Record #753

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Ray Norr, Public Relations Counsel
Reel 9
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Influence of screen - psychological research

Payne Fund Studies -- preliminary information and proposals for how to deal with them'Confidential memorandum re Scientists" Studies." The potential problems contained in scientific studies under preparation on the influence of the screen. Proposed strategies for response include counter-studies. Payne Fund. Ray Norr's memo on the Payne Fund Studies and what they know of them, together with 08 October 1931 Hays' presentation of the subject to the MPPDA Board of Directors. Norr's memo details the finding most likely to cause the MPPDA difficulty, and Hays launches the suggestion of the MPPDA setting up its own study.


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"An available summary of the first ten tentative monographs indicate that the publication of such "data", however substantially modified in detail or conclusions, would provide enormously effective material, a. For campaigns against the motion picture industry on the basis of sex and crime elements on the screen; b. For a redoubled campaign against the motion picture industry by the dry forces which would find "scientific" support for their claims that the screen is promoting disrespect for the prohibition laws; c. For important reform groups and child welfare organizations which could not ignore allegedly "scientific" findings that bear upon the problems of child delinquency in relation to movie attendance; d. For movie racketeers who would declare that their charges are now supported by "scientific" conclusions; e. For legislative forces who would see in this material additional need for the investigation of the industry. Assume that these monographs are eventually modified and that the utmost fairness is observed in the preparation and distribution of popular abstracts thereof, the fact still remains that individual news organizations and newspapers will find the "news" in the following basic conclusions: 1. That movies feed and develop delinquent tendencies by idealizing criminal characters -- George Bancroft in his criminal roles; William Haines in "Alias Jimmy Valentine". (Blumer) 2. That pictures cannot be depended upon to deter crime -- seeing how the criminal was caught, boy think that by being astute they can commit crime and get away with it. (Blumer) 3. That conscious copying from the movies includes methods of burglary and robbery (Blumer) 4. That alcoholic liquors are drunk or displayed in about two-thirds of the pictures; that intoxication is shown in about two-fifths of the pictures. Dale) 5. That movie more than non-movie children believe that there is much drinking and violation of prohibition laws going on. (May-Shuttleworth) 6. That in 1918 there was one picture in twenty in which one or more of the leading characters in the play were guilty of an illicit sex relationship. In 1931 there was one in seven . (Dale) 7. That suggestive lines and double meanings will be found in about one-fifth of the pictures. (Dale) 8. That with very few exceptions children of 13-15 years showed definite and consistent response to sex scenes in the films. (Ruckmick-Dysinger) 9. That sexy dancing, usually by entertainers occurred in approximately one film in ten. (Dale) 10. That exciting scenes in some instances induced delinquent behavior -- as aides to seduction of girls; as provocatives to daring and delinquent behavior among groups of young people and gangs. (Blumer) 11. That the reputation or character of movie-children is much lower than of non-movie. (May-Shuttleworth) 12. That movie children receive lower school marks. (May-Shuttleworth) 13. That types of action best remembered are fighting and drinking (Stoddard-Holaday) ... these reports planned for publication by the end of 1931 cannot be accepted by the industry as scientific or fair. This is not to say, however, that ALL the unfavourable conclusions are invalid. ... The studies being conducted on prejudiced theses submitted by Short, the conclusions must be critical rather than constructive. ... Not the following heading written by Short for another division of these discussions [of a conference of workers on the project, Columbus, Ohio, June 22-23, 1929]: "Correlation of the facts sought by the several research projects with the facts desired by the National Committee to determine whether the research projects as planned will produce the desired facts." Even more significant is the recent information received with regard to one of the monographs (May). "When the tentative draft was submitted, Short took it upon himself to edit the conclusions, but backed out when the investigator demanded that his conclusions be not tampered with. It is likely that other investigators, however, were more amenable to Short's "suggestions"." ... the writer of this memorandum views with cynicism and skepticism the "scientific" basis of most of these conclusions. The practical psychologist and the professional alienist are about on a par. ... That the investigators in the Short project are not an entirely happy and unanimous family in their scientific outlook is evident from the following paragraph taken from Short's report of July 1 1929: "...criticism and suggestion was so extensive and so individual to the several studies that it has not been entered in this report. ..." Also: "To obtain a true picture of any one factor of the life of a complex community, such as is being studied by Dr. Thrasher, it is necessary to take into account a great multiplicity of influence -- indeed to study the entire life of the whole area. Without this the picture would be out of focus and distorted." An attack, therefore, on the validity of their findings, the technique of investigation pursued, the incompleteness of picture material investigated, etc., etc., would be a bombshot."PLAN OF MEETING THE PROBLEM "Insofar as some of the more valid conclusions are concerned, it is evident that these reports would announce as recently discovered "scientific" facts, the conclusions previously reached by the organized motion picture industry, which led the industry to adopt a new Production Code in April 1930. These standards became effective in actual production in the latter part of 1930 and in 1931. In other words, it was an acknowledgement of the social effects of sex themes badly treated, of the crime motive improperly developed, that led the industry to adopt safeguards in the interest of the public. The pertinent question, therefore, which might be decided by psychological tests are the social effects of the pictures made under this new Production Code. The writer does not believe that any unbiased author will be ready to accept as scientific conclusions reached on the basis of the new Code, in operation only for a very short time. 1. Our objective, therefore, should be on the basis of the position reviewed to urge further study of the situation so that a truly constructive report might be published by 1933. If, however, such agreement is impossible with the Committee having the project in hand, 2. It should be made clear, individually, to all the scientists concerned the position in which they will find themselves before the industry and the public (See National Council on Freedom from Censorship) If the Committee's arguments that this merely is introductory to other reports of a "constructive" nature in the Committee's efforts to cooperate with the industry, then out proposition should be" 3. That these preliminary reports be made to the industry and publicized by joint statements showing the extent to which these "scientific" conclusions had previously been adopted in the industry's self-imposed standards., etc. Again, if publication of these reports in 1931 is inevitable, immediate consideration should be given 4. To action to be taken BEFORE the publication of these reports to remedy certain situations affecting production policies. In the event that the steps reviewed do not result in the necessary action to protect the interests of the industry, the final proposal is made: 5. That the organization secure from two leading national bodies in the field definite statements as to the conditions and time required to make a really constructive study of the situation and offering to support by every facility at our command such studies as would determine what further provisions should be made in our Code to carry out the industry's social responsibilities. 6. Concurrently, it is probable that other organizations would attack the present studies as initiated on the basis of supporting a legislative racket."

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