LONG before an American motion picture finishes its exhibition life at home it begins voyaging among the 50,025 theaters wired for sound outside the United States. Not just one print, but an average of 200 prints of each film eventually makes a vast circular tour from Vladivostok to Patagonia, from Land's End to Yokohama. The tour takes a long time; American films many years old still give pleasure and arouse wonder in far places. Let us assume, though, allowing for pictures without foreign appeal and for other trade exigencies, that only the equivalent of one year's American output is talking to the world at a given moment. This would mean 600 pictures. Two hundred prints of each would mean a total of 120,000 prints currently travelling abroad.

These pictures do not present the American as a perfect being. Yet, though they show gangsters, they also show the gangsters' punishment. They show frivolity, over-luxury; but they also show the triumph of the poor boy. Everything is jumbled, like life. There is no preachment: "We are a godlike race. Look on us. Be like us." And because of this very unpremeditated approach, 150,000,000 theatergoers accept American pictures with the instinctive, subconscious comment: "These people are merely trying to entertain us, not proselytize us." Here is a fact worth pondering. No one forces these pictures on any public. Weary feet carry patrons to the box offices. Millions of hands of every hue extend clutched earnings. Every tongue -- outdoing Babel -- says for American pictures, "Two tickets, please."

Put aside for a moment considerations of American trade advantage and concentrate on the fact that these 120,000 travelling prints are America's most direct ambassadors to the masses of the world. The common people of other lands do not often hear our radio and never see our newspapers. They do not know, or care, what Mr. Kennedy says at Downing Street or Mr. Bullitt at the Quai d'Orsay. Only one reminder remains, for millions upon millions, that there still exists a way of life in which the individual counts, in which hatred and regimentation do not comprise the sole motive and method of existence. This reminder is the American motion picture. Along with the gangster and the racketeer, the gun-toting westerner and the city slicker, the American screen play presents a perpetual epic of the ordinary unregimented individual. This individual chooses a profession, travels at will, loves whom he pleases, outguesses the boss and wisecracks the government. At evening he returns to his home without terror; when he is abed no knock at the door freezes his heart. Surely it is not flag-waving to believe that this simple miracle, the routine of freedom, which we accept as our simple right, may bring cheer and thought to peoples less fortunate. In no other way can they receive the message.

Trade jealousies, special barriers erected against the "insinuating influence" of American films and a rash of censorship among the "Most High" types of government have latterly curtailed the circulation of our 120,000 ambassadors. To win that circulation back is important. But it is much more important that we win nothing and keep nothing if this can be done only at the expense of restrictions on what the American screen shall show and say. Indeed, a vital factor in world relations may be the determination, on the part of some motion picture producers, to increase the present scope of the subject matter with which they deal.

At home, the screen has never been free in the same sense that the press is free. There were no motion pictures when the Founding Fathers wrote the constitutional provision for free speech. In silent picture days, high courts held that that provision did not apply to the screen. No Supreme Court decision, as yet, has brought the sound picture under the protection of the free speech guarantee. Consequently, the American screen not only operates under seven separate state censorships and some two hundred municipal censors; it lives in mortal fear that the yea-ers and nay-ers may increase in number, whim and power, and even that the Federal Government may assume final, idea-chilling authority.

This shadow of increasing censorship has bred a fear complex. It has fostered the belief among producers that everybody must be pleased, at any cost. For example, Hollywood shows little discrimination between legitimate journalists who are there to procure and distribute news and the hangers-on who scarcely trouble to conceal their essential character as not-so-polite blackmailers. "We must offend no one," the picture business tells itself every day. Commercially-sponsored radio commentators brazenly offer malicious gossip -- ninety-five percent sheer invention -- about stars whose brief day of livelihood (and super-tax-paying ability) depends on a friendly public. Sections of the industry's own trade press would make the Augean stable feel respectable. Hollywood takes it.

