Record #456

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Journal/magazine article
Mrs Ambrose N. Diehl, Chairman, General Federation of Women’s Clubs (Motion Picture Division)
Reel 5
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General Federation of Women’s Clubs

'Proposed Motion Picture Program Outlined," in the General Federation News of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.


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Organizing the General Federation of Women's Clubs to produce a program:09-19-1928 Trotti to Milliken, suggesting that a program be developed, involving a monthly publication, following the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) plan, a national reviewing committee, either in Hollywood "Where the work is being admirably done by Mrs. Jacobs" or following the International Federation of Catholic Alumni (IFCA) plan -- but first "to issue through their publications a clear-cut, definite outline of the program of the Federation -- a constructive program which is frank, honest and bold." The proposed program appears to have developed by DeBra: "... The Federation cannot hope successfully to effect the great influence of the motion picture, not only in America but throughout the world served by American motion pictures, if it is to confine its efforts wholly to a review and criticism of pictures, however excellent that may be. To this must be added an intimate contact with the industry and that comprehensive understanding of the problems which confront the producers and distributors and exhibitors of motion pictures in the planning, financing, studio production, renting and final showing of them in successive stages to the larger, medium and smaller theatres of the country... "... Some of these problems are almost entirely industrial and should, I believe, not complicate the Federation's interest in assisting to achieve its principal objective in such contact. I have in mind such matters as taxation, and such trade practices as block booking. Where the motion picture industry requests it, then I think the Federation should willingly accept the role of 'interested public' and take part in such a council as the recent FT Practice Conference in which was represented not only all branches of motion picture interest, but government and public as well. There are two semi-political problems of great concern to the industry with which we should directly concern ourselves by reason of the fact that they relate directly to our principal objective, alluded to above, a more wholesome, more artistic, more informative picture product. They are censorship and the restriction of attendance of minors, at motion picture theatres, by law." -- although in fact there is no discussion of the latter, only talk about Saturday Morning Matinees. The program, very much as outlined, is published in the December 1928 issue of the General Federation News, under Mrs. Diehl's signature -- though who it was actually written by seems vague from these documents. She also includes some comments on comedies:"In our consideration of motion pictures we often overlook comedies. Perhaps it is the fault of those of us who live in the larger cities and who attend, chiefly, the larger theatres where the comedies are seldom featured. We make a mistake, however, when we do not express our opinions about comedies just as vigorously as we do feature-length films. "Comedies are quite often vulgar; more often stupid. And there is not much difference. Vulgarity is stupid. Stupidity is vulgar." -- and then a few opinions. "'Our Gang' is always funny and delightful. Children love these comedies. ... The Sennett comedies, which reached a rather low level for a time, so far as vulgarity was concerned, have been better lately, and there is hope that this pioneer in the comedy field will again provide some interesting pictures. There is also an outline for a study program, all of which is serious and well-organized. There's also a list of resolutions of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women from their 1928 convention -- which as well as wanting more films for children, wants better child labor laws, more information disseminated to club members about birth control, revision of the immigration laws to permit the entry of wives and dependants of immigrants, and support for US ratification of the 1928 Paris treaty pledging the avoidance of war. It's important to remember that the GFWC was a serious organization involved in these issues of cultural politics and substantive politics -- although their attitude to birth control, for instance, clearly marks them out form the Catholic groups -- but it does put them in a different position to the simply culturally reactionary groups that they may be thought to belong to.

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