Baby Doll

Variety reports that the Catholic Church has been able to make its disapproval of Baby Doll felt quite strongly throughout the country, limiting it to about 4,000 outlets, which Variety estimates is 25 percent of its potential audience. This pressure has been strongly applied through a number of channels including threatened long-term boycotts of individual movie houses and similar methods,

No one takes exception to the Church shepherding the faithful, but to attempt to regulate by economic coercion what the remainder of the population can see and desires to see is a violation of a fundamental freedom. Their stand also seems to imply that the faithful would fail to take the Church's admonitions seriously, and that temptation must be removed from their path.

It is interesting that the Church should let pass numerous cheap, fallacious films, and rise in arms against a film which has the immediate stigma of being "arty" and thus slightly distasteful to the mass of the moviegoing public. Whether one approves of the Kazan-Williams viewpoint or not, Baby Doll is as intensely serious and thoughtful a film as the American cinema has ever produced. A continuing condemnation of frank and disturbing films may be a further push along the road to a thoughtless mediocrity in the mass media.

There is a basic inconsistency in the stand of the American Catholics, because films from predominantly Roman Catholic Italy and France are considerably more frank about the darker side of life and less dogmatic about "sin" always leading to a bad end, the Legion of Decency's major objection to Baby Doll. In fact, Warner Brothers look to foreign showings of the film for a large part of its revenue.

It is of course true that the basic premises of democracy and revealed religion often run counter to one another, but the Church has made terms before--usually for political expediency--and they will have to continue to do so.

The Church deserves every opportunity to make its point of view clear to its parishioners and to the public at large. But enforcing widespread unofficial censorship by supra-legal means is certainly beyond the proper sphere of any particular organization or pressure group.