Record #22

Record Type:
Record of meeting
Reel 1
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MPPDA - Civic Committee
Additional text in Transcription.

The meeting takes place in a mood of crisis over the Arbuckle case, and progressively becomes a forum for statements of more general discontent about the role and effectiveness of the Public Relations Committee. Mr Barnes is worried that the activities of the Committee "might develop into a form of censorship." Much soul-searching ensues. A resolution is taken against any release of Arbuckle's pictures. There is both a stenographic report of the meeting and minutes summarising comments, in both draft and final form.


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EDITORIAL COMMENTS:  The industry's problem in 1922 was one of respectability in a number of different senses, several of which are well captured in Rogers' address to the Waldorf meeting 06-22-22 (01-0333) as well as in some of Hays' comments in the steno report of 01-04-23. That makes clear enough that the initial impetus behind the establishment of the MPPDA had to do with the search of economic respectability, the possibility of raising further capital for further expansion, and the process of making such a large business acceptable to the established financial powers. Hence the interest of the position of someone like Barnes of the Chamber of Commerce, who clearly continued to doubt the respectability of the industry in his terms. But this respectability intermeshed with a more conventional moral respectability, which was concerned with both the individual morality of the people in the business and the morality of the films. These three different areas were not surprisingly conflated, and the Arbuckle affair in particular conflated them, but at a significantly later time than is normally suggested. Hays encouraged the non-release of Arbuckle features after his acquittal in April 1922, and no significant debate within the Civic Committee arose at that action. The problem occurred in December when, presumably in response to pressure from the producing company, Hays accepted the idea of releasing the features, and the Civic Committee objected. This threw the workings of the Civic Committee back up in the air, and the Transcription MPPDA 77 report covers the discussion of what they identified their purposes as being. The problem Arbuckle posed was that, in order for the industry to be recognized as financially respectable (which had a good deal, covertly, to do with ethnicity) industry personnel had to demonstrate their personal morality. It was the existence of the scale of the business that necessitated that the actors and theatrics of the movies be seen to have morals more acceptable to the national community than actors had previously been required to have. Barnes was not interested in censorship because he saw it as no part of his function, which was more simply concerned with advice on the representation of industrial relations. Rogers argues for the need to recognize several different kinds of respectability, or what Hays would call different "phases" of the question.

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