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FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.

343 U.S.


party, profusely praised the picture as a "beautiful thing, humanly felt, alive, true and without religious profanation as someone has said, because in our opinion the meaning of the characters is clear and there is no possibility of misunderstanding." Regnoli again reviewed "The Miracle" for L'Osservatore Romano. After criticising the film for technical faults, he found "the most courageous and interesting passage of Rossellini's work" in contrasting portrayals in the film; he added: "Unfortunately, concerning morals, it is necessary to note some slight defects." He objected to its "carnality" and to the representation of illegitimate motherhood. But he did not suggest that the picture was "sacrilegious." The tone of Regnoli's critique was one of respect for Rossellini, "the illustrious Italian producer." 8

On March 2, 1949, "The Miracle" was licensed in New York State for showing without English subtitles." However, it was never exhibited until after a second license was issued on November 30, 1950, for the trilogy, "Ways of Love," combining "The Miracle" with two French films, Jean Renoir's "A Day in the Country" and Marcel Pagnol's "Jofroi." 10 All had English subtitles. Both li

Il Popolo, Nov. 3, 1948, p. 2, col. 9, translated by Camille M. Cianfarra, N. Y. Times, Feb. 11, 1951, § 2, p. 4, col. 5.

7 L'Osservatore Romano, Nov. 12, 1948, p. 2, cols. 3-4. 8 Ibid.

9 "The Miracle" was passed by customs. To import "any obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy. motion-picture film" is a criminal offense, 35 Stat. 1088, 1138, 18 U. S. C. (Supp. IV) § 1462; and importation of any obscene "print" or "picture" is barred. 46 Stat. 590, 688, 19 U. S. C. § 1305. Compare the provision, "all photographic-films imported . . . shall be subject to such censorship as may be imposed by the Secretary of the Treasury." 38 Stat. 114, 151 (1913), 42 Stat. 858, 920 (1922), repealed 46 Stat. 590, 762 (1930). See Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, 68.

10 Life, Jan. 15, 1951, p. 63; Sat. Rev. of Lit., Jan. 27, 1951, pp. 28-29.


FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.

censes were issued in the usual course after viewings of the picture by the Motion Picture Division of the New York State Education Department. The Division is directed by statute to "issue a license" "unless [the] film or a part thereof is obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious, or is of such a character that its exhibition would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime." N. Y. Education Law, § 122. The trilogy opened on December 12, 1950, at the Paris Theatre on 58th Street in Manhattan. It was promptly attacked as "a sacrilegious and blasphemous mockery of Christian religious truth" " by the National Legion of Decency, a private Catholic organization for film censorship, whose objectives have intermittently been approved by various non-Catholic church and social groups since its formation in 1933.12 However, the National Board of Review (a non-industry lay organization devoted to raising the level of motion pictures by mobilizing public opinion, under the slogan "Selection Not Censorship")13 recommended the picture as "especially worth seeing." New York critics on the whole praised "The Miracle"; those who dispraised did not suggest sacrilege.14 On December 27 the critics selected the "Ways of Love" as the best foreign language

11 N. Y. Times, Dec. 31, 1950, p. 23, col. 4.

12 Inglis, Freedom of the Movies, 120 et seq. 13 Id., at 74-82.

14 Howard Barnes, N. Y. Herald Tribune, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 30, cols. 1-3: "it would be wise to time a visit to the Paris in order to skip ['The Miracle']. . . . Altogether it leaves a very bad taste in one's mouth."

Bosley Crowther, N. Y. Times, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 50, cols. 2-3: "each one of the [three] items . . stacks up with the major achievements of the respective directors . . . . ['The Miracle'] is by far the most overpowering and provocative of the lot." N. Y. Times, Dec. 17, 1950, § 2, p. 3, cols. 7-8: "a picture of mounting intensity that wrings the last pang of emotion as it hits its dramatic

FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.

343 U.S.

film in 1950.15 Meanwhile, on December 23, Edward T. McCaffrey, Commissioner of Licenses for New York City, declared the film "officially and personally blasphemous" and ordered it withdrawn at the risk of suspension of the license to operate the Paris Theatre.16 A week later the program was restored at the theatre upon the decision by the New York Supreme Court that the City

peak. . . vastly compassionate comprehension of the suffering and the triumph of birth."

Wanda Hale, N. Y. Daily News, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 82, cols. 1-3: "Rossellini's best piece of direction, since his greatest, 'Open City.' . . artistic and beautifully done by both the star and the director." Archer Winsten, N. Y. Post, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 80, cols. 1-3: "Magnani's performance is a major one and profoundly impressive. This reviewer's personal opinion marked down the film as disturbingly unpleasant and slow."

Seymour Peck, N. Y. Daily Compass, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 13, cols. 3-5: "The Miracle' is really all Magnani. one of the most ex

citing solo performances the screen has known."

Alton Cook, N. Y. World-Telegram, Dec. 13, 1950, p. 50, cols. 1-2: "[The Miracle' is] charged with the same overwrought hysteria that ran through his 'Stromboli.' . . . the picture has an unpleasant preoccupation with filth and squalor . . . exceedingly trying experience."

Time, Jan. 8, 1951, p. 72, cols. 2-3: "[The Miracle'] is secondrate Rossellini despite a virtuoso performance by Anna Magnani."

Newsweek, Dec. 18, 1950, pp. 93-94, col. 3: “strong medicine for most American audiences. However, it shows what an artist of Rossellini's character can do in the still scarcely explored medium of the film short story."

