Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Catholic Crusade against the Movies, 1940-1975

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Catholic Crusade against the Movies, 1940-1975

Article excerpt

The Catholic Crusade against the Movies, 1940-1975. By Gregory D. Black. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1998. Pp. xi, 302. $59.95 cloth; $17.95 paperback.)

In The Catholic Crusade against the Movies, 1940-1975, Gregory Black (professor of communication studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City) continues the story he began in his 1994 work, Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies. In the earlier work, he chronicled the events that led to the 1934 adoption of the Motion Picture Production Code and the formation of the Production Code Administration (PCA). In The Catholic Crusade against the Movies, he documents the work of the PCA over the next four decades, focusing in particular on its relationship with what Black describes as "its alter ego,"the Legion of Decency.

Black begins by summarizing the pressures and compromises that brought the PCA into being (Chapter 1), then goes on to document postwar challenges to the Production Code (Chapter 2), challenges from foreign films (Chapter 3), and various attempts by the Legion to continue functioning after the 1952 Supreme Court decision extending First Amendment protection to motion pictures definitively altered the status of movie censorship nationwide (Chapter 4). The book's final three chapters describe battles over challenges to the Production Code in the 1950's and 1960's, changes in the personnel and approach of the Legion, and the eventual abandonment of the Production Code in favor of an age-based ratings system.

Like Black's earlier book, this one is primarily a series of case studies, chronicling the negotiations among Hollywood producers, the staff of the PCA, and the Legion of Decency concerning the relatively few films over which the groups disagreed-Duel in the Sun, Forever Amber A Streetcar Named Desire, Lolita, Baby Doll, Tea and Sympathy, and Suddenly Last Summer, among others. It presents ample archival information, drawing on the archives of the PCA and the Legion, and of relevant dioceses, studios, and individuals. What is missing from his account is an informed interpretive context for these debates. …

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