratings, they would be revised over time. For example, GONE WITH WIND originally got a B rating (objectionable in part for all) in 1940 but by the time of its 1967 re-release it was revised to A-II (acceptable for adults and adolescents). Pope Pius XI, even wrote an encyclical in 1936 called "On Motion Pictures" but it was mostly concerned about pre-Code films.
Offline
User avatar

drednm

  • Posts: 6827
  • Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:41 pm
  • Location: Belgrade Lakes, ME

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 8:29 am

I found this totally by accident when looking up the 1953 remake of A Free Soul (1931). Twenty years later, they pretty much had to gut the original story to the point of making a 69-minute of "why bother?" I too remember this code, especially the old lady next door who would rave about the "condemned" films on the Pope's list (her impression of it all) and the sins that were committed by going to the movies.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Lorusso/e/ ... 203&sr=8-1
Online
User avatar

Donald Binks

  • Posts: 2775
  • Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:08 am
  • Location: Somewhere, over the rainbow

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 4:32 pm

bobfells wrote:American movies were meant to influence people's attitudes and manners.


I think they still are! But, completely around the wrong way! :D
Regards from
Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
Offline
User avatar

Changsham

  • Posts: 789
  • Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:34 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 5:49 pm

Plenty of foreign films polluting pure American minds.
Offline
User avatar

BrianG

  • Posts: 128
  • Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:07 pm
  • Location: New Jersey

Re: National League of Decency

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 11:06 am

In the late 1950's/early 60's, my parents got a Catholic newspaper called The Monitor which had the Legion of Decency ratings. If I wanted to see a movie, they first checked the rating. Of course, with 3 theaters in town, once they dropped me off and drove away I'd walk to the theater showing the movie I wanted to see.
Offline
User avatar

drednm

  • Posts: 6827
  • Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:41 pm
  • Location: Belgrade Lakes, ME

Re: National League of Decency

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 11:53 am

The pope had lousy taste in movies....
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Lorusso/e/ ... 203&sr=8-1
Offline

linquist

  • Posts: 91
  • Joined: Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:54 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 4:17 pm

And now for the other side of the story:
Here's Wikipedia's list of the films the League condemned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_f ... of_Decency
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 5077
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 4:22 pm

Give me smut, and nothing but!

Bob
To remain ignorant of what occurred before before you were born is to remain forever a child.
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero
Offline
User avatar

Changsham

  • Posts: 789
  • Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:34 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 4:59 pm

The irony is that most of the films condemned by the League of Decency are from predominanty Catholic countries.
Online
User avatar

Donald Binks

  • Posts: 2775
  • Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:08 am
  • Location: Somewhere, over the rainbow

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 6:41 pm

boblipton wrote:Give me smut, and nothing but!

Bob


Television networks in Oz are now required to show a brief notice informing viewers what the film contains. I usually wait till I see "Nudity", "Overt Sex Scenes" and "Adult Themes" to know I am on to something good! :D
Regards from
Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
Offline
User avatar

Harold Aherne

  • Posts: 1647
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:08 pm
  • Location: North Dakota

Re: National League of Decency

PostFri Jun 30, 2017 7:26 pm

Changsham wrote:The irony is that most of the films condemned by the League of Decency are from predominanty Catholic countries.


In many European countries, films have been restricted by age for many years, long before the MPAA began assigning ratings in 1968. While that isn't to say that everything was passed uncensored everywhere, there was a general recognition in many parts of the world that films could deal with adult themes without necessarily being sinful or immoral in themselves.

That wasn't a view shared by Martin Quigley, the publisher of Motion Picture Herald (and its predecessors) and one of the guiding hands behind the Production Code and the Legion of Decency. He opposed the establishment of an age-based admission system for years, and his perspective on the morality of films was rather Manichean. After reading the Production Code's own justifications for its existence, one could be forgiven for thinking that its authors had a low opinion of the general public's intelligence and ethical fortitude. And the Legion's classification of "B -- Morally objectionable in part for all" seems to admit no distinctions of education or sophistication in different audiences.

Joseph Breen may have been the face of the PCA (to the degree it had one) for its first 20 years, but Martin Quigley was much of its underlying bone and muscle.

-HA
Offline
User avatar

Brooksie

  • Posts: 2627
  • Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:41 pm
  • Location: Portland, Oregon via Sydney, Australia

Re: National League of Decency

PostSat Jul 01, 2017 12:36 pm

Is anyone aware of a good comparative study on censorship standards from country to country? The variations are quite fascinating. For example, it still amazes me that following the cycle of Universal horror films of the early 30s, the entire horror genre was banned in Australia for decades.
Offline

barry byrne

  • Posts: 259
  • Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:56 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jul 11, 2017 12:56 pm

"a good comparative study on censorship standards from country to country"

Not aware that this very big subject has ever been tackled but there have been a good number of books about the fairly vicious censorship that applied in Ireland from the 1920's until the 1970's which you might find of interest, with very many films banned, substantially cut (in some cases to make the plot very difficult or near impossible to follow, including Casablanca). The banning statistics are even more amazing, as exhibitors did not bother to submit films likely to fail for cost reasons. A web search will turn up many books and articles.

