Record #405

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Church and Drama Association

Long, increasingly acrimonious exchange between Milliken and George Reid Andrews of Church and Drama Association. Both accuse the other of neglecting to fulfil their obligations. The issue is clouded by question of MPPDA future financial contributions to CDA. Eventually Milliken sends copies of accumulated correspondence to other directors of CDA -- something Andrews wanted to avoid. Milliken's main concerns that too few pictures are being reviewed, insufficient emphasis on screen as opposed to stage.


Public relations (61), Theatre (7) Show all keywords…


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Documents deal with the Church and Drama Association saga, largely as covered by the Andrews-Milliken correspondence. An exchange of letters at the end of December 1927 sets up their cooperation: Andrews, December 20, 1927, : "We crave the friendliest and most cooperative relationship," with the MPPDA advising the CDA on suitable films and arranging screenings, and "you can keep open a channel of communication between the motion picture industry and our organization representing the churches so that all matters of common concern can be quickly and amicably handled." This, obviously, failed to happen, in large part because no definition of matters of common concern was achieved. December 23, 1927, Andrews put forward a budget for the CDA's activities of $33,000 p.a. -- excluding the cost of the Bulletin. Jan 4, 1928, Milliken in a memo to Hays laid out the advantages to the MPPDA -- D28-03 -- mainly that they furnished the Bulletin to a business supplying information for church calendars reaching 100,000 churches, read by 15 million. However, from the outset, Milliken was wary of the CDA looking like a creature of the MPPDA, and therefore wary of too much direct funding. By early February it appears that the scheme to raise $50,000 or more through subscriptions had failed -- Milliken advised continued low-level support, at $250 per month. In early March, after a meeting of the Plan and Scope Committee settled on a program of activities for CDA costing $400 a week, Milliken proposed MPPDA expenditure of $150 a week. Milliken obviously already had some reservations, in that his report of this to Andrews suggested that it was conditional on the other $250 being underwritten -- and he also wanted to know when the previewing group was going to be established. Milliken and Andrews now seem to have begun to dispute what happened in meetings.Mar 23, 1928, Andrews to Milliken: "It would begin to appear that we might work for you. It is a question whether we can work with you." Both parties clearly wished to avoid the organization appearing to be a creature of the MPPDA, but in different senses. Milliken argued in his letters that the primary goal of the CDA was to establish its play and picture-reviewing program on a monthly basis -- he was anxious to get the previewing group operating in the same way as other organizations, e.g. the International Federation of Catholic Alumni (IFCA) -- which is the example he uses. April 2, 1928, Andrews: "I have delayed the sending of the names and addresses of the committee to you because I have wanted to be certain that we were in a financial position to carry on work inaugurated under the plan discussed."Milliken, April 4, obviously wanting to clarify the situation and bring Andrews under control -- notes that the Bulletin has a subscription of 11,000-12,000. Also that the MPPDA paid $2000 for mailing letters which included membership application for the CDA to individual pastors in late spring 1927. Milliken copied this letter to Henry Walbridge "the banker and capitalist" who was providing $50 per week. for the operation, and was a member of the Plan and Scope Committee. Andrews replied on April 5 that the April 11 meeting was of the Board of Directors, and further complained about finance that the MPPDA had maintained that all approaches to the motion picture industry should be through it -- and so far this had not produced the expected funding. There is then a hiatus in the correspondence over the summer.It resumes on Sept 21, 1928, with Andrews writing to Hays saying "Our progress with the motion picture forces has been slow and very unsatisfactory," requesting an interview. Milliken, Sept 24, wrote saying that he understood that Andrews had now told CDA representative not to see any more pictures under MPPDA auspices. Andrews, Sept 25, recounting a phone call between them on Sept 21, in which Milliken had said that the money expended on previewing films to his group through the summer was "without profit to you unless we were to change our policy of recommending more than one picture a week in our Bulletin. You stated to me, moreover, that you were going out to organize the church field yourself independently of us, and issue your own lists."Milliken memo, Sept 25, of a meeting with Dr. Macfarland of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (FCCCA): "He agrees entirely with our position in the matter: -- over contributions, "The unwisdom of Andrews' policy of insisting that his own individual judgement be the guide as to pictures to be commended and persistently deferring the organization of a suitable reviewing panel. The embarrassment occasioned to us by Andrews' insistence upon the policy of restricting commendation by the CDA to one play per week and one picture per week, in view of the fact that the number of pictures produced annually would be about ten times the number of important plays and the endorsement by the CDA of only 40 pictures per year would create a wrong impression about the other 760.October 1, 1928, Milliken writes a review of their relationship, talking of his "feeling of disappointment about the progress of the program of the CDA as the sole representative of the Protestant denominations in the matter of reviewing motion pictures and commending to church people those which are satisfactory. ... the CDA, while it includes in its organization other elements, is primarily the representative of the FCC, and as such is to be regarded as speaking for and representing the Protestant churches of America in reviewing pictures and transmitting the results to church people." He argues that the only thing Andrews has complained of has been the MPPDA's degree of financial support. The MPPDA contributed $1,000 to the opening dinner at the Waldorf in March 1926, and $1,000 to the promotion dinner in June 1926, although they doubted the wisdom of that expenditure. Reasserts his opinion that all along he has argued CDA should have its operating expenses funded "from interested citizens who see in it a chance to do an important public service, just as the Federal Council is supported by contributions from individuals and church groups." while play and picture producers "could very well spend money to increase the circulation of the Bulletin itself, without contributing directly to the running expenses of the organization. "This is the way we work with other similar organizations, as for example the Motion Picture Bureau of the International Federation of Catholic Alumni (IFCA)." -- who reviewed 665 pictures during the first 6 months