[Film censorship and the film code]

Saturday, January 01, 1955

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Talks about long-running controversy with Eric Johnson, Head of Association for Motion Picture which is more or less governed by the production code. Interviewed twice recently. Talks about play "A Hat Full of Rain," which deals with dope addiction. "The Man With the Golden Arm" was released without the seal (without code's approval). "The Moon Is Blue" also released without the seal. Implications are terrifying - not only the laws themselves but also the application and the interpretations can't be changed. The code represents divine law, and therefore is by its nature unchangeable. Document called "Reasons For the Code." Tells story about the Legion of Decency. While the moral law is divine, the interpretation of it is in the hands of frail human beings. One of the principal studios, United Artists has withdrawn. If four more withdraw, the association will cease to exist. The same picture can be shown by television and as far as he knows there is no way to stop it. Maybe if we have more freedom in television, balanced by judgment and taste, it will break down the code. Goes on to talk about security and artists signing long-term contracts. Eddie Fisher, Burle, Gleeson. Draws a salary provided s/he doesn't work with another broadcasting company. Making a piece of property out of an artist. Amos and Andy on CBS. Motion picture rights and right to license dolls, etc. Many stars have become independent, and can work for whatever studio they like. Broadcasters have another interest to serve - the public interest. Mentions Goodman Ace's book, "Book of Little Knowledge" - book of his reviews. Talks about Eddie Fisher - not a particularly good emcee or dancer. A show called Hear America Singing with Burl Ives - not one song by Irving Berlin - Seldes considers this high brow to the highest extent. Tells a story about Perry Como - shaved Kirk Douglas's beard. Changes the subject a little and talks about a column by Max Lerner in the New York Post. Talks about On The Waterfront, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan. Problem plays - plays about "problems" like divorce, unwed mother, loyalty or homosexuality.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70381
Municipal archives id: LT6663

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


More in:

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


Supported by