Record #1271

Date:
24/12/1936
Record Type:
Letter
From/By:
Carl E. Milliken
To:
Alan M. Wilkinson, Federated Church Brotherhoods of California
Reel:
Reel 8
Frame Start:
8-2536
Frame End:
8-2536
Legacy ID:
1282
Legacy Year:
1930
Legacy Index:
Protests

The Federated Church Brotherhoods of California is tired of waiting for the improvements promised by the Code. Milliken (?) points out that box-office success is no indicator of moral or artistic-value -- hence the need for the involvement of responsible community-groups. 8 such groups are listed. All advertising -- not just movie advertising -- depends on sex-appeal. Even advertisements for sermons. Milliken also argues that We are doing everything from within that the public will permit us to do and that the requisites of business dependent upon public purchase will permit, and that Our success will depend entirely upon the cooperation of such groups as the Federated Church Brotherhoods of California."

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Long Description:

Letter, Milliken to Dr. Allan W. Wilkinson of the Federated Church Brotherhoods of California, who has been complaining: "... As developed in the theatre, the public expects the motion picture to supply entertainment. Our patrons are willing to accept a certain amount of incidental education but, as you have no doubt observed, they go to the theatre for relaxation, for release from the cares and worries of the day's toil, to see places and enjoy experiences that are not commonplace to their every day existence. Unknowing, so far as they are concerned, their thinking is colored and their behavior is in some degree determined by that they see. But they leave the theatre, determining the success of the picture by what they say about it, satisfied or dissatisfied with the evening's entertainment as a whole and with little if any regard for the picture's artistic merit, its moral and ethical values, or its possible social implications. This is as true of boys and girls as of adults. "Probably this is in part the reason that so frequently the financial success of the picture is not a good index of a social value; rather it is an index of the entertainment value of the picture only. "... I should like to enumerate at great length evidence from abroad and other sources in this country of this progress [of better films, etc.] but I must content myself here with citing an incident that happened in New Haven, Connecticut. There the Council of Churches late in 1929, having had presented to them an address titled 'The Menace of the Movies,' decided to conduct a survey of motion picture shows in their own city over a period of several months. You will appreciate that their approach was a critical one. You can understand their reaction when the results of their tabulation showed: 42% of the pictures morally helpful in their influence; 44% regarded as having no special influence one way or the other; and only 14% cited as in any way objectionable. "One other indication of the trend, I wish to ask your attention for. Following a series of articles that appeared of the Christian Century, we received a number of vitriolic letters from clergymen. Quite evidently these gentlemen had accepted the Christian Century articles at their face value. Most of them said they had checked their own experience against the conclusions in these articles. We secured lists of all the pictures shown in the cities from which these letters had come and invited attention to the fact that more than 70% of the pictures in each one of these cities have been endorsed by the reviewing groups on the coast. ... I suspect that the personal experience which they indicated as the basis for their judgment was largely limited to the advertisements of motion pictures and to titles which seemed to them to indicate an absence of any improvement. "In this matter of advertising we have made great progress in the last six months. But this situation against which you properly complain is not unique to motion pictures. If you are observant you will have realized that toothpaste is being advertised with sex appeal, that real estate and building concerns have taken advantage of public interest in drinking to advertise their properties, and that advertising generally has become sensational largely because so many forces knock at the door of American public attention that only the bizarre and the extreme get more than momentary and casual notice. I do not offer this as an apology. And I wish to state definitely that the advertising code, of which you speak so slightingly, has been responsible for the marked achievement to which I have made reference. "... But you have stated only half of the situation. You say: 'Unless something is done from within it seems quite likely that the public will take the matter in their own hands.' Why should the public wait to do that and why should you express displeasure in a situation in which you are so manifestly as responsible as he industry itself? We are doing everything from within that the public will permit us to do and that the requisites of business dependent upon public purchase will permit. But we are doing more than that. We have definitely attempted to organize the 'without' in support of the splendid product we have and wish to continue to make. Our success will depend entirely upon the cooperation of such groups as the Federated Church Brotherhoods of California."

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