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Legion of Decency
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Organization
    (1933-1980)
    Founded by John T. McNicholas, Archbishop of Cincinnati
    Known as the Catholic Legion of Decency (1933-34), National Legion of Decency (1934-66) and National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (1966-80)
    Suplemented the MPAA Production Code with their own ratings system:
    A: Morally unobjectionable
    B: Morally objectionable in part
    C: Condemned
    'A' later subdivided:
    A-I: Suitable for all audiences
    A-II: Suitable for adults and adolescents
    A-III: Suitable for adults only
    A-IV: Suitable for adults with reservations
    Published ratings in a biweekly magazine 'Review' (1935-80)
    Archbishop McNicholas took a 'won't somebody think of the children' approach, declaring 'In this matter where we touch youth, we feel that we must act to save them.'
    Catholics pledged at mass to not merely avoid 'condemned' movies, but to not patronize any theaters that ever showed such movies.
    With this kind of economic pressure, studios made major cuts and/or added moralistic epilogues to avoid the dreaded 'C.'
    Their standards were so strict that even the innocuous 'Miracle on 34th Street' could get a 'B' for featuring a divorced character.
    They supported the MPAA's ratings system, then withdrew their support three years later (1971).
    Although thought of as an exclusively Catholic organization, Protestant and Jewish clergy were also members.
    Otto Preminger's 'The Moon Is Blue' became the first Hollywood studio release to make a profit despite a C rating, marking the beginning of the end of the Legion's power (1953).
    In the 50s, the Legion revamped its policies to 'promote what is morally and artistically good' instead of focusing on condemnation.
    By 1970, it had become liberal enough for 'Midnight Cowboy' to draw an 'X' from the MPAA and only an A-IV from the Legion.

Credit: C. Fishel


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