Record #1222

Date:
03/12/1930
Record Type:
Memos
Reel:
Reel 8
Frame Start:
8-0126
Frame End:
8-0134
Legacy ID:
1233
Legacy Year:
1930
Legacy Index:
Advertising
Comments:
Additional text in Transcription. EDITORIAL COMMENT: Things have obviously deteriorated in their ability to keep public opinion together. But we should note the local nature of what has happened. What we are talking about here is a period, from June to December 1930, in which Pettijohn (if that's who this is) claims a deterioration in advertising at the time when the Code is supposed to be coming into effect. Looking at the ads collected here, it's hard to see that they're significantly more offensive than previous ads, but they're certainly out of line with what the Production Code claimed to be doing. This is also obviously intended as a hard-hitting document attempting to move the company heads to action, and its order of priorities is important: economics comes before the civic groups. The MPPDA, of course, had to be wary of crying wolf over the civic groups, as Sam Morris has accused them of doing over compensating the smaller theatres over sound. Hays was obviously very persuasive in meetings, particularly Board of Directors meetings, where the object, presumably, was to persuade the company heads to see their larger communal interest against their immediate short-term interest, and to get them to act in concert on their better motives-which he then has to press, in part, as here, by flattery. Do the other letters to company heads at this date say the same thing, about the problem being somewhere else?

Problems with suggestive advertising; examples of bad advertising; Advertising Code; reaction of churches abandoned titles.

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Long Description:

3 December 1930 memo on bad advertising circulated by Hays with a letter 18 December 1930. File copy of letter is to Sheehan at Fox. Memo reads in part: "For the past six months this organization has been coping with an outbreak of motion picture advertising that has ranged from highly suggestive sex appeals to the viciously offensive either in text or in illustration. ... This memorandum, therefore, is an attempt to deal only with the immediately practical phases of the matter. We cannot blink the fact that within the personnel employed by the motion picture industry there are still those who believe that the only road to success is the 'dirt' road. Our main problem is the problem of dealing with those factors. "... Considered from the standpoint of its immediate effects, such advertising is an evil to the industry on the following counts: "1. The motion picture industry must lose the confidence of the financial and investment communities if such advertising continues. The attacks from religious, legislative and public sources which such advertising inevitably develops will lead to the conviction in financial and investment circles that the motion picture industry is an outcast industry, constantly endangered by public resentment and by state and national legislation. "... 2. Suggestive advertising tends to reduce general theatre attendance. "... 3. Advertising of this character threatens to destroy the profitable cooperation built up within the industry . The exchange of pictures produced by our member companies, within the circuit theatres of our own membership, is definitely endangered by offensive advertising. Unless this character of advertising is stopped, it is obvious that the producer who lives up to the Production Code and who stands for decent advertising cannot and will not endanger the good will enjoyed by his own product, by carrying the burden of objectionably advertised pictures for another producer. "... 4. Nothing can stop the legislative walls from crashing if suggestive advertising continues. Largely because of the character of advertising complained of and of some of the pictures distributed before the adoption of our new Production Code, we are faced during the coming year with censorship legislation in the states of Alabama, Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, Connecticut, California, Rhode Island, Iowa, Nebraska and West Virginia. In each of these states censorship bills will probably be introduced during the coming legislative session. In other words, we must meet attempts at censorship legislation in three times as many states during the coming year as we were forced to meet in 1929. "Of the 44 states which will hold legislative sessions next year, taxation projects, including admission taxes to all places of amusement, will be introduced in at least 30 states, I believe. ... We cannot wage our fight against censorship on the basis of double morality, one for the picture and one for the advertising. The advertisement is interpreted as a confession of motive, and if the advertisement suggests that the picture is dirty, it is difficult to defend it on the basis that it is clean. "The resentment which this advertising is storing up among religious, social welfare and public agencies is bound to react likewise on our fight against admission taxes. The rock of our contention is that motion picture entertainment is necessary recreation to the bulk of our population, rather than the luxury which the taxationists would declare it. But our platform is endangered by the charge that we stand self-confessed through our advertising of selling largely suggestive sex entertainment. "... 5. Suggestive advertising will alienate powerful group support from the industry. ... The Catholic church particularly, through Cardinal Mundelein and others, has encouraged the constructive programs undertaken by this organization, and we have found means of placing our programs and our purposes before the leaders of the church as well as before the Catholic press. I now quote from a confidential letter received from a gentleman, who because of his association with the most prominent Catholic churchmen and laymen of the country has rendered invaluable service to the industry in the presentation of our story to the right people. He writes under date of December 4th: 'To my way of thinking, it is simply incredible that any responsible person connected with your industry can seek to justify the filth, the obscenity, the violence of the advertising material which prompts this discussion ... We stand for good pictures. We want the code to succeed. We are against censorship of any kind and we are inherently opposed to any principle which suggests making people good or moral by legislation. But unless I miss my guess, a continuance of such offensive, vile and dishonest advertising will alienate our people and drive them into the camp of the enemy.' "Insofar as the militant portion of the Protestant press is concerned, I need only quote a single paragraph to show the ammunition which this advertising has furnished to those who have misrepresented the industry for their own aggrandizement. The simplest and most damning editorial that any publication could write is to quote from some of the current advertising." - quotes Christian Century 10-22-1930 "... It has long been apparent that this organization can no longer remain quiescent in its attitude to the public with regard to this advertising. Unless it is to vitiate its public influence, it cannot accept the charge of indifference to the character of the advertising. It must either plead guilty by its silence to the charge of hypocrisy, insincerity and deception, or repudiate publicly such suggestive advertising. "The main hesitancy on this point heretofore has been the fact that such a statement would be interpreted as an evidence of failure of self-regulation within the motion picture industry. "But as between the two policies open to us, it is becoming obvious that repudiation would be preferable, for the fact remains that the industry as a whole will and must support the position taken by the organization in this respect. Only immediate and effective action taken by our membership can save us from the necessity of such a course."Hays' letter of 18 December 1930 to Sheehan also includes a list of titles to be abandoned: "In addition to the abandonment of the titles on the list by the unanimous resolution of the Board, an additional resolution was passed providing that if a title when registered seems offensive, I shall immediately advise the company so registering such title and request its withdrawal and that thereafter such company will not use it. However, it is going to be my purpose in such event further to suggest to such company so registering such objectionable title that if such company desires, a reference may be had to the whole Board of Directors as to whether or not such title is objectionable. " ... I have felt constrained to write to you about all these matters because I know of your continuing interest in them. At the same time it is a pleasure to tell you that in all these matters your company has caused us very little worry, indeed, in recent months. As a matter of fact, the 'Warning' published on page 20 of the Fox house organ in the last issue I have used in a number of instances as a splendid 'exhibit A', and the ability so to do of course pleases me personally very much."

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