What shocked the censors! (1933)

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FOREWORD >HE New York censorship is selected from the six states with motion pic- ture censors because it is among the most thorough-going, and yet is typical of the others. State movie censors operate in Kansas, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and in Massachusetts, on films shown Sundays. As in other states, the New York censors constitute a function of the state approved by the so-called moral forces, and they are, of course, politically entrenched. The censors' income from fees for licensing films not only makes their work self-supporting but yields a substantial revenue to the state. The jobs at the censors' disposal make them dispensers of political patronage. For these reasons among others, and despite the fact that censorship has not extended for years beyond these six states, it has been impossible to make headway in getting the existing censorships abolished. The New York Board seeks to justify its function as a part of the educational system. But its very position in the educational department tends to fix its ethical and esthetic standards for the whole public at the intellectual level of school children. Among the leading justifications it offers for its work is the ex- clusion of "dirty foreign films,"—an appeal to patriotic pride. As a matter of fact no questionable foreign films are offered. Such as do come in are admittedly of superior quality. False justifications of this sort are made to conceal a censorship which would be resented if its real operations and ef- fects were generally understood. This detailed record reveals for the first time what is actually being done by New York's motion picture censors. For ten years they have worked secretly—behind closed doors. Twice a year they issue a report merely listing the number of films reviewed, reels censored, deletions made, and the expendi- tures and balance for the six month period. The public, in whose interest the censor board was ostensibly created, has been unable to voice any intelligent praise or criticism, or, in fact to make any appraisal whatsoever of the value of this "protection". The National Council being opposed to censorship on principle but un- willing to enter upon any extensive fight without factual ammunition, tried for months to get behind this barrier of secrecy. The censors themselves refused to divulge any information on the ground of traditional policy. The film companies, doubtless wearied by past contacts with the many social reform groups having an ax to grind, looked upon us with suspicion and answered noncommittally. We gathered the impression that reprisals in the form of unusually severe censoring might result from any disclosure of such information from the picture producers. Blocked at the original sources, we turned to the state legislature. Through the cooperation of Langdon Post, Assemblyman from Manhattan, we secured the introduction early in 1932 of a bill to provide for the official records of all deletions made by the censors being open to the public on request. Dr.