Hollis Alpert, Sat. Rev. of Lit., Jan. 27, 1951, pp. 28-29: “pictorially the picture is a gem, with its sensitive evocation of a small Italian town and the surrounding countryside near Salerno Anna Magnani again demonstrates her magnificent qualities of acting. The role is difficult . . .



"But my quarrel would be with Mr. Rossellini, whose method of improvisation from scene to scene . . . can also result in extraneous detail that adds little, or even harms, the over-all effect."

15 N. Y. Times, Dec. 28, 1950, p. 22, col. 1.

16 Id., Dec. 24, 1950, p. 1, cols. 2-3.


FRANKFURTER, J., concurring.

License Commissioner had exceeded his authority in that he was without powers of movie censorship."

Upon the failure of the License Commissioner's effort to cut off showings of "The Miracle," the controversy took a new turn. On Sunday, January 7, 1951, a statement of His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, condemning the picture and calling on "all right thinking citizens" to unite to tighten censorship laws, was read at all masses in St. Patrick's Cathedral.18

The views of Cardinal Spellman aroused dissent among other devout Christians. Protestant clergymen, repre

17 Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. McCaffrey, 198 Misc. SS4, 101 N. Y. S. 2d 892.

18 N. Y. Times, Jan. 8, 1951, p. 1, col. 2. The Cardinal termed "The Miracle" "a vile and harmful picture," "a despicable affront to every Christian" ("We believe in miracles. This picture ridicules that belief"), and finally "a vicious insult to Italian womanhood." As a consequence, he declared: "we, as the guardians of the moral law, must summon you and all people with a sense of decency to refrain from seeing it and supporting the venal purveyors of such pictures. . . ." Id., at p. 14, cols. 2-3.

For completeness' sake, later incidents should be noted. Picketers from the Catholic War Veterans, the Holy Name Society, and other Catholic organizations-about 1,000 persons in all during one Sunday-paraded before the Paris Theatre. Id., Dec. 29, 1950, p. 36, col. 3; Jan. 8, 1951, p. 1, col. 2; Jan. 9, 1951, p. 34, col. 7; Jan. 10, 1951, p. 22, col. 6; Jan. 15, 1951, p. 23, col. 3. A smaller number of counterpickets appeared on several days. Id., Jan. 10, 1951, p. 22, col. 6; Jan. 20, 1951, p. 10, cols. 4-5. See also id., Jan. 23, 1951, p. 21, col. 8; Jan. 25, 1951, p. 27, col. 7.

The Paris Theatre on two different evenings was emptied on threat of bombing. Id., Jan. 21, 1951, p. 1, cols. 2-3; Jan. 28, 1951, p. 1, cols. 2-3. Coincidently with the proceedings before the New York Board of Regents which started this case on the way to this Court, the Paris Theatre also was having difficulties with the New York City Fire Department. The curious may follow the development of those incidents, not relevant here, in the N. Y. Times, Jan. 21, 1951, p. 53, cols. 4-5; Jan. 27, 1951, p. 11, col. 3; Feb. 6, 1951, p. 29, col. 8; Feb. 10, 1951, p. 15, col. 8; Feb. 15, 1951, p. 33, col. 2.

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senting various denominations, after seeing the picture, found in it nothing "sacrilegious or immoral to the views held by Christian men and women," and with a few exceptions agreed that the film was "unquestionably one of unusual artistic merit." 19

In this estimate some Catholic laymen concurred.20 Their opinion is represented by the comment by Otto L. Spaeth, Director of the American Federation of Arts and prominent in Catholic lay activities:

"At the outbreak of the controversy, I immediately arranged for a private showing of the film. I invited a group of Catholics, competent and respected for their writings on both religious and cultural subjects. The essential approval of the film was unanimous.

"There was indeed 'blasphemy' in the picturebut it was the blasphemy of the villagers, who stopped at nothing, not even the mock singing of a

19 Excerpts from letters and statements by a great many clergymen are reproduced in the Record before this Court, pages 95-140. The representative quotations in the text are from letters written by the Rev. H. C. DeWindt, Minister of the West Park Presbyterian Church, New York City, R. 97, and the Rev. W. J. Beeners of Princeton, New Jersey, R. 98, respectively.

20 Catholic opinion generally, as expressed in the press, supported the view of the Legion of Decency and of Cardinal Spellman. See, for example, The [New York] Catholic News, Dec. 30, 1950, p. 10; Jan. 6, 1951, p. 10; Jan. 20, 1951, p. 10; Feb. 3, 1951, p. 10; Feb. 10, 1951, p. 12; and May 19, 1951, p. 12; Commonweal, Jan. 12, 1951, p. 351, col. 1; The [Brooklyn] Tablet, Jan. 20, 1951, p. 8, col. 4; id., Jan. 27, 1951, p. 10, col. 3; id., Feb. 3, 1951, p. 8, cols. 3-4; Martin Quigley, Jr., "The Miracle'-An Outrage"; The [San Francisco] Monitor, Jan. 12, 1951, p. 7, cols. 3-4 (reprinted from Motion Picture Herald, Jan. 6, 1951); The [Boston] Pilot, Jan. 6, 1951, p. 4. There doubtless were comments on "The Miracle" in other diocesan papers which circulate in various parts of the country, but which are not on file in the Library of Congress or the library of the Catholic University of America.

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