Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry

Frank Walsh, Author Yale University Press $70 (424p) ISBN 978-0-300-06373-8
During the 1920s, Hollywood scandals allowed proponents of censorship to start a two-pronged attacked. On the secular side, the Hays Office was established to promote self-censorship of the film industry, while on the religious front the Catholic Church established the Legion of Decency. Together, they formed an alliance that would intimidate the film industry into delivering a product so sanitized that it little resembled everyday life. Walsh, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, takes us on a journey with the self-righteous that is often hilariously conveyed. The Catholic Church first became galvanized because of a 1927 film called The Callahans and the Murphys in which stereotypes of Irish-Catholics were highlighted. Using its power to have the film pulled, the Church (after much internecine debate) formed the Legion of Decency in 1934, which inveighed against everything from Duck Soup to Mae West. With the end of WWII and the filming of message-laden pictures such as Gentleman's Agreement and The Best Years of Our Lives, the power of the censors began to wane. Walsh has written a heavily footnoted academic history of a topic that will be of special interest to film historians and anticensorship guardians (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/25/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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