Friday, January 06, 2012

MACANIGOTASEE? Remember the Legion of Decency? Thought so.

Before we could go to the Highland Theatre at 79th & Ashland, our Moms checked the New World for the ratings -MACANIGOTASEE?

A: Morally unobjectionable
B: Morally objectionable in part
C: Condemned by the Legion of Decency

This system was modified in my teens to this

A-I: Suitable for all audiences Bambi
A-II: Suitable for adults — then, with the introduction of A-III — suitable for adults and adolescents Kissin' Cousins
A-III: Suitable for adults only Guns of Navarone
A-IV: For adults with reservations later modified to a these - Hard Days Night

B - Out of the Question

C- Are you out of your mind? Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill Kill? Where's the soap? Did your Uncle Bart tell you to ask me? Uncle Donny? Sy? Which one? If not you're going to have a good month of pulling alley weeds, Boyo!

Movies are part of our lives and most of us only learned of world film via three minute snipettes of " She Done Him Wrong" lodged between Jim Moran the Courtesy Man and Lynn Burton For Certain of Bert Weinmann Ford schpeels - warts went away quicker than those commercials.

The Celluloid Muse was represented by a coat hanger Aeriel, static snow, and cascading images on screen all in stunning black and white and gray and haze. Movies were on TV at night after the news, or afternoon if you were home sick from school.

Color Films were at the Beverly, The Capitol, The Highland, The Colony, The Marquette, and The Coral and that was going to the show. One went to the show with a pack of pals and a buck and quarter to see Hercules Movies, Walt Disney Epics, War Movies, Westerns and 25 Cartoons on certain Saturdays.

No matter the genre, or the studio, parents check the Decency Scratch Sheet.

"You are not seeing Dr. No ( 1962)."

"Nevermind why. It's on the list and its got the Bees ( B ratings).

Saw Dr. NO with a charming assortment of like minded ten year olds and remain plagued by the mental images of Ursula Andress getting stripped Butt Necked by Chinese Henchman, though at the time we coyed and feined sole interest in the guns, the Karate Chops and the sparkling Celtic wit of The Bond ( only one). In point of fact we treasured the dawn of bad impulses.

Bad thoughts became and remain the staple of healthy male life, thanks to my disobedience and healthy disregard for decency.

Nevertheless, I confessed my sin. "Bless me father for I have sinned . . . I sinned against the Sixth Amendment."

" You're Pat Hickey's boy."

"Yes, Father Gerrity."

"Does your Dad know you saw that James Bond movie?"


"Well, I think he should. I can't rat you out, but you, young man, had better or this sin stays with you. Understand?"

" Yes, Father."

" Anything else you want to tell me about what you did subsequent. . .that means 'after' you saw that movie"

"No, Father."

Thought so. . .you will in a few years . . .repeatedly. Okay, You tell your Dad and he'll probably let me know and that way you'll be square. Say five Our Father's and Ten Hail Mary's . . .Now, let's hear a good Act of Contrition."

The Code of Decency was right. Dr. No and the thousands of subsequent soft core flesh and saliva epics that followed its wake on the Big Screen caused this healthy and imaginative tube of testosterone to have more than his fair share of "bad thoughts." One about every sextastic twenty seconds and always interrupted by Life's Commercials brought to me by Jim Moran and Bert Weinmann Ford.

Bad thoughts are healthy. Realizing that there are limits to my internal wiring as well as 'outward signs of indignity' is even healthier. Impulses need arrest. To say the least.

The Legion Decency was Okay.


A Brief History of the Legion of Decency

By Rick Kephart

The Legion of Decency was formed in the 1930's to combat immoral movies. People took a pledge, in church, against bad movies. They pledged not only never to go to any morally objectionable movie, but never even to go to any movie theater that had ever shown a morally objectionable film!

This was very effective in discouraging Hollywood from making movies which would earn the disapproval of the Legion of Decency. And the Legion of Decency's ratings were very strict, much more strict than the modern Catholic Bishops' movie rating system (which has been sadly ineffective in influencing the making of movies).
Catholics used to be united, strong and strict, and then they were a powerful force to be reckoned with by the movie industry!

Around the end of the 1950's, things began to change. The emphasis was taken off condemning bad movies, and a deliberate effort was made to make The Legion of Decency more `positive'. The pledge gradually faded out of use, until it was finally completely forgotten.

By 1975, the Legion of Decency had ceased to exist. It was replaced by the Bishops' new Catholic rating system. That ended the Church's influence on the movie industry. Movie standards continue to drop.

In researching the history of the Legion of Decency, this disturbing bit of information came up:

I called the library at St. Charles' Seminary for information about the Legion of Decency. Whomever I spoke to had heard of it, but knew nothing about the pledge. He looked it up in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, and told me what it had to say about the Legion of Decency.

In 1957, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical called Miranda prorsus. The Encyclopedia claimed that the encyclical called for the Legion of Decency to be more positive, to put its emphasis on promoting good movies rather than condemning bad movies, and have more respect for people's consciences. In response to that encyclical (so claims this Encyclopedia) the Legion of Decency changed, very gradually (with no definite date). Eventually, it went completely out of existence, to be replaced by the rating system we now have.

I asked the person on the phone if he knew where I could get a copy of that encyclical, so I could read it myself. He said he thought it was most likely out of print.

But I found one, and read it.

There is nothing in the encyclical that could lead anyone to think he was calling for the Legion of Decency to change what they were doing! It not only vigorously condemns bad movies, but also immoral TV shows and radio programs. It would form a good defense for exactly what the Legion of Decency was doing, if it were considered honestly.

I doubt the author of that article in the Encyclopedia expected anyone to actually read that out-of-print encyclical to see if what he wrote was true.

People do tend to claim that Pope Pius XII said things which he in fact never said.

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1 comment:

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