Nonsensorship and the Movies
AT LEAST there is something to be thankful for. After all, this coun-
try is not in such a bad way as Mr. Harold Stearns and his friends would
have us believe, and Messrs. William
H. Anderson and John S. Sumner almost make us believe that it is. When
Massachusetts, the original Pilgrim
state, homestead of American Puritanism and fountainhead of all uplift,
defeats state censorship of motion pictures by a majority of 340 000 votes
there is hope for the salvation, of the
American soul-east, west, south and
north of Kansas.
The result of the Massachusetts ref
erendum has a number of interesting
features. The proposal upon which the
voters had to pass conferred the power of determining what pictures should be barred because of being "obscene...inhuman, or such as to tend to debase...morals" upon the Commisioner of Public Safety. This official's juris-
diction includes the state police, fire
prevention, the Division of Explosives
and the Bureau of Boiler Inspection,
to be sure films, being made of cellu-
loid, may be technically classed as explosives; and it is quite possible that
the advocates of movie censorship had
in mind a branch of the Bureau of
Boiler Inspection, to be called, perhaps,
"Division of Potboiler Control." Be
that as it may, the electorate would have none of it, despite the fact that
the measure was indorsed oy many
"wowser" bodies. (A "wowzer," as de-
fined by an English friend of Mr. Fred-
erick O'Brien, of South Sea fame, is
one who practices the Golden Rule with
a vengeance, doing by others as he has
done by himself, whether the others
like it or not.)
The vote against the censorship provision was the heaviest cast in the en-
tire election-345,919, as against the
416,000 which re-elected Senator Lodge.
Although from the libertarian point
of view this refusal is highly com-
mendable, I am not sure if one should
welcome it wholeheartedly, for the film
censorship boards already in existence
in other states contribute to the
of their ability to the gayety of na-
tions. Of course., the decision of the
Pennsylvania State Board eliminating a portion of Charles Kenyon's "Kindling,"
where a mother was shown making
clothes for her unborn child, has be-
come a classic. It would appear that in
Pennsylvania not only is the stork the
anly authorized perpetuator of the
race, but it is assumed, in behalf of
public morality, that the visits of that
interesting bird occur altogether unheralded, a sort of joyous week-end
surprise for all parties concerned.
One would be apt to think that charity
can be carried no further. How
ever, it can be-in Pennsylvania. In a
picture by Mrs. Mary Roberts Rinehart
a boy was shown to have, rescued a
girl from the clutches of a cruel father. He took the young lady to a boarding
house and, most properly, bade her
farewell at the door of her new home.
At their next meeting the subtitle
quoted the girl as saying: "I haven't
seen you since you brought me here.''
Nothing wrong with that, is there?
Well, not for you or me, perhaps, but
the state censors of Pennsylvania are made of sterner stuff and equipped
with subtler brains. They looked
at one another with a knowing glance,
and exclaimed in chorus: "Aha!" The
title was changed to "I haven't seen
you since I came here."
Nor are the Pennsylvania film censors
insensible to the danger lurking in the screenization of bad grammar. A sub-
title in a scenario by Mrs. Rinehart ran "Now Ain't the Mill Nice!" The board decided that whatever this caption is it ain't nice, and cut it.
Kansas is good, but Ohio is better—
perhaps the best of all. For whereas
in other states having movie censorship all films are regarded as innocent
until proved guilty bv some relentless "wowzer," in Ohio the reverse is the case. All films are considered guilty
The statute decrees that only such films may be exhibited in the Mother State of Presidents as are "in the judgment and discretion of the censoros moral, educational, or amusing...
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