Motion Picture News (Jan-Feb 1916)

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504 MOTION PICTURE NEWS Vol. 13. No. 4. PIIIIIIIII!1IIIIIIUIIII!!IIIIIIIIII!IIIIIIIIIIIIM President Wilson Consents to Be the Guest of the Motion Picture Board of Trade | '""THROUGH the efforts of J. W. Binder, executive secretary of the Motion Picture Board of Trade, President Wilson will be the 1 I 1 guest of that body at a dinner to be given at the Hotel Biltmore, New York City, on the evening of January 27. | The President's consent to attend the dinner and address the members of the motion picture business was obtained as the | I result of a series of negotiations carried on by mutual friends of the President and Mr. Binder. The President, it is known 1 I has always been interested in the astounding growth and development of the motion picture. With his broad outlook upon all 1 | matters pertaining to life in any of its phases, he has not been ignorant of the spread and popularity of this new medium of I | human expression, and, it is said, has expressed himself to intimate friends in a manner that showed he was keenly aware of | | the possibilities of the motion picture as a vehicle of thought and idea. j 1 The topic upon which the President will speak to the members of the Board of Trade and other motion picture men who j | are present at the Biltmore dinner will be of his own choosing, and will be announced within a few days. A thousand guests 1 | are expected, and the opportunity is one which every member of the business within easy traveling distance of New York should 1 | not miss. | | The honor which is conferred upon this industry by being granted the privilege of entertaining the nation's Chief Executive [ 1 as its official guest is one which should make every exhibitor, exchangeman and manufacturer proud of the industry's record. | | and alive to its dignity, its influence and its future. I HiiiiiiimiiiiiiiniiiiiM iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim^ in developing the art to the highest plane, and are moving in the right direction." Mr. Binder also showed the bad effect censorship would have on the news weeklies through the delay incident to their having to be presented for the approval of the censorship board if the law was enacted. He told of the development of this service and predicted that the presentation of these films would soon be made every other day, so that the news of the country would be shown in pictures almost immediately after such events had occurred. Herrington Speaks for League Frederick J. Herrington, national president of the Motion Picture Exhibitors' League of America, created something of a surprise when he proved quite conclusively that the demand for censorship remained in the minds of a very few people, for he told of how in his travels throughout the country, in his addresses before gatherings of people, he had often asked for a popular vote on censorship and the number of hands that would be raised in favor of censorship would be very small, and those thus voting for it would refuse to give their names and addresses. He could do better than the ladies in support of his testimony, for he came back at the committee, in response to queries, with tl e names of the places so visited, including San Francisco, where he addressed the Civic Federation ; New Kensington, Pa. ; Pittsburgh, Pa. ; Baltimore, Md. ; Washington, D. C. ; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Cleveland, Ohio; offering more names if desired. He declared himself to be unalterably opposed to any form of censorship, but he believed in the most drastic laws and their enforcement in the case of those degrading or attempting to degrade the morals of the children of this or any other nation and, as national president of the league, pledged -himself to support such laws and to give assistance to their enforcement, "for," he said in speaking for all of the league members, "we want clean motion pictures, the manufacturer wants to make clean motion pictures, but I want to say what every one thinks who lives in a state where they have localized censorship — I have not seen any improvement in the State of Pennsylvania over the pictures shown in the District of Columbia, or any of the various other places where I have visited the . motion picture theatres." No Need for Federal Regulation He told how "The Birth of a Nation" had been padded by the Pennsylvania State Board, had been censored by the mayor of Pittsburgh, and later passed by the Allegheny County courts. This showed the prerogative of the city officials. He stated that the power of censorship of undesirable films was with the officials of every city, town, hamlet and county in the United States, and there was thus no need for Federal regulation. In referring to the petitions filed by those favoring the passage of the bill he stated that he could obtain a sufficient number of petitions from the opposition to fill several volumes of the Congressional Record, if he resorted to the same tactics as those utilized by the other side, from the State of Ohio. When asked what was wrong with the Pennsylvania State Board, he replied that it was the inability of these few people to decide for the eight millions of people of that state and that it was impossible to anywhere secure a board that could possibly censor films properly. When taken to the courts only one decision of the board was sustained while six others were revised. "Censorship Alien to America" Bainbridge Colby, representing the Hearst newspapers, was present, he said, to add his voice in protest against what he believed to be the fallacious, irrational limitation that underlies the bill. Censorship is truly alien to America and the idea of civil liberty. This would be all right in some highly centralized bureaucratic country like Russia, but not in freedom-loving United States. "Censorship burned the Bible," he said. "Censorship prevented the publication for 35 years of that book of Sir Isaac Newton in which the principles of gravity were announced." Mr. Colby read newspaper extracts of the speech of Judge Hughes of the United States Supreme Court, made recently in New York City, which proclaimed against centralized governments and pointed out that there was a deplorable lack of a knowledge of limitations on the part of both National and State officials. "I warn you on the score of humor and fitness," he said. "The idea of censorship is dangerous. The position of passing on every matter with reference to its effect upon the public morals is one no man would care to occupy. He would be called upon to pass upon many things he knows nothing about. Such a proposal as censorship is against all theories of our lives; censorship is rustic, it is provincial, and obsolete. It will be a thing of scoffs and jeers before it is a year old, and you cannot afford to recommend it." Blackton Defends Industry Commodore J. Stuart Blackton protested against the allusions made by previous witnesses to the drug habit, the brothel, and all of the other disgusting things which "these good folks have heaped upon our defenceless heads." He called attention to the fact that most of the accusations against iniquitous pictures were not backed up by full statements of facts. "If I were to come here to combat such a situation, I would get evidence, backed by affidavits," he said. "I would have the names of the pictures, the names of the makers, the names of the theatres where they were shown, and if these ladies would bring such statements to us we would co-operate with them with a view to having the guilty manufacturers and exhibitors punished to the full extent of the law. They come here and speak of things they have seen but there are no bad pictures being shown to the general public." He declared that in the last five years there were only two pictures that came to his attention that were bad, and they had been stopped after the first performance in New York. They were not presented to the National Board of Censorship for its approval. The matter was taken up by the Board of Trade and action taken against those connected with the films. One of these was "Virtue," made by a firm in Philadelphia. In New York the latter was taken care of by existing laws, but the pictures were taken to Philadelphia and the localized censorship board, operating under state laws, allowed them to be shown in Pennsylvania. (Continued on page SSI.)