The creed that the motion picture industry must offend no one, must arouse no one's animosity, produces all sorts of inhibitions.[i] When some bar association protests against the presence of a crooked lawyer in a screen plot, the producers don't reply: "You are very fortunate that we don't make a picture entirely devoted to the indefensible practices that have grown up in the law, and which extend into the judiciary." (Incidentally, why not make such a picture? It would hurt no lawyers but the crooked ones. A free press has cleared the way for most major governmental, professional and business reforms. Has the screen no parallel right and duty to ventilate evils that need ventilating?) What the industry actually does in effect say to protesting lawyers is: "Pardon us for existing. Excuse drama for needing crooks. Forgive our using such a case as the daily paper often reports. In the future we will be very careful, when a lawyer transgresses in a film plot, to explain in words of two syllables that all lawyers are not like that." What absurdity! Did the newspapers have to explain that all wholesale druggists were not brothers to the one who committed suicide in Connecticut?

Policy and practice in matters like this at home are important, for they tend to establish the mood and the technique for surrenders abroad. A classic example of foreign sensitivity to the American screen occurred when, in an old Will Rogers picture, some comedy character used the simile, "as thick as flies in a Greek restaurant." Sixteen top-hatted gentlemen, representing the American Society of Greek Restaurateurs, called on the Hays office to protest. Almost as farfetched, in the old days, was the inevitable Hays office visit from a Balkan diplomat whenever a company produced a "mythical kingdom" story. The flag looked vaguely like the Budoslovakian flag or the queen in the picture had a blonde sister just like the Rumalbian queen's. Why not apologize, change the flag, and ask "props" for a brunette wig?

The perspective would not be correct and my account would not be complete if I did not mention that reactionary influences within the picture industry itself have operated at times to restrict the freedom of the screen. My pocketbook got hurt when, in 1934, I produced "The President Vanishes." This picture imagined a group of munitions manufacturers taking desperate measures to protect their interests; and the plot went so far as to suggest that behind munitioneers sometimes are bankers. The Production Code Administration warned me throughout that all sorts of censorship trouble might be expected, and I was given to understand that a really sensible fellow would drop the whole idea. I didn't. There were script conferences, script changes, the usual give-and-take between my studio and the office of Mr. Breen, Director of the P. C. A. Director Breen finally approved the picture verbally. But the official P. C. A. seal did not arrive. Mr. Breen told me that New York was holding it up "for industry policy reasons." I promptly had my attorneys serve written notice that if we did not get the seal at once we would apply for a mandatory injunction. We received the seal. And here mystery thickens. Paramount was releasing the picture for me. Someone talked to someone in New York (the chairman of Paramount's board at that time was Mr. Charles D. Hilles) and Paramount cut the film brutally before delivering it to exhibitors. The entertainment value, in my opinion, was hopelessly impaired by these cuts. The version that was left was choppy, incomplete and in some parts unintelligible. Many exhibitors cancelled the booking. Those who showed the picture lost money. I lost money -- on a low-cost picture that raised the honest question as to whether or not some men put war profits above patriotism.[ii]

Despite the fate of "The President Vanishes," a liberal commentator who assigned the basic blame for the motion picture industry's cowardice about ideas to "wicked Wall Street" would be superficial and wrong. There is ample liberal thought and talent in Hollywood to conceive and execute films based on ideas of social justice and international honesty and peace. There are ways to release them. (I didn't stay with Paramount, which, by the way, has a different management now.) The fundamental canker in motion picture production is ordinary fear -- fear lest livelihood, property, the means of self-preservation, be taken away.

Bills repeatedly have been introduced in Congress looking toward the establishment of a national commission to control motion pictures. Some pretend to aim at business reform, some enlist "moral" forces. Most move slyly toward the same goal -- political control of what goes on the screen. Any showman knows what would be the result: reduction of the screen to the status of a government pamphlet and the end of the screen as an entertainment industry. Such governmental control would incidentally mean the end of artistic development on the screen, as has happened in every nation which has tried it.

