Record #1170

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Reel 11
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Protests - drinking

The Pennsylvania censor board has been asked by the state Liquor Control Board to eliminate all drinking in pictures, and seeks Hays' cooperation. But Breen thinks entirely eliminating drinking would be "quite drastic, and also quite stupid." However, the ban on unnecessary and excessive drinking should be enforced.An attached press commentary suggests that there had been recent complaints from other state censor boards, responding to temperance pressure.


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Pennsylvania Censor Board has a new Chairman, Mrs. A. Mitchell Palmer, widow of Wilson's Attorney General -- who, according to a profile in the Philadelphia Exhibitor, 15 January 1937, seems to have no knowledge or experience of movies prior to her appointment. 25 January 1937 she writes to Hays asking for eliminations of all drinking scenes, requested by her State Liquor Board.26 January 1937 Breen informs studio heads that the AMPP 01-25-1937 "unanimously agreed that all scripts, or pictures, which, in the judgment of the Production Code Administration, contain excessive or unnecessary drinking or drunkenness, are to be rejected, until such offending scenes, action, or dialogue, are deleted."29 January 1937 Breen to Hays: "It seems to me that the request, made by the State Liquor Control Board to 'eliminate all drinking scenes from motion pictures' is quite drastic, and also quite stupid. To suggest that we not show, legitimately, in screen drama, scenes of drinking, and even scenes of drunkenness, is to deny to the motion picture screen much that is finest and best in the world's literature. Under such a drastic ruling, we could not dramatize the Marriage Feast at Cana, nor the story of Noah and his sons. "I think the censor board in Pennsylvania may well be within their rights, to establish the principle that scenes, showing excessive or unnecessary drinking or drunkenness will not be approved. If I were writing to Mrs. Palmer, I would suggest an agreement that this practice of drinking in motion pictures be curtailed, but I would certainly oppose any suggestion that no scenes of drinking of any kind are to be allowed. "I would call her attention to the fact that we have been alive to this problem of drinking in motion pictures and that we, ourselves, have, as recently as last Monday night, taken steps, which we hope will drastically eliminate these scenes of drinking, which are likely to give offense. "But we ought not to conclude that we have no legitimate right to show scenes of drinking and even drunkenness, when these are necessary for proper dramatic motivation. True, even in these instances, such scenes should be handled with the utmost care and delicacy, in order to avoid giving offense. But the principle involved in the right to show scenes of drinking and drunkenness should be defended. "In passing, may I venture to suggest the thought that in this case, as in most others, the screen but reflects our modern civilization. I am satisfied in my mind that, unless drastic steps are taken by the nation as a whole to curtail excessive drinking and drunkenness, we shall wake up soon to find this nation a nation of drunkards. "The screen reflects this development in American life. It does not lead in this movement, or point the way."

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