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List of Films Condemned by the Legion of Decency
This is a list of films condemned by the National Legion of Decency, a United States Catholic organization. The National Legion of Decency was established in 1933 and reorganized in 1965 as the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (NCOMP). Under each of these names, it rated films according to their suitability for viewing, assigning a code of A, B, or C, with that of C identified as "Condemned" for viewing by Catholics. The C rating was issued from 1933 until 1978. The Legion's ratings were applied to movies made in the United States as well as those imported from other countries. Since it reviewed films when released for distribution, the Legion usually rated non-U.S. films a few years after their first release in their country of origin, occasionally years after. For example, it rated Marcel Pagnol's 1936 César in 1948 and Marlene Dietrich's 1930 The Blue Angel in 1950.
The rating system was revised in 1978 and the designation "condemned" has not been assigned to films since then. Instead, films that would earlier have been rated C or B were all rated O, which meant "morally offensive". NCOMP reassigned ratings to old films based on its new system, making it impossible to determine from their own database whether a film it now classifies O was originally B or C. In 1980, NCOMP ceased operations, along with the biweekly Review, which by then had published ratings for 16,251 feature films.
Legion-organized boycotts made a C rating harmful to a film's distribution and profitability. In some periods the Legion's aim was to threaten producers with a C rating, demand revisions, and then award a revised B rating. At other times the Legion, preferring to avoid the notoriety and publicity that films gained from having a C rating revised to B, refused to remove their original rating, which resulted in industry self-censorship that achieved the Legion's aims with less public conflict. For example, Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire was cut by 4 minutes to avoid a C rating, and Billy Wilder cut scenes from the original play to avoid a C for The Seven Year Itch. Spartacus underwent similar editing to avoid a C rating.
Most condemned films were made outside of the United States for audiences that were principally non-American and non-English speaking.[a] Of the 53 movies the Legion had placed on its condemned list by 1943, only Howard Hughes' The Outlaw was the product of a major U.S. studio and it was not widely distributed. After The Moon is Blue (1953) and Baby Doll (1956) received C ratings, it was a decade before two more major Hollywood movies received the C rating: The Pawnbroker (1964) and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964).
Films are often reported to have been condemned in general terms, that is, they were criticized or even denounced, when they did not receive the Legion's C rating. Some rely on a list of films that were condemned early in the 1930s by the Archdiocese of Chicago in advance of the Legion of Decency's rating system,[b]Turner Classic Movies, for example, has programmed a festival of "Movies Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency" that included several that were not rated C by the Legion.[c]
This Thing Called Love, initially condemned for failing to reflect the "Christian concept of marriage"; the Legion revised the rating to B after Columbia Pictures removed fifteen lines of dialogue identified by the Legion.
Time in the Sun, a documentary compiled from footage shot by Sergei Eisenstein. The Legion called its account of Mexican history "an ideological perversion of the subject to purposes of Marxian Communism".
Two-Faced Woman, Greta Garbo's last film, initially condemned for its "immoral and un-Christian attitude toward marriage and its obligations; impudently suggestive scenes, dialogue, and situations; [and] suggestive costumes". Within a month Metro Goldwyn Mayer made changes sufficient for the Legion to revise its rating to B.[e]
Mom and Dad, a sexploitation film that purported to teach sexual hygiene.
Black Narcissus, a British import about Anglican nuns challenged by life in an exotic environment, initially condemned. The Legion reclassified it A-II (morally objectionable for adults) after revisions to "all prints of this film".
Forever Amber, when 20th Century Fox encountered distribution problems because of the C rating, its president Spyros Skouras got the Legion to call off its pickets and boycott campaign by making cuts to the film, adding "an innocuous prologue", and making "a humiliating public apology" to the Legion.
Bitter Rice, an Italian import (Riso Amaro), initially condemned for "Suggestive situations and costuming. Suicide in plot solution." Revisions earned a B rating, which applied only to prints in the U.S.
The Ways of Love, the umbrella title used for distributing three foreign language films, which the Legion condemned as a group. The principal film, both in length and in terms of the controversy it generated, was Roberto Rossellini's The Miracle (1948), distributed in Europe as L'Amore with a companion film, The Human Voice, also by Rossellini. The two other short films that The Ways of Love included were Jean Renoir's "A Day in the Country" (1936) and Marcel Pagnol's "Jofroi (1933).
The French Line, an RKO musical starring Jane Russell, condemned for "grossly obscene, suggestive and indecent action, costuming and dialogue". The Legion said it was "capable of grave, evil influence upon those who patronize it, especially youth".
Baby Doll, produced by Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams; the Legion called its subject matter "morally repellent both in theme and treatment" and said its "scenes of cruelty are degrading and corruptive".
Bed of Grass, a Greek import the Legion charged with "sheer animalism", originally titled Agioupa, to koritsi tou kampou.
L'Avventura, Antonioni's 1960 Italian film was deemed "totally unacceptable", "grossly suggestive and pornographic in intent". The Legion said that "the theme of this film is developed in an atmosphere of complete moral ambiguity".
Boccaccio '70 The Legion noted its "grossly suggestive concentration upon indecent costuming, situations and dialogue". By this time the Legion had adopted a policy of not reconsidering a film's rating once it was widely distributed, even if revised, but in this case the Legion allowed that the film's C rating would not be valid once the film was edited for television broadcast.
^Sova nevertheless describes Ecstasy as "one of the few foreign films to earn a 'C' (condemned) rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency."
^Other Catholics proposed announcing only lists of films approved for viewing so as not to publicize the names of films judged unsuitable for viewing. Those backing this strategy, such as the Diocese of Brooklyn, used a list drawn up by the Federation of Catholic Alumnae.
^The Legion used the title Smashing the Vice Racket.
^The New York Times described the resulting film as "slightly laundered". It said "this ancient fable of the wife who parades as her own gaudy twin sister to get her husband back" was altered at the Legion's insistence by "the insertion of a telephone call wherein the husband learns in advance of his wife's intended deception."
^"Films Classified in Catholic List"(PDF). New York Times. July 8, 1934. Retrieved 2017. ...a check list issued today to Chicago Catholics by a board of censors created to 'furnish necessary information to those signing the movie pledge' of the Legion of Decency. The check list, issued for the Chicago Archdiocese...