So it is that the screen has become obsequious, full of inhibitions, afraid of offending anyone and everyone. It has catered to individuals, to groups, to associations, to politicians, to nations. "Be our friend," it has pleaded on every hand. "Help us keep destruction off our necks."

Before you condemn this faintheartedness too severely, as entirely money-grubbing or perhaps even as venal, imagine yourself a newspaper editor in a situation like the one which confronts the motion picture producer. In that imaginary circumstance the City Council would have the right to send a representative into your editorial offices and to determine, finally and without appeal, what you could print in your paper tomorrow and every day thereafter. Would you, as an editor in that position, crusade against the Council? Would you, or would you not, try to make the Chamber of Commerce, the church groups, any and all other groups, friendly to you, and keep them that way? Would you not be tempted so to modify your utterances that all rights to utter anything without supervision would not be taken away from you at any minute? It hardly becomes the man with guaranteed freedom to say of someone who actually finds himself in the situation I have described: "Ho! What shame to be a slave!"

In the difference between the inviolable freedom of the press, established by long and unvarying court decisions, and the situation of the screen, not yet (mark the word) held by the courts to have any rights whatever under the free speech guarantee of the Constitution, lies the explanation of the motion picture industry's fear to speak out. And the habit of bowing to every domestic critic prepared it to be subservient abroad whenever a foreign market seemed threatened. The degree to which this subservience has now come to be expected was exampled recently when a foreign government told an American producing company what it might and might not show on the screen in the United States.


The relationship of the American motion picture industry to foreign markets and to foreign governments has had two other interesting characteristics: (a) Foreign governments have strongly resisted what they consider a trade invasion as well as an invasion of ideas. (b) The American Government has failed to give support, or at least has given ineffectual support, against foreign discriminations and trade barriers set up especially to restrict or estop the distribution of American films. This is a natural extension into the foreign field of the industry's domestic policy of surrendering to almost any sort of objection, criticism or threat.

Trade follows the film. American automobile sales increase when foreign communities see some favorite American star riding around in an attractive new model car. Back in silent picture days a wholesale appliance house in Athens, Greece, cabled for thirty barber chairs "like the one in the picture." The stimulus sometimes has an almost "revolutionary" result. A strike of Paris stenographers once was laid to the influence of films which showed how much better equipment, sanitation, light and air were enjoyed as a matter of course by office-workers in this country.

The industry directly employs 282,000 individuals. Multiply that by three to include their dependents. Add to the purchases of these persons those made by persons supported indirectly by the movies in nearly three hundred allied industries: silver and cotton used in making the raw film; lighting; construction of studios and theaters, including seats (a bigger item than you think); costumes, of ushers as well as actors; transportation. The 25,000 miles of film which Will Hays says are delivered every day to American theaters represent a triple industry -- the creation of that film, its distribution, its exhibition. Now think of the taxes which the industry contributes to national, state and local government. Miss Carole Lombard has stated that out of the $455,000 which she received in a recent year she paid $397,575 in direct taxes. The theaters paid the Federal Government $20,800,000 in admissions tax in 1937-38. The two items will serve to give a rough idea of the part the moving picture industry plays in helping finance the Government. (This might be a good place to remark parenthetically that all these material benefits -- buying power, employment, tax reservoir -- depend on the excellence and consequent saleability of the producer's work.)

Viewing the successes of the American film industry, foreign nations have cried: "Mama, buy me one too!" The happy companion thought has been: "Make the Americans pay for it." The result has been the quota system, which amounts to securing subsidies for foreign film industries by forcing American motion picture companies to participate in the financing. A quota law says that for every x number of American pictures shown in a certain country, the American companies must finance the production there of y number of pictures. Neat? It transfers a slice of buying power, employment, and taxes from the United States to hungry economies abroad. Virtually all the European countries now have quota laws, generally on an ascending scale, designed in a few years to achieve the happy result of forcing American firms to use American money to finance at least one so-called "home picture" for every two pictures shipped from the United States. This is in addition, of course, to special taxes. And some countries impound American film receipts and insist that they be reëxpended in large part within their own borders. Germany and Italy specialize in the latter device.

