[Sexual behavior in the American movie]

Sunday, August 05, 1956

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

Talks about sexual behavior in the American movies. A great change occurred around the time sound was introduced to motion picture. A code was imposed upon the moving picture. Regarding brutality, sadism, crime, and narcotics. The center of it was the treatment of sex. Daytime television. Intelligent people in the movies get around what the censor is doing. Creates a bad attitude and phony pictures. Talks about David Reisman's book The Lonely Crowd. Treats sex honestly or candidly. Attack on widely read magazines - carry reports of social behavior, greatly at variance with previously accepted standards. Women's magazines with stories about the relation between men and women. Motion picture industry has not changed in this way in the last 20 - 30 years. Mentions Cecile DeMille. Code is still working as it worked before. Ratings. C = unsuitable. sometimes you get a great success. B = should only be seen by adults. E.g. Moulin Rouge. A = suitable. E.g. Abbott and Costello Meet The Keystone Cops and Revenge of the Creature. Imply that something is taking place but don't show it. Teasing act - use your own imagination. The "nine-months-later technique" like guttering candles, rain falling down bedroom windows, waves crashing, fireworks, etc. Hitchcock has used these as a parody. Screenwriters have more freedom than they think. Sin without the wages of sin. Eventually must arrive at some maturity. People of immature minds think the people on the screen are ideals - they set a pattern of conduct. This is the way some people do live. That moral stamp by merely showing it is the danger. Dilemma is to put on something that is a formula or something against the code but can't do it merely to show it exists because then you are setting the example. It's a dilemma without a solution.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70542
Municipal archives id: LT7528

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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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.


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