Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MOTE, meet BEAM; BEAM, meet MOTE!

Geoffrey Macnab's piece in the UK's Independent is an interesting read: The Catholic Church on film: When the men in black lost their role as the good guys.
"Priests were once movie symbols of decency and heroism. Scandals in the Catholic Church have ended that.
(Photograph: Hat-tip Tom Hoopes)

In old Hollywood films, you rarely come across a bad Catholic. Picture Bing Crosby as the kind-hearted Father O'Malley trying to have a school saved from closing down in The Bells of St Mary's (1945) or Pat O'Brien as the priest striving to keep kids away from crime – and his old friend James Cagney's bad example – in Angels With Dirty Faces (1938.)..............
..........It's hardly surprising that priests were given such a positive spin. During the studio era, the American Catholic Church had a strong influence over the kinds of films that were made. The Legion of Decency was an influential body set up by Catholic bishops in the 1930s to police the film industry. When the League took against a film, it could scupper its chances.

The Catholic lobby can still hurt a film. For example, one reason Philip Pullman adaptation The Golden Compass (2007) failed in the US was that the Catholic League called for its boycott. Pullman, the League claimed, was out to “bash Christianity and promote atheism”".
I wrote a brief post on The Golden Compass myself, back in 2007: "The Golden Compass" Reflects Pluto in Capricorn. I didn't see it as anti-Catholic or anti-religion, or anti-Christianity but simply anti-establishment and pro-independent thinking.

A list of films condemned by the Legion of Decency, a United States Catholic organization, and its successor (from 1965), the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures is at Wikipedia.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
(Sermon on the Mount)


mike said...

I was fortunate to have been raised by parents that shunned religious affiliation and I have carried that into my adulthood, all the way toward ripe maturity.

I just glanced the list of condemned films and must say that there are many worthwhile, enjoyable films listed! I've seen the majority.

I read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy and enjoyed each. "The Golden Compass" was one of my first introductions to mini-insect drones! Who would have thought! Like you, Twilight, I did not perceive the trilogy to have overt anti-religious sentiment, but simply the message to think for one's self and use caution with authority of any kind. I did not view the movie.

I have not read Pullman's latest, "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ", published 2010, but it's on my list...sounds interesting. Having not read this work, I can only speculate that Pullman wrote this as retribution for prior non-secular criticisms!

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Each book in the trilogy is distinctly different than its siblings. The series tends to question the nature of reality (the biggest authority of all), too!

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Strange as it may seem, I once was a Sunday School teacher (Church of England)back in the mists of time). Certain events turned me right off organised religion some years on from that.

Re the "condemned" list - I wonder how the heck Spartacus could have offended the League of Decency?!!
I'm surprised, in that case, they didn't include Ben Hur!

Pullman's latest book sounds interesting -I shall add it to my growing list too. I should also dive into the trilogy too - maybe when I've finished my trek through Les Misérables I'll do just that.

mike (again) said...

Oh, oh...snails vs oysters was discussed in "Spartacus":

"In this film set during ancient Rome, a discussion about seafood caused problems for the Legion. From his bath, bi-sexual Crassus (Laurence Olivier) grills Antoninus (Tony Curtis) about his sexual preferences by euphomizing that, at times, he prefers snails and, other times, oysters. The Legion should have been thankful they weren't in a tent on "Brokeback Mountain." "Spartacus" earned six Oscar nominations with four wins including Supporting Actor for Peter Ustinov."

Twilight said...

mike ~~~ Ah! Hmmm - how many in the audience would have ever picked that morsel up back then though? Not sure I did! LOL! "To the pure all things are pure"' all that.

Your revelation got me looking into Ben Hur again (my favourite film because I like the idea of new teachings in the background, unsullied by what came after.) Great adventure story anyway.

I found that there was almost going to be a touch of the gay there:

According to Gore Vidal, as recounted in The Celluloid Closet one of the script elements he was brought in to re-write was the relationship between Messala and Ben-Hur. Director William Wyler was concerned that two men who had been close friends as youths would not simply hate one another as a result of disagreeing over politics. Thus, Vidal devised a thinly veiled subtext suggesting the Messala and Ben-Hur had been lovers as teenagers, and their fighting was a result of Ben-Hur spurning Messala. Wyler was initially hesitant to implement the subtext, but agreed on the conditions that no direct reference ever be made to the characters' sexuality in the script, that Vidal personally discuss the idea with Stephen Boyd, and not mention the subtext to Charlton Heston who, Wyler feared, would panic at the idea. After Vidal admitted to adding the homosexual subtext in public, Heston denied the claim, going so far as to suggest Vidal had little input into the final script, and his lack of screen credit was a result of his being fired for trying to add gay innuendo. Vidal rebutted by citing passages from Heston's 1978 autobiography, where the actor admitted that Vidal had authored much of the final shooting script.

I was interested too to read that

Robert Ryan was considered for the role of Messala, with Burt Lancaster as Ben-Hur.
Not sure that big Lancaster toothy grin would've fitted in.

Paul Newman was offered the role of Judah Ben-Hur but turned it down because he said he didn't have the legs to wear a tunic.

Isn't that just typical Paul Newman! LOL!

mike (again) said...

I'm very disappointed that the Legion of Decency was asleep at the wheel when they considered Ben-Hur, Twilight. It's a classic shown at Easter, so I'll have to wear my gaydar glasses the end of March this year...I'm blind without them I guess, as I didn't pick-up "Spartacus" or "Ben-Hur". The inferred relationship is apparently very subtle:

"There appears to be some contemporary support for Vidal's assertions. Morgan Hudgens, publicity director for the film, wrote to Vidal in late May 1958 about the crucial scene, and implied there was a homosexual context: '...the big cornpone [the crew's nickname for Heston] really threw himself into your 'first meeting' scene yesterday. You should have seen those boys embrace!' "

I'll look for the embrace scene and see if there are any "feelies" happening, tongues exchanged, or extra bumps in clothing.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I've seen the movie numerous times over the years - but nothing remotely gay came over between Ben Hur and Messala. However - it wouldn't have been any well-known 20th/21st century "signal" - hand on hip, limp wrist stereotypical stuff - ancient Rome would have had their own "signals". Snazzy sandals? :-D

mike (again) said...

Changes the interpretation of the grand chariot race where Messala is was a lovers' quarrel. Maybe the two were into S&M.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ That fits! :-)