Foreign countries would undoubtedly have barred American films in toto except for the embarrassing fact that the Hollywood product is better -- i.e. has a higher entertainment content -- than any other. When the French Government once sought virtually to bar American pictures, French theater owners threatened to strike; they knew that application of any such order would mean closed doors and ruin. This admitted excellence of the American product is not contradicted by the recent high praise given "The Citadel," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and other "British" films. Critics who have hastened to cry "Hollywood ought to learn" ought to learn themselves. What happened was this. For a long time American producers met quota requirements by producing "quickies" with American money abroad -- just grade B pictures for use in the particular country involved, with no thought of American market. Then Loew's Incorporated, controlling Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, decided that if they had to make pictures abroad, they would make great ones, for both markets. That is why Metro, after three years' preparation, produced "The Citadel" and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" in London. There also are examples outside quota-picture ranks. The current, highly popular technicolor version of "The Mikado" was directed by Victor Schertzinger, famous in Hollywood since he elevated Miss Grace Moore to transient screen heights in "One Night of Love," and its star is our Ken Baker. As for "Pygmalion," Leslie Howard received credit as co-director on that one. If Mr. Howard hadn't absorbed Hollywood methods during all his years by the Pacific, he wouldn't be the intelligent and sensitive artist we know he is.

This excellence of the Hollywood product is very pertinent to the subject I am discussing, for it means that the American industry possesses a powerful weapon indeed when at last the fight is made against unfair restrictions, censorships and threats of embargo. It also can help promote the peaceful penetration of ideas. Anglo-American film coöperation may have been forced by shrewd British business legislation; but the actual result of the experiment by Metro and other companies abroad, and of our manufacture of films sympathetic to Britain (since "David Copperfield," and earlier still), has been a growing and reciprocal idea toleration between the British and ourselves. My picture "Blockade," which was meant as a preachment against war but which won me a citation as a "Communist" from every Fascist, was passed in Britain, in contrast to Germany, Italy, Peru, Salvador, Jugoslavia, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Portugal, Latvia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Czech verdict, under date of April 25, 1939, reads tragically: "Rejected by the German Propaganda Office." (General Franco rose in his might and notified United Artists that "Blockade" must "be withdrawn at once everywhere in the world," or Spain would accept no more United Artists releases.) Warner Brothers has just had a pleasant surprise in England. It was generally admitted on the Warner lot that England might as well be wiped off the books so far as "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" was concerned. Yet the British censor passed that documentary masterpiece. I understand that, at the moment, Charles Chaplin is under friendly warning from the British that no motion picture "ridiculing the head of any government" has ever passed the British censor. Yet I venture that Mr. Chaplin will make a strong film in "The Great Dictator" and that Britons will view it.

I believe real international coöperation in the making and distributing of motion pictures, including the interchange of men and ideas as well as product, could be a magic instrument in cultural understanding and hence to world peace. But we are occupied in the present discussion with less Utopian matters. They none the less are grand enough. Mv object here is to make clear the present world situation of the American motion picture industry, to show that freedom of speech on the American screen is an important factor in that situation, and to suggest definite ways to win and keep it. With free speech assured, and with its messages distributed regularly by 120,000 ambassadors, the American motion picture will have secured its proper world influence, and that influence will very definitely be for the good.


It seems to me a reasonable contention that the United States Government has given inadequate, or at least ineffectual, support to the motion picture industry in its fight against the discriminations and trade barriers set up by foreign governments against American films. Official representations have of course been made against the practices from time to time. But they must have been fairly mild, because the foreign market has continued to shrink in spite of them; the barriers have increased and the censorships have become more arrogant. Is there any evidence that abandonment of economic discrimination against American films has ever been made a sine qua non of a reciprocal trade treaty, or that any foreign government has ever been told: "We won't grant you such and such a consideration in such and such a field unless you agree to admit American films as we do yours, subject only to normal import duty on the film stock"? But any criticism of the State Department for lack of persistence in this matter does not really reflect on the Department's officials. Why should they conceive it their duty to defend vigorously abroad an industry toward which the Government at home has shown itself continuously harassing?

