Monday, June 1, 2015


Late Sunday afternoon I watched again the last part of "The Bad Seed" a 1956 movie about, how should I say it, a bad  precocious, little girl. Indeed she is bad! No, pathological and she is played brilliantly by the actress who takes the role.

But even in the mid 1950's Hollywood had strict standards for movies and censorship. Why, because many in the film industry as well as in society in general had moral standards and a deep concern for the common good. It wasn't just about money, although that is why films are made, there was a sense of responsibility for building a moral society or at least not contributing to the delinquency of society. It was a part of our Judeo-Christian heritage!

Thus for a movie like "The Bad Seed" the following was in place:

"Although the novel and play had the mother dying of suicide and the evil child surviving, the Hays Code did not allow for "crime to pay." The ending of the film thus has it the other way around, with Christine's life being saved by the local hospital and Rhoda being struck down by lightning while trying to retrieve the penmanship medal from the lake which belonged to a little boy she had murdered.

In another move to appease the censors, Warner Bros. added an "adults only" tag to the film's advertising."

 But in the 1950's for a movie to have a pathological little, precocious murdering child was pushing the envelope too, although I am sure the audience at the movie would have applauded and cheered the little girl's gruesome death!

 So after the little girl is reduced to ashes before the audience's eyes in the last scene at the lake when a bolt of lightening (poetic justice) strikes her, this is what the audience sees as a kind of a Broadway Curtain Call. It reduced the shock of what had just occurred and let everyone know it was just a movie!


Rood Screen said...

Fr. McDonald, Evangelist of the South and Beyond,

Another excellent post! Since it was the bishop-led Legion of Decency that ensured the "purification of the cinema" during this era, I wonder if such an effort could be revived. The Catholic News Service took over the Legion's rating system a few decades ago, but there's no organized movement among laymen to avoid the "O" films at this time. We need a revival of episcopal leadership and lay organization.

Gene said...

Movies and TV are so bad in general that the very act of watching them is automatic penance for whatever lust the content may satisfy. So, you get a twofer...

Lefebvrian said...

I don't necessarily agree that mandated censorship is the way to accomplish the goal of an increase in morality in the populace. The history of the Hays Code and its aftermath seems to suggest that blanket censorship accomplishes nothing.

Instead, we need to be responsible people and parents who, with the grace of God, learn and teach custody of the eyes, making prudential decisions for our families, such as not watching TV in the home, for example.

Anonymous said...

Not watching TV in the home means missing the broadcasts of Ken Burns' documentaries, Call the Midwife, The History of the Jews with Simon Schama, etc. All of these are excellent, educational, informative, and completely worth watching.

What's "prudential" about "not watching TV in the home"?

Angry Augustinian said...

Fr, how come I am showing up as "Sam" when my blog name is Jolly Jansenist?

Paul said...

"Yes, Mother..."

Though kinda funny the "curtain call" should have been left out or shown after about a minute of uneasy silence.

When one is condemned (and we do not know the girl's final judgement) there aren't going to be any fire hoses later to cool things off.

Lefebvrian said...

The prudential judgment would be to watch those things that are educational and have been vetted for content. I wouldn't allow my children to watch Call the Midwife, though.