Record #402

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Reel 4
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Additional text in Transcriptions. EDITORIAL COMMENT: Transcriptions refer to problems of censorship in relation to sound movies-including the legal cases and the issue of discs. and also reference to some choice instances of early sound breaches of the profanity Don'ts.

"Talkies Cite Free Speech in War on Censor." Article from The New York Telegram. There is also a smaller clipping, "Talking Movies Subject," from the Cincinnati Enquirer, reporting on the Ohio Censor Board Rulings.


Censorship (112), Ohio (4), Sound technology (24) Show all keywords…



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CENSORSHIP. 1928.The New York Telegram, Wednesday August 8, 1928:"TALKIES" Cite Free Speech in War on Censor. Argue President's Address Could Be Edited by Over-Zealous Board. Pennsylvania Court Considers Test Case. Judges Differ, One Supporting State's Contention, ?Another Warning of Menace. Special to the New York Telegram. PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 8 - The battle over the censorship of talking movies is pitched now in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and gaining daily in importance because of the phenomenally fast development of the new art.One judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has held that the existing movie censorship law gives the Pennsylvania Board of Censors the right to bar the talk in "talkies" along with the visual film if it finds it objectionable. Another judge of the same court has held that the law gives no such power, since talking movies were not contemplated when the law was passed. The situation is causing great concern among moving picture producers, all of whom are producing or preparing to produce talking pictures. Denies Censors Right Judge Harry J. McDevitt, in denying the censors any power over "talkies," declared that with every great public event being chronicled audibly, as well as visually, a board of censors could bar a speech by the President of the United States if it were not first submitted to them and approved by them. Harry L. Knapp, chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Censors, was asked today if he would bar exhibition of a talking picture of President Coolidge if it were not first submitted to his board. He answered without hesitation that he would. The view of the board is that the talk is a vital part of the picture, and that not to include it in the censorship would vitiate the whole effect of the law, which, indeed, is exactly what the moving picture industry says should be done. Critics of this view declare that if the law specifically gave this power it would be unconstitutional. Two or three officials - in many cities two or three young women comprising the board of censors - would have the power to curb the speech of great or obscure speakers. This, it is argued, would attack the roots of the freedom of speech.Cases Regarded as Test. The two Philadelphia cases resulted from the desire of two companies to enforce a test of the law. Pending a final decision, perhaps by the Supreme Court of the United States, they are abiding by the law so that now the censors in Pennsylvania, as in the six other States where the laws exist, have plenary power over the speech of all individuals who appear in "talkies." In the first of the two Philadelphia cases Vitagraph, Inc., refused to submit to the board the synchronized discs made to accompany the visual part of a talking picture, called "Polly Moran, the Movie Chatter Box." The board, in turn, refused to pass the picture on the ground that, without knowledge of the language, it would not know whether the picture was moral and proper or would tend to debase and corrupt morals."Would Destroy Law"Common Pleas Judge Martin contended that ability to censor the picture but not the words would neutralize and destroy the effect of the censorship law. For, he said, the exhibitor could delete the speech before submitting the film and then, when it had been approved, show the film with "all the debasing and corrupting features restored."In the second case the Movietone concern sought to obtain court permission to show a talking film - sound recorded on the celluloid - entitled "She's Still My Baby" and which the censors had refused to sanction because they were not permitted to hear the talk while seeing the picture.If the highest courts hold that the board has no power under existing law to censor the "talkies," then an amendment giving such power will be offered in the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1929. Governor Faber recently talked with the members of the Board of Censors on the subject and agreed that an amendment should be made if necessary.

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