Every important foreign nation has sought, by subsidies and by special penalties against incoming American films, to establish a motion picture industry comparable to ours. At the same time some executives and legislators in the United States have been busy making our own possession ($2,000,000,000 in investment; $100,000,000 paid annually in direct taxes; several billions of annual business turnover in production, distribution and exhibition; an important contribution to foreign trade stimulus) a political football and a scapegoat in popular "clean-up" gestures.

Early in its complicated history, our business evolved an internal arbitration system that for several years worked successfully and was held by distinguished authorities to be a model of its kind. In 1929, Judge Thomas D. Thacher, sitting in the United States Court, Southern District of New York, found both the machinery and the practice eminently fair to all concerned and at the same time ordered their abandonment. The Government had evoked law made in the stereopticon age to cripple the democratic operation of the picture industry in a movement-soundtechnicolor era. Almost everyone familiar with the disputes involved in the distribution and exhibition of motion pictures believes that all the practices which are now questioned in the Government's perennial anti-trust suits against the business might have been avoided had the agreed method of settling internal differences been permitted to continue.

This is not the place to review the various "motion picture control" bills introduced in each Congress. The industry has never had a year free from some preposterous threat. The present Neely Bill, under consideration as I write, deserves a book to itself. I mention one provision: the script of every motion picture must be delivered to all exhibitors before production is begun, and any deviation whatsoever from the advance script becomes a federal offense, punishable by heavy fine and (or) imprisonment. That would be the end of improvement in motion pictures, since great pictures become great in the process of filming. Moreover, it would be a step toward censorship of ideas, because pressures could be brought to bear and censors excited before a producer even began to shoot. To all the existing forms of censorship in this country would be added censorship by specific threat.

What happens when censors get carte blanche has been demonstrated in action taken against American films abroad. Browbeaten at home, lacking equal protection with other mediums of expression in the courts, without the support of the liberal organs that should be the friends of legitimate screen freedom, the American film industry has become accustomed to scurry off before all criticism or remonstrance, to yield to any minority which is vocal or threatens to be vocal, to bow to any official or semi-official ukase about what the screen ought or ought not to say. Foreign nations, each holding a slice of market like a raised club, quickly sensed this softness, this spirit of defeatism. As a result, not merely have Americans been forced to see on the screen the least common denominator of what the least broad-minded groups at home will approve, but in recent years what is left after the political panics, power ambitions and internal terrors of a dozen foreign nations have done their work. Foreign nations have been dictating American screen policy and stifling what free speech had been left after the incursions of domestic pressure groups and censors.

Foreign censorship has shown itself illogical, contradictory, stupid, in the last analysis absurd. I shall cite just one example of censorship in the "moral" field. In "Sergeant Murphy," Warner Brothers used some actual shots of steeplechase horses falling. These were taken from newsreels of the Grand National. The censors for the United Kingdom ordered these scenes out. Just ten miles from their offices, steeplechases were currently in progress and similar falls were actually happening. The instinctive order of all censors seems to be: "Do not publish the truth."

Motion pictures which touch the subject of revolution, no matter how faithfully in the historic sense nor how romantically if merely incidental to some love story, have always encountered difficulties abroad. "The Informer," screen classic of the Irish Revolution, was rejected in Peru, British Malaya, Hungary, Guatemala and Palestine; in Ontario and England it was cut heavily. "Tale of Two Cities," Dickens' famous love story of the French Revolution, was cut in Venezuela, Peru and Japan and was rejected outright in Hungary, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal and Rumania. Similar wide rejections attended "The Plough and the Stars" and "Beloved Enemy." Anti-militaristic pictures, such as "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head," "Road to Glory," "The Road Back" and "Four Men and A Prayer" have paid heavily for being opposed to war. I have already detailed what happened to one of my contributions, "Blockade."

