For many a year the U. S. churches have deplored what they call the brazen indecency of U. S. cinema. Their annual conferences have passed resolutions. Their clergy have lobbied for censorship bills. Their journals have crusaded. But for all their zeal the churches have accomplished very little. Last week, led by members of the Roman Catholic Church, they were embarked on a new crusade, brandishing a new weaponthe boycott. That they were in earnest impressed even hardboiled Variety, which for once put aside its racy style to tell about the "Legion of Decency" in a straightforward article headlined: "CATHOLICS WOULD ENLIST ALL FAITHSNeed for Prompt Action to Avert Drastic Penalties Upon Picture Industry Urged in EastReal Danger"
Organized under the leadership of Most Rev. John Timothy McNicholas, Archbishop of Cincinnati, the Legion of Decency binds pledge-signers to "remain away from all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency and Christian morality." The Legion of Decency charges no dues, hence differs from Mrs. August Belmont's Motion Picture Research Council with which it is in full sympathy. Aiming at enlisting at least half the U. S. Catholic population of 20,000,000 as well as all Protestants and Jews who care to sign, the Legion last week claimed 2,000,000 members. In Saratoga Springs, N. Y., Bishop Gibbons of Albany urged a Knights of Columbus convention to join. In Louisville, the League of Catholic Parent-Teacher Associations favored it. The Living Church (Episcopal) printed the pledge for its readers to sign. The Detroit Council of Churches (250,000 Protestants) has urged ministers to promote it. Besides Catholic action in such cities as Mobile, Rochester, Little Rock. St. Louis, Omaha, New Orleans and Spokane, interdenominational action has been taken in Denver, Galveston and San Francisco.
The Legion of Decency provides no official guide to good and bad films. But individual priests and bishops may blacklist as they please. Fortnight ago in thousands of Catholic churches, schools and colleges appeared a poster written by Rev. Daniel Aloysius Lord, Jesuit editor of The Queen's Work in St. Louis. A seasoned crusader, Father Lord was only lately revealed as the author of the famed Code which Presbyterian Will Hays and his producers adopted in 1930. The poster:
These Pictures Violate Code
"The Trumpet Blowsproduced by Paramount. . . . The absolutely unwholesome and unattractive George Raft is the 'hero,' loose in his relationship with women and a thorough no-account. . . . It is unfit for any decent person to see or approve. . . . Protest to Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California. Protest to George Raft, same address.
"Finishing SchoolProduced by RKO Radio. . . . An attempted seduction and an accomplished seduction. . . . Protest. . . . Protest. . . . "GlamourProduced by Universal. . . . A stale and ancient plot. . . . Protest. . . . Protest. . . .