Record #209

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National Congress of Parents and Teachers

Mrs Margaretta Reeve, National President of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, resigns from the Public Relations Committee (CPR), expressing serious misgivings about its role and effectiveness. Hamner cables her urgently, pleading that "It is most important that our Public Relations Committee should present a solid front just at this time," but to no avail. Hanmer also writes to her, attempting to answer some of her criticisms.


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National Congress of P & T 1924. Extracts of letter from Margaretta Reeve, President of National Congress of Parents and Teachers to Hanmer,, 11-18-1924, explaining her resignation from the Public Relations Committee: "The early activities of the Committee on Public Relations gave promise of real cooperation between the component units and the Industry, and it has been with regret that we have seen the increasing passiveness of the roles filled by our own and other organizations. Last year there was but one meeting of the Committee on Public Relations, and that meeting was called apparently as a result of the outburst of public opinion against the list published by the Paramount Corporation. The only matter discussed was the effort which had been made by the producers to neutralize that serious blunder on the part of the Paramount, and the new set of resolutions passed by them to this end. There was a brief statement of the immense amount of correspondence conducted by the Executive Secretary, but that correspondence had nothing to do with the activities of the Committee, as far as the representatives of the organizations were aware, there having been no discussion and no vote called for on any matters requiring action. "Something over a year ago the Committee on Public Relations was divided into small sub-committees, to each of which a specific task was assigned. To one of them, to which I had the honor of being appointed, was given the consideration of books to be filmed and the question of correct adaptations of well known classics. A serious protest was made against the proposed filming of "West of the Water Tower," four members of the sub-committee expressing their opinion that the book was unfit for filming and that if even an expurgated edition were put upon the screen the result would still be bad, as many would be induced to read the book. This protest was followed by the purchase of the book by Mr. Lasky for $20,000 and its presentation in censored form. "From that time, no meeting of that sub-committee has ever been called, so far as I, one of its members, am aware; no action has been taken by it and no request has been received for any such action. Apparently its one effort was of such a nature that it was thought best to allow it to die a natural death. "In the past year, as compared with the two years preceding, an unusual number of salacious films, or at least of films dealing very frankly with strong sex interest or adapted from books or plays notoriously of that character, have appeared upon the screen. At the meeting of Committee of Public Relations to which I have referred, we were told that to avoid appeal to the morbid thrill-seeker because of the questionable character of the play, the title of "Spring Cleaning" had been changed in its film adaptation to "The Fast Set," and this was given as an illustration of the valuable result of the cooperation with the Committee on Public Relations. As that film has been advertised from Maine to California on billboards, in newspapers and in film magazines as "The film version of `Spring Cleaning'" it would seem that very little good has been accomplished by the change. In the same way "Lily of the Dust" has been proclaimed as the film version of Suderman's "Song of Songs"."Our organization does not in any way set itself up as a reform movement. ... [But] we believe that child welfare is seriously affected by what is seen and not only the welfare of the children but the welfare of the home cannot fail to be seriously affected by certain types of pictures. Though it is a fact that in book and stage forms these pathological dissections of life, being true of certain aspects of it, may rightly be termed art, they are in literature and drama largely confined to the people whose education and experience fit them to recognize a truth and its application, while when thrown upon the screen they are fed indiscriminately to millions of people whose mental digestion is by no means fitted to cope with them." "That we as a single unit may be able to accomplish very little, may be true, but I believe that even the little may be of more value to our constituency than what we have been able to do as "one of the most valuable assets of the Industry" as the Committee on Public Relations was described by its Executive Secretary, as reported in a recent address. "[Note the following, from minutes of Publicity Men's Meeting, 11-11-1924, in connection with "Spring Cleaning": Mr Botsford of Famous Players said that the title "Spring Cleaning" is to be used on the picture "The Fast Set" only in its New York City showing, this being the only city which was familiar with the stage play "Spring Cleaning".]

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