One would not think that after the Production Code Administration, wary of our own state censorships, had finished with an American script, much Communism would be left in any finished picture. Yet here are a few barred by foreign censors on that ground: "Red Salute," "Fighting Youth," "The Road Back," "Soak the Rich," "Winterset," "Midnight Court," "Three Comrades," and, of course, again "Blockade." Individual cuts in order to avoid suggesting class struggle are common in all countries. The prize goes to Poland which eliminated from "Ol' Man River" the following verse:

"Darkies all work on de Mississippi, Darkies all work while de white folks play, Pullin' dem boats from dawn to sunset, Getting no rest till de Judgment Day."

With the rise of dictatorships in many countries, and the rise of fear of them in others, nervousness and confusion seized the censors. Almost anything except a moonlight kiss was liable to cause cuts or outright rejection. China killed "The Road Back" "at the request of the German Consul-General." Poor China! "Zola," a great picture, was rejected in Italy and in Quebec, presumably because Zola's writings are on the Index Expurgatorius. But Japan rejected it "because of corruption in court scenes and intrigue in the general staff" and Poland "because of scenes considered detrimental to military honor." Because of Turkish threats to ban all the films of one company, "Forty Days of Musa Dagh" was shelved. At least one deferment of "It Can't Happen Here" (a deferment wrongly blamed on the Hays office) was due to the conviction of the company's foreign manager that if the story were produced, a general buying rebellion against all the company's films would ensue. Each time the American industry yielded the foreign demands grew bolder. One of the few considerable foreign markets left, France, recently informed Warner Brothers that if it did not withdraw "Devil's Island" from distribution, everywhere, no more Warner Brothers pictures would be admitted to France.

The oppressive effect of all this on the expression of ideas in American films can be understood when I say that at one time 54 percent of the gross revenue of one of our large companies came from abroad. To touch on any one of a whole series of subjects in which Americans have every reason to be interested meant a severe loss. Yet I venture to think that today a new mood is on the whole industry. There is a distinct tendency to say: "Well, write the foreign market off. It's nearly gone, anyway. Let's just make the best pictures we can and see what happens. Maybe we'll at least regain our peak domestic market, which has disappeared in the fog of wispy stories filmed with the impossible aim of pleasing everybody." Warners took a gallant lead in the right direction with "Juarez" and "Confessions of a Nazi Spy." I, for one, am going ahead to make as good a picture as I can out of Vincent Sheean's controversy-breeding book, "Personal History."

I suggest more. Having thrown the foreign incubus off our mental backs, I propose that with the help of liberal persons and organizations, the general press and the Government, we try to win a position where there shall be permanent and inviolable freedom of speech on the American screen -- the right to advocate social reforms, to portray the results of international injustice, to plead for peace, to expound, emphasize and proclaim the virtues of the true American Way.


The first and most important step toward winning freedom for the American screen will be to establish legally its right to protection under that section of the Bill of Rights forbidding laws "abridging freedom of speech." The whole fear complex of the industry originates in the long-held belief that almost any legislative or police authority has the power to muffle the screen. I question that arbitrary power. Because of the intensive psychological effect of visual motion, high courts held in the days of silent pictures that the interests of the community justified censorship of what is seen in motion pictures. It seems possible that the legality of the actions taken on that premise have been insufficiently explored. Might it not be held that the same obscenity laws which govern newspapers, magazines and books after publication would be sufficient to protect the public interest in the case of motion pictures also? In any event, however, here is an interesting phenomenon: since the advent of sound pictures -- the birth of speech on the screen -- no test case in regard to motion picture censorship has been carried to the United States Supreme Court. Perhaps the censors have the right to regulate costume, posture, visual suggestion on the screen. But I believe that what is spoken therewith has in all essential respects the same status as what is spoken from the pulpit, on the lecture platform or on the stage. In other words, speech is speech, and the Constitution protects it.