of 1928, recommending 254 for Catholic schools and 48 more for adult entertainment. "The work of the organization is all done by volunteers. We contribute nothing to its operating expenses, but we do help with the expenses of printing and mailing the bulletins to the Catholic schools and newspapers. This is our invariable policy with other similar organizations that review pictures. We do not contribute to the running expenses of the organization, but we do frequently assist in publicizing their comments upon pictures. ... It has been and is our feeling that contributions made by the Association or by producers of motion pictures should not exceed a moderate proportion of the operating budget of the CDA, and should not be made in such a way as to be in fact, or even seem to the public to be, an indication that the CDA is either controlled or promoted by us." He reviews events in 1927 and early 1928, and reiterates his complaints about only reviewing 1 picture per week, the lack of a proper review group, and the demands for money and Andrews apparently linking the number of reviews to funding from the MPPDA. Andrews appears consistently to have had ideas above his station in the establishment of the CDA. Milliken in the same letter mentions that in April 1928 he announced a renewal of the scheme to raise money through subscription -- this time $150,000, which Milliken says had not been discussed by the Committee of Direction. October 4, 1928, Andrews replied, saying the bone of contention was not financial support -- though he argues that "Without such support, in view of the peculiar relationship, we assume all the liabilities and you derive all the benefits." He suggests that "The conditions according to which you were willing to contribute to our work have been the chief stumbling block." He claims that Milliken approached him with the idea of a mailshot for King of Kings to clergymen, "carrying especially the recommendations of the Administrative Committee of the Federal Council, and mentioning Mr. Hays' connection with the picture in particular, for the good effect it would have on the public in behalf of your organization. I recall that certain members of our committee objected to the plan and I myself felt some doubts about the wisdom of it." King of Kings remains a major bone of contention: "We started in on the proposition that the picture was to be made, not for commercial exploitation, but primarily for religious purposes and the income of the picture was to be used first of all to pay off the cost, and then to establish a fund to supply the churches with religious pictures." NB the grandiose nature of this scheme, and the extent of its assumption of cultural hegemony -- Andrews is, effectively, claiming rights to the life of Christ, and that profits following from a production based on it should go to the Protestant churches. Andrews then claims that the plan was postponed at Hays' request until after the exhibition of Ben Hur, and that Hays had then talked, without telling Andrews, to other people about it, and "turned the production over to Mr. Cecil B. DeMille without consultation with us. After considerable pressure from me I was invited to the Pacific Coast to cooperate with Mr. DeMille. Much to my surprise upon arrival Mr. Hays informed me that he had not discussed the matter with Mr. DeMille but expected me to sell myself to this famous producer. I will not here undertake to relate the difficulties I experienced in trying to get produced and distributed the sort of picture we had in mind. ... Moreover, in the distribution of the picture, and especially during the controversy raised by the Jews, we were practically read out of the story and only by the most insistent pressure on my part was I able to be kept partially informed of what was going on. These experiences, with what has now happened to the picture, convinces me that we were on the right track in the beginning in our desire to produce a picture free from commercial exploitation, and that our whole cause has suffered severely by the way in which the enterprise was handled through your office. ... Since you went to your present position I have not been consulted regarding the production of a single picture, nor have I been asked to name someone to deal with subjects which might be of concern to us. In saying this I would not have you suppose that we are interested only in seeing that ministers have on the correct vestments and intone their services properly. We are much more concerned in the great moral principles involved in the production of pictures and it was our understanding that we were to have some influential part in determining the content of pictures before produced. You seem to feel that our only mission is to give publicity to the picture when produced. We have thought of ourselves as something much more than the publicity agents of the motion pictures. I confess that this phase of the work made the strongest appeal to me and I know that it did to other ministers more than any other opportunity offered to us. In this connection may I say that I was very much interested in hearing Mrs. McGoldrick say at Mr. Hays' luncheon last June that her group wanted to have more say about the pictures before they were made and less after they were made." October 11 Milliken replied, "there is perhaps little point in continuing correspondence" ... but seeking to state his interpretation of meetings. He assumes that, after 2.5 years, the CDA has assumed its final form, in selecting the best play and picture on Broadway each week "and circulating this information to a limited constituency largely within the Metropolitan area, a constituency recruited for the most part, it ought to be said, by the promise of cut rate tickets. "This Bulletin service is not without its value of course, and will prove of interest to the constituency in the Metropolitan area, but it is not at all what we have talked about from the beginning as the program of the CDA, in which we are interested and to which we were willing to contribute. Nor in my opinion does it represent adequately the responsibility of the great religious denomination represented in the FCC toward the subject of motion pictures." Complains that the CDA is actually more interested in plays than movies: "The fact is that you are choosing to keep a political balance between plays and pictures." -- and none of this is sufficient for the MPPDA to regard the CDA as "the exclusive representative of the FCC in the whole field of motion pictures."Re King of Kings, he points out that Andrews is referring to a point when the plan was to raise production funds from church sources outside the industry. "The idea was abandoned, as of course you understand perfectly well, and any personal difference between yourself and Mr. DeMille as to whether you received sufficient compensation for services rendered in the production of the picture may be fairly left out, I think, of the discussion of the problems of the CDA." Also claims that Andrews was consulted over the Jewish problem but failed to do anything by way of raising a group of prominent Jews to defend the picture. This is effectively the complete breakdown of the relationship.

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