Record #1280

Record Type:
Letter, memo
Mr Charles C. Pettijohn, General Counsel, MPPDA
Mr Will H. Hays, President, MPPDA
Reel 8
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Censor - Chicago
EDITORIAL COMMENT: This contains a couple of important letters or memos on the Chicago situation, which throw light on quite what was going on there. 16 April 30 Pettijohn memo to Hays - of some substance in relation to the dates and to the obvious purpose it begins to indicate in centering the Code production on Chicago and Mundelein - and also of some substance in tracing the disillusion of Mundelein with the Code initiative after the event. The passage of the Code, two weeks before these memos, is clearly part of a strategy aimed at removing local censorship, of which Chicago was, presumably to have been the first instance, and perhaps the beginning of a bandwagon effect. Certainly it's easy to see the effect this would have had in countering all the legislative proposals to introduce censorship if it was being dropped in one of its major areas. This implies that the campaign to abolish censorship in Chicago was intimately connected with the origins of the Code, and with Quigley's and Pettijohn's involvement. That may, indeed, provide the initial impetus behind Quigley's proposal - or the elevation of Quigley's involvement to later being claimed as the initiation of the Code. Of course, it's going to overstate things to suggest that the Code was constructed in order to remove censorship in Chicago - but it's obviously part of a connected agenda, and such a direct purpose would fit in with the broader purpose of the code, which it eventually achieved, of effectively superseding local censorship of any kind. It also connects to an earlier memo of Pettijohn's which we should locate -1929? in which he advocates something happening in Chicago to further the anticensorship campaign.

The difficulty of getting censorship repealed in Chicago in the face of bad and salacious advertising


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16 April 1930 Pettijohn memo to Hays "For the past 18 months I have been carefully and steadily working toward a repeal of the Chicago censorship ordinance. Censorship in Chicago, from a dollar and cents standpoint, has been for ten years the worst spot in the world. "You are familiar of course with the various situations and the various people with whom I have been working. Gradually and one at a time they agreed to help us amend the ordinance and now one or two at a time they have all come over to a straight out repeal. 28 of the 49 present members of the Chicago Board of Aldermen belong to one religious faith and you are familiar with the help now forthcoming from that source. The ordinance for the repeal was drawn and was to be introduced on Wednesday of last week. In other words we were ready to move and results would have been accomplished. "Imagine the shock resulting from the picture advertising when I reached Chicago last Tuesday. I am attaching hereto certain communications and copies of some advertising that will give you the picture more definitely than I can dictate it. To have introduced that ordinance on last Wednesday would have been fatal. Everybody without exception who have counselled and advised with me agreed to that, including some of the theatre men who 'pulled the boner' as well as the branch managers of all distributors. "Although it was Holy Week, Cardinal Mundelein discussed the situation with me for two hours. He had already mailed the letter which I am attaching hereto. "General, we can repeal censorship in the city of Chicago sixty days from now, in spite of all the damage that has been done, if the advertising can be corrected, or at least kept from being 'self destructive.' It cannot be done as planned for no other reason in the world than the facts contained herein and evidence by the attached. It is silly for me to proceed further until the advertising is cleaned up. Both of the Mr. Balabans are ready to talk with Mr. Plunkett and whoever is in charge of the Fox theatres and they themselves frankly stated to me that the time has come when that very thing must be done. The men running the theatres in Chicago all understand and realize what has happened. They do not defend it -- in fact they frankly admit that they are wrong. "The repeal of the censorship ordinance in Chicago is the biggest thing that I have in my lap at the present time. I want to do it and I can do it if you can get me half-way cooperation from the Chicago theatres. This memorandum is not an 'alibi'. This ordinance can be repealed. I will pledge you to repeal it if the heads of the theatre companies here in New York City will instruct their Chicago representatives to cooperate instead of kicking the props from under me every time I get up to a point where it is safe to start. I know that the heads here will do that very thing if they have the facts squarely presented to them."

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