"Ah!" say the timid -- and the insincere. "But if you open the screen to propaganda, whose propaganda will we have?" The answer to that is simple. What does it matter? If someone makes a motion picture based on error, let someone else make a better one based on truth. I believe that the best way of helping truth to prevail is to give opinions free play. The method has worked in the case of books; indeed, error even has its positive uses. Is it not better for Americans to read and understand "Mein Kampf" than for the book to be banned? Did not the reluctance of the author to permit its publication in full in translation in foreign languages indicate his realization of the harm that might be done him by free and frank discussion of his tenets in a democratic atmosphere? Victory for democracy, understanding and peace is bound up with freedom for every medium of expression. The 120,000 ambassadors of the American motion picture have proved their ability of great service to mankind. Why not equip them with a richer portfolio of documents and argument?

The first step I recommend, then, is that the organized picture industry carry the issue of free speech on the screen to the Supreme Court of the United States. If that august body should rule that in this case speech is not speech, then there should begin an immediate campaign for a Constitutional amendment specifically freeing the screen and giving it the same rights and duties as other mediums of expression.

In this procedure we need the understanding and interest and support of enlightened individuals and of the general press. This is a period of many and varied attacks on free speech. There have been hints in Congress of efforts to abridge the freedom of the press. Recent rulings of the Federal Communications Commission have aroused at least one author of the bill which created that commission, a bill that sought honestly to protect free speech on the radio. Is not the best way to resist encroachments in one field to abolish encroachments which already exist in an allied field? I suggest, then, that the elevation of the American screen to a place among the world's voices ought to be a prime plank in the platform of all liberals, and especially of all who are connected with any form of expression that depends for its value on being untramelled and free. Editors: the fire in your neighbor's wheatfield may well spread to your own grain. Help us put it out!

The third necessity if we are to achieve a free screen in this country is for some of our own government officials to do a right-about-face. I have already touched this situation. The changes needed are two: (a) abandonment of harassing legislation at home; (b) wholehearted support abroad of the rights and interests of what is in itself one of our country's biggest businesses and also one of its biggest business-getters.

The fourth necessity is for courageous counsel and action on the part of the industry's leaders. If I have seemed to speak of them critically perhaps it will carry all the more weight when I say that the history of no other industry offers a group of men more able, more resourceful or more nearly indispensable to continuing growth than the hardy executive survivors of early motion picture days. They have known how to survive such crises as the incredibly swift and complex change from silent pictures to sound; the 1932-37 depression; the new one; the various onslaughts of reform bodies; and the advent of technicolor.

But Hollywood leadership, due to its tremendous preoccupation in actual picture-making, has retreated too far before the winds, and imagined winds, of public opinion. The time has come to say to pressure-group minorities: "Go fuss at someone else. We are going to make strong pictures, and let the public judge them and us." In regard to foreign markets, the firm policy toward each nation should be: "We do not challenge your undoubted right to censor an individual picture within your own borders, no matter how silly some of the results may strike us as being. But we will take no dictation as to what we show in other countries or at home, and we will fight boycott with boycott." The country which boycotts any American company should be met by the immediate and concerted withdrawal of all American film service. That will hurt the offending nation's business revenue from theaters and government revenue from taxes worse than it will hurt us. (Don't we face the involuntary loss of foreign sales anyway, and aren't we surviving?) We shall win respect by such a firm policy; films not nurtured in timidity will have fresh and added entertainment value; and in the long run the industry as well as the American public will profit.

Let the American motion picture industry take the finest motto possible for any medium of expression: "If a man has something to say, let him speak."

[i] Distinction here is necessary between the work of the motion picture's own Production Code Administration -- which, theoretically at least, is an agency of independent men working together to discharge a community responsibility -- and a general tendency to let outsiders dictate screen content.

[ii] It is only fair to say that foreign censors contributed generously to assuring a red-ink balance.

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