Last week a nervous little man grinned his twisted grin in the grounds of White Pine Camp. He offered a proposition to President Coolidgeto set aside 20 vaults of the proposed $2,000,000 Archives Building in order to preserve for posterity historical films. Spokesman Coolidge expressed himself as favorably impressed with the idea, pointed out how educational it would be if this generation could observe President Lincoln delivering his Gettysburg address. The little man, no stranger to Presidents, was Movie Monarch Will H. Hays and as he walked the grounds of White Pine Camp, he seemed strangely pleased.
In 1896, among other events William McKinley was nominated Republican presidential color-bearer. Clippings described the convention. One batch of these clippings was presented to a gawky stripling with the inscription: "To Master Willie Hays, with the hope that some day he may take a citizen's interest in politics." Possibly Schoolboy Hays wrote a thesis on the "Negro Problem". . . .
He graduated from Wabash College (Indiana) in 1900, secured an M. A. in 1904. His thesis was "The Negro Problem." Long a member of the law firm of Hays and Hays, he began to interest himself in politics, became the Republican National Committee Chairman in 1918. People wondered at this "human flivver," this sophisticated "booster," this shrewd politician who quoted the Golden Rule, who said, "There is no twilight zone in politics; right is right and wrong is wrong . . . rights shall be held equally sacred and sacredly equal. . . ."
He even held rights "equally sacred" while Postmaster General under President Harding, when critics were legion. "He's little," said one, "but he's loud." He was also efficient, astounded and vexed old-school politicos by making appointments on a merit basis. Many prophesied that Mr. Hays would, within two years, reinvigorate the postal service so shabby under war-administration. Others foretold that soon the mails would be wrecked. People augured, argued, raged. Mr. Hays went into the movies, became the $150,000 a year president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.
"I did not undertake the task lightly," said he, "but it seemed to afford an opportunity for service. . . . We want everyone who has any ideas for bettering the motion picture to come in through the Open Door and tell us his ideas about it. . . ." Will Hays sat as tsar of moviedom like Judge Landis in baseball, yet saw people, listened. "I believe," said he, "in the personal relationship of man, the expression of personality, and above all, keeping the human elementthe heart touchin everything you say and do."
The only occasion upon which Mr. Hays' "heart touch" seemed forced is when photographed with filmdom's buffoonsBen Turpin, Buster Keaton. The dictator of the fourth largest industry possibly meditates upon a smug lawn and a White House in Washingtonthen sighs, returns to work. After all, he is a president. And, withdrawn from politics, he has become an unselfish deus ex machina to the movies, a veritable polychromatic Pollyanna.