Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry

By Michael Suman; Gabriel Rossman | Go to book overview

7
How Church Advocacy Groups Fostered the Golden Age of Hollywood

Ted Baehr

Millions of people long for the golden age of movies--50 years ago when the studios released one classic after another, like Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life. They often contact me to ask, "Why don't the studios produce any great family films or great biblical epics any more, such as ' Ben Hur,' ' The Ten Commandments,' ' The Robe,' and ' The Greatest Story Ever Told'?"

One reason for the dearth of "good" movies today is the fact that the various denominations abandoned their entertainment advocacy offices in the 1960s. Many people have forgotten that churches instituted the first advocacy offices in Hollywood as a result of America's widespread dissatisfaction with the values of the entertainment industry in the 1920s.

Many people forget that during the 1920s and early 1930s the moral caliber of many Hollywood movies was extremely coarse. The documentary video "Hollywood Uncensored"1 illustrates some of the more salacious and immoral movies of the 1920s and early 1930s, including the notorious 1933 film Ecstasy in which Hedy Lamarr appeared nude on screen for several minutes and the infamous Babyface which depicted a father who prostituted his young daughter to pay his gambling debts. Of course, the film and storytelling techniques of these movies were not as sophisticated as those used in current movies so they did not quite have the same emotional intensity. However, the immoral content of these early films enraged the American people, who reacted by taking legal action against Hollywood. To avoid constant legal harassment, the movie studios asked representatives of the churches to advise them. Consequently, between 1933 and 1966, representatives of the church offices read scripts from every major studio to help them make sure that the industry's films attracted the broadest possible audience. As a result of this process, the movies and television programs were better. The Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish entertainment offices helped the major studios avoid senseless violence, sexual immorality, and antireligious

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