Record #751

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MPPDA (Board of Directors)
Reel 9
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Influence of screen - psychological research
see 09-0001 to 09-0414 for typescript of Short : A Generation of Motion Pictures

Payne Fund Studies -- MPPDA has known of them and been fighting them for three years. -- may need to launch its own psychological inquiry to postpone publication of Payne Fund -- prevented publication of "preliminary report" which was libellous and in galley proof (this is Short : A Generation of Motion Pictures)


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Long Description:

"For almost three years the association has been fighting off a serious problem with regard to s series of scientific studies that have been quietly in progress relating to the effects of current motion pictures on children, on adolescents and others with reference principally to sex and crime. ... The committee organized for the project includes not only leading educators and others, but most of the leading racketeers who have been attacking the industry on the basis of their alleged educational interest. ... My brief report now is merely to indicate an important matter of strategy which we may have to decide upon and which might be misunderstood unless the reasons are stated to you in advance. Through various relationships we have been up-to-date on every move made by the National Committee for the Study of Social Values in Motion Pictures. We have prevented serious explosions on several vital occasions. We have check-mated the publication of a so-called preliminary report containing the most vicious attacks upon producers, and the character of their pictures. We have check-mated every effort abroad to have the issue formally alerted by the Child Welfare Section of the League of Nations. And we have vitiated the efforts of this group to get these so-called preliminary conclusions adopted by various crime commissions in the United States. Some of the individual studies conducted by educators and scientific authorities connected with Yale University, New York University, Chicago University, Ohio State University, Iowa State University and Pennsylvania State College will be ready for publication possibly by the end of this year. In some cases the theses upon which the scientists were asked to conduct their investigations are so unfair as necessarily to result in unfair conclusions. We have made plans to meet the situation whichever way it may develop, but it may turn out that we shall decide to make a sensational move in advance by which we would invite a more authoritative body of psychologists to study the situation and report within the next two or three years. Such a study might be avowedly and openly financed by the association and require an expenditure of $20,000 or $25,000 a year for the next several years. Our Production Code has made any conclusions reached on the basis of a study begun three years ago, largely out of date. We have reasons to believe, therefore, that the very announcement of such a plan would make some of the leading scientists hold off their present conclusions, based on pictures that are not now being produced under the Code. In addition, such a project, with its promise of authoritative scientific declarations would help us put a stop to the half-baked opinions of criticism which every village constable, county judge and self-appointed reformer, seeking publicity, can now make against the industry in relation to crime, child delinquency, etc. There are similar considerations in favor of such a plan with relation to our legislative protective work, the suggestions for legislative investigation, etc. Nevertheless, no action is required by the Board on this tentative proposal which is still under consideration. The more pertinent part of this presentation is to indicate that above and beyond anything that we can do in handling the situation publicly, it is essential that we do everything possible privately to remove the basis of some of the charges made against the industry. For instance, we know that among the conclusion reached that would furnish tremendously hurtful material for use against the industry are the following: 1. That drinking scenes are far too predominant in our pictures. This coming out as a scientific conclusion would give fanatical drys the chance to blame the failure of prohibition laws on the movies, by charging that such scenes promote disrespect for the enforcement laws. 2. That the prominence given to illicit sex relationships in our pictures has a very bad social effect. We may, for the most part, use this theme properly and with strong moral distinctions. Nevertheless, if the theme is used too often we are open to the charge that such relationships are featured as a matter of fact t in American social life. 3. That crime pictures often lead to child delinquency. Again, we can defend the use of the crime theme on the screen and show the protective measures we have adopted for the handling of such themes. But we cannot deny that too many such pictures, whatever the moral conveyed, may have an imitative influence very bad for youth. All these matters will be taken up in detail on my next visit to the Coast. The main purpose of this memorandum is to advise you of a situation that may require a radical decision on the part of the association to meet effectively. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that the Payne Fund is now supporting a movement that has resulted n an educational racket against the broadcasting industry, which is giving the broadcasting interests great trouble. The demand is that more air time be devoted to the kind of educational purposes for which this movement allegedly stands, although the broadcasting interests are already doing much educationally."

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