Oddly, Ireland was far less concerned about horror films, which generally got a lighter touch than exhibitions of "lascivious dancing",whatever that might be.
Offline
User avatar

Jim Roots

  • Posts: 2425
  • Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:45 pm
  • Location: Ottawa, ON

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jul 11, 2017 2:55 pm

barry byrne wrote:Oddly, Ireland was far less concerned about horror films, which generally got a lighter touch than exhibitions of "lascivious dancing",whatever that might be.


Well, living in Ireland was a bit of a horror film in itself, so the censors probably just figured stuff like Night of the Living Dead was an Irish documentary.

Jim
Online
User avatar

Donald Binks

  • Posts: 2775
  • Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:08 am
  • Location: Somewhere, over the rainbow

Re: National League of Decency

PostTue Jul 11, 2017 3:19 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
barry byrne wrote:Oddly, Ireland was far less concerned about horror films, which generally got a lighter touch than exhibitions of "lascivious dancing" ...
Jim


Australia seemed to have problems with lascivious dancing too. I remember seeing a documentary about early Oz films and there was one scene presented which showed a woman doing a hula dance or something similar. The censors had required the film to be released with white lines painted through most of her body in order that the public could not see any gyrations which could cause some to go berserk.
Regards from
Donald Binks

"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
Offline

Marr&Colton

  • Posts: 718
  • Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:17 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 6:45 am

Censorship and Decency are ridiculed in today's cesspool of a society full of violence, shootings, drug use, divorce and immorality. As a young person in the 1950s I remember a society that was totally different than today.

We can thank today's movies (beginning in the 1960s when the Code was discarded) for the glorification of guns, murder and violence as a way to solve problems, immorality as a way to enjoy life......and on it goes.

As for me, my weekly programs at my home theatre feature movies made after 1934 and before 1960--and we enjoy going back to a much happier world than the reality of today's mess on almost every front. Thanks to the Code, even the crime and noir movies didn't glorify violence and had a strong moral to the story.
Offline
User avatar

bobfells

  • Posts: 2884
  • Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:03 pm
  • Location: Old Virginny

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 11:35 am

drednm wrote:The pope had lousy taste in movies....


I doubt the Pope was on the committee rating the movies.
Offline
User avatar

Brooksie

  • Posts: 2627
  • Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:41 pm
  • Location: Portland, Oregon via Sydney, Australia

Re: National League of Decency

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 10:48 pm

bobfells wrote:
drednm wrote:The pope had lousy taste in movies....


I doubt the Pope was on the committee rating the movies.


Well, you'd be surprised. In past decades the Holy See was quite influential on censorship matters. Take the tango - it was outlawed in Italy in the early 1910s with the official support of Pope Pius X. He only rescinded his opposition when a sanitised version of the dance was specially performed for him.

The religious aspect of censorship would certainly warrant a chapter in any good book on the topic. It was, after all, the driving force behind the Code. The Chief Censor of Australia during the silent and early sound era, Cresswell O'Reilly, was a lay preacher.
Offline

Marr&Colton

  • Posts: 718
  • Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:17 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 6:42 am

I've been reading this list (link in the first post) and it is quite interesting! Even the major studios had "B" ratings
once in a while, which were disapproved.

Some of the reasons:

1. Portray suicide as acceptable.
2. Portray divorce as acceptable.
3. Give great detail on how crime committed--can encourage others to do same.
4. Suggestive dialogue.
5. Lightly regard marriage.
6. Undue brutality.

I'm not Catholic but these are very basic moral issues I learned as a kid growing up in the early 1950s, when divorce was rare, violent crime limited to small parts of the city and a 8 year old kid could ride his bike almost anywhere in a city or ride the bus downtown by himself to see a movie. Little by little over several decades our entertainment has gotten much more violent, sexually graphic and co-incidentally our society has become what it is today.
Offline
User avatar

drednm

  • Posts: 6827
  • Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:41 pm
  • Location: Belgrade Lakes, ME

Re: National League of Decency

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 8:21 am

Marr&Colton wrote:I've been reading this list (link in the first post) and it is quite interesting! Even the major studios had "B" ratings
once in a while, which were disapproved.

