Record #1212

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Reel 12
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Production Code

Time Magazine, in an article on Stagecoach, has referred to Wanger as a man who holds the Production Code in contempt. Wanger complains to Breen who complains bitterly to Hays about the way Time habitually sneers at the Code. Hays sets Kenneth Clark to investigate; Clark finds that according to the evidence, Wanger does hold the Code in contempt.


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Wanger and Stagecoach: 22 April 1939, Breen to Hays: "Some time back, Time Magazine, in its preview of the Wanger picture, titled Stagecoach, went out of its way to sneer at the work of the Production Code and referred to Wanger as one who had nothing but 'contempt' for the Code. [Wanger phoned to deny this.] ... The point of all this is that Time consistently goes out of its way to sneer at our work and everything we try to do by way of maintaining reasonable acceptable moral standards for our American-made screen plays. One, reading Time week after week, would get the impression -- certainly from reading the 'Cinema Comments' that Time is opposed to common decency on the screen. This last experience -- the neglect to publish Wagner's telegram [denying comments] -- is specific evidence, I think, of the policy on the part of the magazine to extend itself, even to the point of actual misrepresentation, in furtherance of its championship of indecency. I think something, in a very vigorous way, ought to be done about it."2 May 1939 memo, Kenneth Clark to Hays: "1. Perhaps I am less acutely attuned to such things, but I haven't noticed a marked tendency on the part of Time magazine to champion indecency in films, as indicated by Mr. Breen. We have good relations with this organization, as you know, and naturally we always take up matters with them when conditions warrant. "2. Mr. Breen says that Time referred to Wanger as one who had nothing but 'contempt' for the Code. The record, unfortunately, is on Time's side. "Last February Mr. Wanger came to New York and held a press luncheon with newspapers and magazine writers. After the luncheon he was quoted in various publications as expressing critical strictures on the Code. "For instance: The New York Herald Tribune said: 'Mr. Wanger blamed the present Production Code for discouraging the "honest handling" of modern social and political problems.' [others quote him as predicting revisions in the Code] "If this isn't 'contempt' for the Code I don't know what the definition of contempt is. "Wanger may have meant what he said. On the other hand, he may have been talking with his tongue in his cheek to build up himself in the eyes of the reporters. ... Time Magazine's review of Stagecoach says that Wanger 'is now leading a move to revise Hollywood's famed Production Code, to permit producers to deal more frankly with controversial themes.' Time has the authority of Mr. Wanger for this statement. "Mr. Wanger subscribes to the Production Code. He is a party to it. Therefore, when he criticizes the Code he is really criticizing himself. When he criticizes the Code I don't see how he can seriously object when a magazine refers to this fact. The fault in all this business is less with Time Magazine than it is with Walter Wanger. "In view of the record I fail to see that we have a strong case against Time in this instance. "Mr. Breen suggests that something 'in a very vigorous way' ought to be done about this situation. That is correct. Something 'in a very vigorous way' should be done about Mr. Wanger, who first popped off against the Production Code."

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