Record #1190

Date:
25/07/1938
Record Type:
Memos
Reel:
Reel 12
Frame Start:
12-0656
Frame End:
12-0662
Legacy ID:
1200
Legacy Year:
1938
Legacy Index:
Production Code
Comments:
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Written by Harmon? Part of the series of documents by Harmon on the Role of the PCA? This seems to be a culminating summary of the other documents on the Code, and the debate between Harmon and Breen - having in part to do with what might well be Breen's increasingly independent operation of the Code and assumption that it is written in his image, as it were, and open to his interpretation - presumably over political incidents, such as Blockade?

Jurisdiction of Production Code Administration" and "Memo on General Policy." Memo on what films the PCA should review, and memo on judicious use of the existing machinery. These memos are culminating summaries of a series of documents on the Production Code, indicating the limits of the PCAs authority: "With respect to all matters not specifically covered by the Code and any amendments thereto, the jurisdiction of the Production Code Administration is purely advisory, since no penalties now existing are applicable to such cases." ... aside from enforcement of the moral standards embodied in our Production Code, there should be just as few restrictions as possible upon the judgment of local theatre operators as to what they exhibit on their screens. ... "If the film deals with a controversial subject, but is free from that which offends decency or is listed in the Code as morally objectionable, then the sole remaining question to be decided by the Production Code Administration should not be whether the film is 'desirable' but whether the presentation deals fairly and honestly, and without deliberate deception, with the subject matter.

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Jurisdiction of Production Code Administration "Since refusal of the Production Code Administration to review a film is tantamount to forbidding its exhibition in affiliated theatres unless films not needing a seal are so classified, and since the extent of the Production Code Administration's jurisdiction is not clear, it is recommended that the Production Code Administration be instructed to review any film presented except films falling within the following classifications: "a. News reels (exempted already upon grounds of public policy); "b. Advertising trailers of a local character (exempted already); "c. Advertising films promoting the sale or use of a commodity; "d. Sponsored films, produced or distributed by commercial enterprises for promoting 'good will' for the business, industry, profession, or trade; "e. Films advertising or promoting support for organizations established to sponsor special interests or causes; "f. Films produced by Federal, state or municipal units for the purpose of supplying the public with facts relating to governmental projects or programs. "When any film not specifically excepted above is presented to the Production Code Administration, it shall be reviewed and if it conforms to standards of decency, morality and fairness embodied in the Production Code and any amendments thereto, the Association's Certificate of Approval shall be issued therefore. "With respect to all matters not specifically covered by the Code and any amendments thereto, the jurisdiction of the Production Code Administration is purely advisory, since no penalties now existing are applicable to such cases.""Memo on General Policy -- again, part of the same process, and also similarly at the end of it? "Continued success in the field of self-regulation depends upon our judicious use of the existing machinery. Even the finest piece of machinery will break down if the overload is too great. It is as true in our operations as in the political sphere, that the best governed people are those having the least government. To change the figure, when too many artificial barriers are built across a river and too much water dams up, the danger of a major disaster in case the dam does break is vastly increased. "Within the area of delegated responsibility, our 'police' force the Production Code Administration must continue to perform efficiently and sympathetically a very necessary and important function. But aside from enforcement of the moral standards embodied in our Production Code, there should be just as few restrictions as possible upon the judgment of local theatre operators as to what they exhibit on their screens. "Screen Entertainment: It has been stated (in the most recent annual report) that 'there is room, much of which is still unused, for the presentation and treatment of the greatest theses of life, literature, music and drama,' along with sheer recreation for the masses, on the entertainment screen. The subject matter of screen entertainment comprehends the manifold relationships of man and man, man and woman, man and family, man and society, man and government, man and God. "The Producer's Responsibility: The Producer must determine for himself the dramatic possibilities, the degree of box office appeal, and the probable reaction of the public to a particular theme and its treatment. While officers of the Association and members of the Production Code Administration may with propriety respond to requests for advisory opinions on these points, the final decision as to whether a certain theme not in violation of the Code will be treated in a film, must rest with the Producer. "The Association's Responsibility: Once a film has been completed and submitted to the Production Code Administration for review, it becomes the responsibility of the Association to ascertain whether or not in theme and treatment, it meets the fundamental tests of decency and morality embodied in the Production Code. "If the film deals with a controversial subject, but is free from that which offends decency or is listed in the Code as morally objectionable, then the sole remaining question to be decided by the Production Code Administration should not be whether the film is 'desirable' but whether the presentation deals fairly and honestly, and without deliberate deception, with the subject matter. "The Exhibitor's Responsibility: When the Association by its seal of approval attests the fact that a certain film meets the twin tests of common decency and common honesty, the responsibility then shifts to the exhibitor to determine whether (a) its box office possibilities, (b) the nature of the theme, and (c) the probable reaction of his local community to this theme, justify him in exhibiting it."