Some of the reasons:

1. Portray suicide as acceptable.
2. Portray divorce as acceptable.
3. Give great detail on how crime committed--can encourage others to do same.
4. Suggestive dialogue.
5. Lightly regard marriage.
6. Undue brutality.

I'm not Catholic but these are very basic moral issues I learned as a kid growing up in the early 1950s, when divorce was rare, violent crime limited to small parts of the city and a 8 year old kid could ride his bike almost anywhere in a city or ride the bus downtown by himself to see a movie. Little by little over several decades our entertainment has gotten much more violent, sexually graphic and co-incidentally our society has become what it is today.


I think films tend to mirror society, rather than lead it. But yes I remember riding my bike anywhere I wanted to go, take a bus to downtown to see a movie when I was visiting relatives in cities, went to the beach by ourselves (no adults), etc. As a kid, we visited New York City every summer, Boston several times throughout the year, and never felt threatened or awkward in walking all over the city. That said, I still think the League was a lot of BS.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Lorusso/e/ ... 203&sr=8-1
Online
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 9038
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

Re: National League of Decency

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 11:13 am

Marr&Colton wrote:I'm not Catholic but these are very basic moral issues I learned as a kid growing up in the early 1950s, when divorce was rare, violent crime limited to small parts of the city and a 8 year old kid could ride his bike almost anywhere in a city or ride the bus downtown by himself to see a movie. Little by little over several decades our entertainment has gotten much more violent, sexually graphic and co-incidentally our society has become what it is today.


While I share your love of classic films, and I agree that many current films have too much bad language, drug use and violence, you are fooling yourself if you think these things didn't occur during the Production Code years. Divorce is acceptable. When one person, usually the husband, is physically or verbally abusive, or is unfaithful, do you really want a couple to remain married? It's horrible enough for the kids either way. And in the 1950s, my mother-in-law was repeatedly sexually abused by an uncle, and the movies had no part in encouraging this behavior.
Offline
User avatar

Changsham

  • Posts: 789
  • Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:34 pm

Re: National League of Decency

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 7:23 pm

I tend to think the so called "good old days" when there was censorship and life was ideal and safe as portrayed by films were a great big lie. It was like an alternate universe. We used to live in a poor suburb and there was drunkedness and verbal and physical violence everywhere. My mother and I were badly beaten once by a drunk when she was escorting me home from school. My dad sometimes came home covered in blood and torn clothes.
When we moved to a middle class suburb it was somewhat different but just as dark behind the peaceful facade. Kids there also had a lot of unsupervised freedom but it was drummed into kids in my circle to avoid the fat pervert who ran the local garage and Justice of the Peace who ran the hardware store. I still remember their leery looks. I went to a catholic school and while the priest was OK, every one knew about the Boy Scout leader and his bum chums as we called them. Pillars of the local community they were. They got away with everything.
Offline
User avatar

bobfells

  • Posts: 2884
  • Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:03 pm
  • Location: Old Virginny

Re: National League of Decency

PostSat Jul 15, 2017 10:08 am

Brooksie wrote:
bobfells wrote:
drednm wrote:The pope had lousy taste in movies....


I doubt the Pope was on the committee rating the movies.


Well, you'd be surprised. In past decades the Holy See was quite influential on censorship matters. Take the tango - it was outlawed in Italy in the early 1910s with the official support of Pope Pius X. He only rescinded his opposition when a sanitised version of the dance was specially performed for him.

The religious aspect of censorship would certainly warrant a chapter in any good book on the topic. It was, after all, the driving force behind the Code. The Chief Censor of Australia during the silent and early sound era, Cresswell O'Reilly, was a lay preacher.


Sure there's a difference between the Holy See and the Pope as an individual sitting in a chair watching CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS and deciding what rating it should be given. As has been said before and worth repeating, American studios once felt a responsibility to portray how people should behave, hoping the public would follow the example. When that shifted to show how (some) people really behave, the public seemed to follow that too.
Offline

Daniel Eagan

  • Posts: 714
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:14 am

Re: National League of Decency

PostSun Jul 16, 2017 6:21 am

Brooksie wrote:
bobfells wrote:
drednm wrote:The pope had lousy taste in movies....


I doubt the Pope was on the committee rating the movies.


Well, you'd be surprised. In past decades the Holy See was quite influential on censorship matters. Take the tango - it was outlawed in Italy in the early 1910s with the official support of Pope Pius X. He only rescinded his opposition when a sanitised version of the dance was specially performed for him.

The religious aspect of censorship would certainly warrant a chapter in any good book on the topic. It was, after all, the driving force behind the Code. The Chief Censor of Australia during the silent and early sound era, Cresswell O'Reilly, was a lay preacher.


The Vatican had nothing to do with the Legion of Decency. The Legion was strictly an American group.

Return to Talking About Talkies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests