Record #12

Date:
30/09/1922
Record Type:
Letter
From/By:
Albert Warner, Vice president and treasurer of Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.and treasurer of Vitaphone Corporation, Warner Bros.
To:
Mr Will H. Hays, President, MPPDA
Reel:
Reel 1
Frame Start:
1-0021
Frame End:
1-0027
Legacy ID:
12
Legacy Year:
1922
Legacy Index:
MPPDA - Civic Committee

Warner Bros.' guardedly negative reaction to Hays' proposals for the public relations Committee, contained in his letters of 09-05-1922 and 09-16-1922. WB are not in the business of making preachments or moral lessons - Warner suggests that the Committee of Twenty would be like the National Board of Review (NBR), and proposes that comments be made prior to filming, at the point of production. "we cannot all make pictures that carry exactly the kind of moral lesson that we might feel inclined to, so when a picture starts to become an out and out preachment, it ceases to become an entertainment and the public will simply stay away from it. ... it is our candid opinion that the proper place to take any action of this kind is in the story itself before the picture is put into the course of production. In this way a vast amount of money and time would be saved and the same effect gained. In other words, we believe that prevention is better than cure. If an organization can be put into effect to suggest a story that would prove both entertaining to the public and at the same time morally beneficial, we would be delighted to fall in line with any suggestions that such an organization might make, in as much as the fact that they represent a vast number of people would ensure us of the fact that such a proposition would be both practical commercially and acceptable to the general public ... Although it is a good idea for an organization of this kind to circulate favorable comment at the same time we believe that the adverse comments would be nearly as freely circulated as it is a big gamble as to whether these things do not leak out, as secrets are not even kept in well regulated families."

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Long Description:

CIVIC COMMITTEE. 1922 WARNERS' RESPONSE TO NOTION OF A PUBLIC RELATIONS COMMITTEE. September 20th, 1922 Mr. Will Hays Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America, Inc.522 Fifth Avenue New York City Dear Mr. Hays: Your letter of the 16th at hand, and you will pardon us for not answering yours of September 5th. However, we have had the matter under consideration for some time, and although the outline of the organization mentioned in your communication undoubtedly has many virtues, we can also see several defects from our point of view. After all is said and done, we are all in the business for profit, and while it is true that we are not seeking to do anything wrong in order to obtain this profit, we have found out from experience that a picture must be successful commercially in order to do any amount of good, that is, to teach any lesson, inasmuch as the more successful a picture is in this respect, the more people will see it. We cannot all make pictures that carry exactly the kind of moral lesson that we might feel inclined to, as when a picture starts to become an out and out preachment, it ceases to become an entertainment and the public will simply stay away from it. Then, again, in order to emphasize the right in any one story it is sometimes necessary to perhaps exaggerate the wrong in order that the contrast may be obvious to those who look at the production, and from our experience the average person on the censor board tries to forget the right that is shown and bases his findings upon the wrong. A body of twenty people, each one belonging to a different organization, some of them of different faiths, and each one with a different point of view, will all find things that appear to them adversely, while to others the same points may be overlooked entirely. Therefore, it is impossible to make a picture that will thoroughly satisfy everybody. As a specific example, we might mention the letter received from Mr. Moore, in which he took exception to a title in one of our comedies. I am sure, Mr. Hays, that if you saw this comedy you would realize how little this title meant and what little harm it did to Mr. Moore, his belief, or anyone in particular. However, on account of Mr. Moore's exception to it we spent several hundred dollars to replace titles in approximately 75 or 100 prints that are out working throughout the country; but we were glad to do this in order to show that our intentions were right. Although we think the plan as outlined in your letter of forming a committee of twenty is very good in certain ways, nevertheless it appears to us to be something like the old National Board of Review rejuvenated, and it is our candid opinion that the proper place to take any action of this kind is in the story itself before the picture is put into the course of production. In this way a vast amount of money and time would be saved and the same effect gained. In other words, we believe that prevention is better than cure. If an organization can be put into effect to suggest a story that would prove both entertaining to the public and at the same time morally beneficial, we would be delighted to fall in line with any suggestions that such an organization might make, inasmuch as the fact that they represent a vast number of people would assure us of the fact that such a proposition would be both practical commercially and acceptable to the general public. We have always tried to make the class of product which teaches a moral lesson and our trouble has not been in the course of production but in the proper selection of stories. You realize that in our particular case the loss of a picture through advance adverse comment, as we would not dare to put a picture on the market that was condemned before it was released, would mean a very serious loss inasmuch as we are not a corporation that commands unlimited outside capital, but are limited to our own resources and schedule our production in accordance with the means we have to properly handle same. Although it is a good idea for an organization of this kind to circulate favorable comment, at the same time we believe that the adverse comments would be nearly as freely circulated as it is a big gamble as to whether these things do not leak out, as secrets are not even kept in well regulated families. We should like, however, to have an opportunity of discussing this matter with you in further detail before placing ourselves on record as having ventured an opinion either for or against the propositions; but we are just stating the views that came to us after consideration of your letter of September 5th. With kindest regards and best wishes, we are Sincerely yours WARNER BROTHERS [Albert Warner]

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