Record #768

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Press release
Reel 9
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Abstract of Hays address to MPPDA annual meeting. He says tide of public opinion shifting "from rawness to romance" comment on gang and crime films -- need to be fewer of them.


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"The greatest of all censors -- the American public -- is beginning to vote thumbs down on the 'hard-boiled' realism in literature and on the stage which marked the post-war period ... Among the signs of a new day in popular entertainment ... was the wide public acclaim which greeted the outstanding feature pictures produced in 1930 dealing with great biographical subjects, with themes of prison and civic reform, and with stirring epochs in American history. I am aware how often in the past pictures that dealt with such themes have proved abject and utter financial failures, but those who in 1931 are planning to invest millions in such feature productions are no longer embarking on the great unknown ... The handwriting is now plainly on the wall that America is largely through with the post-war preoccupation with morbidity and crime in literature and drama. The orgy of self-revelation which marked such a large portion of modern authorship is passing. We have a new younger generation, now rising from the jazz age, that promises to support clean high-purposed entertainment. The motion picture screen in recent months has done much to debunk the American gangster in films dealing with current crime conditions. Nothing could prove more forcibly the success of self-regulation in the motion picture industry than the manner in which such subjects have been invariably handled. The insistent message flashed upon the screen has been: 'You can't get away with it." In other films, the deadly weapon of ridicule has been trained upon the gangster and his kind -- ridicule that removed from the bandit and the gunman every shred of false heroism that might influence young people. But the fact remains that too many such films, however well treated the theme may be, tend to over-emphasize the subject matte. Furthermore, the fact is becoming evident that the American public is growing tired not only of gangster rule, but of gangster themes in literature, on the stage and on the screen. I am glad to note, therefore, the decreasing importance of such themes in the production programs of 1931. ... The true measure of achievement in motion pictures, as in any art, is progress, not perfection ... Only the professional movie baiter would deny such achievement to the industry. Nevertheless the fact remains that no art can rest on its laurels. We shall always need constructive criticism from without. We shall always need unremitting vigilance from within."

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