Children get a raw deal out of the cinema
By Iris Conlay
CATHOLIC HERALD Critic RECENTLY a correspondent suggested a new category for the censor to drop in the majority of " U " films which he was designating for children. " R " films she called them—R for " Rubbish."
I don't know whether that unfortunate correspondent has just got the publicity communication that I received last week about " love-making and the juveniles "-if she had I am not surprised that she felt it high time somebody said something sensible about the kind of flicks children like.
The publicity sheet in question was mainly concerned with the footage of kissing kids would accept. Lovemaking, we were told, is a technique all by itself for film audiences of children. Bill Boyd, chief exemplifier of love scenes for the babes, " guards against any tendency towards familiarity with hie leading ladies by rarely playing opposite any one of them more than twice. He prefers to shift from blonde to brunette, and then to a redhead, so that he will always feel strange in their company and show it for the benefit of any young fans."
William Frawley, Western favourite, Is reported to have said, "It isn't safe for even a villain in a Western to get too affectionate with one of the actresses." Dave Fleischer, director of the cartoon of Gulliver's Travels, says "Sweethearts in cartoon comedy features must be restrained in their love-making. In Gulliver's Travels the
prince and princess, although engaged to be married, were permitted to kiss each other only once or twice, and to hug each other about the same number of times. The picture would have lost its appeal for children
. . if it had shown any further lovemaking."
AND so the argument runs Base children's films on grown-ups' films with that difference soft-pedal the kissing stuff. Educate children slowly to appreciate the same film entertainment as their parents. Then you'll keep the box office busy.
Mitd, watered down, .second class pictures are considered " good enough" for juvenile audiences, and these are the films that 'mostly get the " U" certificate and arc xhown at children's matinees.
No one has yet got imagination enough to realise that children need special films, made for them from their viewpoint, hut technically constructed every bit as well as an adults' production.
My correspondent is so right. These are her words as she published them in a Midland paper:
" L.I OOK at the bill of fare for an average ' special children's performance: It consists of a western, a slapstick comedy, a patriotic newsreel, and possibly a cartoon. The reason for the selection is chiefly this-that all the films are certified for ' universal • exha
bition. That means that they could not, in the view of the Film Censor, be considered harmful to the morale of a juvenile audience.
"It is very necessary to safeguard the morals of children, but it is a pity that the Film Censor is not a little concerned, too, with protecting their ideals and mental standards."
And she goes on: " The point is that ' universal ' films, whether good, bad or indifferent, are not films for children. The immature and ever-developing mentality of the child is catered for in every other form of recreation. Suitable books are provided for him, suitable hobbies are encouraged, suitable games obtained, suitable programmes broadcast, but although he visits the cinema at least once a week, there are -with perhaps half a dozen exceptions in as many yearsno suitable films.
" WHAT is needed," she states, " is a regular output of films about the lives and adventures of boys and girls viewed from the angle of the child and not of the adult. The usual Shirley Temple and Freddie Bartholomew type of film is definitely not viewed from this angle. The child star is the centre of either admiring or scheming adults. That is an unnatural position for a child and is not found in the type of story written for boys and girls."
My correspondent sums up the situation by suggesting that the Film Censor might give a lead to the matter by announcing the award of a " J " certificate for films suitable for exhibition to juvenile audiences, and follow this up by demanding a reasonably high standard of technique as well as subject matter. But I doubt the value of this step. It is the public who make the laws in film making. Their demands (and in this ease parents' and teachers' demands) count more with the box office led film producers than any censorship awards.
Don't he afraid, then, of asking, you who are parents and teachers.
It's a Date
DEANNA DURBIN'S new film carries her into a new stage of life-the cross-road stage as she describes it. She
spends her time in this Rim falling in and out of love with a middle-aged millionaire and a "In the spring time of youth" part in a stage play. At the same time her mother is also engaged
with the same middle-aged millionaire and the same " springtime, of youth " part.
It is easy to see how I he situation should be resolved. A middle aged millionaire for a
nese: middle-aged beautiful mother and a " springtime " stage part for the very
youthful daughter-but things are difficult even in the working out of such a simple problem.
And all the time Deanna is growing up before the audiences' eyes. Her poise
Is surer than in her last film, they note. Her voice is more mature, more consciously she gets her effects, they tell their neighbours. Only the sudden Impulses to laughter or to tears, end the dimples, remain to remind us of a Deanna fading into a memory, or to hearten us for another Deanna-on the other side or the cross-roads.