Arthur Knight, "The Lady's Not for Banning" [review of Storm Center], Saturday Review, 39, 24 (June 16, 1956), 16: "'Storm Center' comes to grips with its central problem with a forthright honesty and integrity.... It may be that in fashioning the story the authors have made their film a bit too pat, a bit too glib, a bit too easy in its articulation of the various points of view expressed. Bette Davis's enlightened liberalism sounds at times as dangerously smug and self-righteous as the benighted politicos and anti-intellectuals who oppose her...." Bosley Crowther, "Raising Issues," New York Times, Nov. 4, 1956, sec. 2, p. 1: "Blaustein and Taradash...have not presented...these serious [political] questions...in such a way that the issues seem wholly realistic or are probed with complete clarity.... [T]he people seem strangly artificial.... [Aside from Bette Davis] the people in the picture act like scoundrels in an old-fashioned play." Bosley Crowther, "'Storm Center,'" New York Times, October 22, 1956: "[T]he issue of [red-baiting] appears undeniably stacked, and no one, outside a rabid scare-head, is likely to say the lady has been been cruelly used. Blaustein and Taradash have stated the issue--bluntly.... No subtle or tenuous circumstances as might be likely in such a situation are touched and thus the crisis seems less a real-life issue than a hypothetical case put in a tract.... They have opened a subject that is touchy and urgent in contemporary life. It should be presented so adroitly that it would fascinate and move people deeply." Father Finley, [untitled review of Storm Center], The Catholic World 184, 1099 (October 1956), 64-65: "... Bette Davis, matronly saccharine,...has poured her life into library science until books and their contents are the height and the width and the depth of her world.... [When complaints are received about] The Communist Dream, [t]he gauntlet has been flung and, so challenged, our librarian determines to enter the lists as the champion of freedom of bad thinking." _Newsweek_ 48, 11 (September 10, 1956): "...shameless melodrama..." "Films," Robert Hatch, _Nation_, 183, 17 (October 27, 1956): "It should be hard to convince a woman's friends and neighbors that she is an enemy agent. The great merit of Storm Center is that it shows--with no sentimentality and little melodrama--how very easy it is." "New Films..." _Library Journal_, 81, 13 (July 1956), 1686: "The ending, both melodramatic and symbolical, is one that will transfix any book- lover." _Time_ 68, 8 (August 20, 1956): "[Davis] moves like Lady Bountiful among the worshipful peasants in her reading room, opening their purblind eyes to the treasure trove on the shelves around them.... Bette never lets [The Communist Dream] go into circulation without warning the borrower of its deleterious effects, but she is disturbed when the city council tells her to put it in the ashcan.... Ten-year-old Kevin Coughlin, who has been reading like crazy [until Davis is villified], now abhors books and concludes that Bette is a mean old witch.... He listens to the first time to his sub-moronic father.... All that writer-director Taradash forgot was to provide a believable story." Philip T. Hartung, "The Malady Lingers On," Commonweal 64, 19 (August 10, 1956), 466-67): "Taradash...allowed his cast to over-act in the intimate [scenes], with the result that 'Storm Center' is often hysterical when it means to be calm and reveal depth of character and motivation."
Selections from the Storm over Storm Center 1. The [Catholic] Legion of Decency: "[T]he highly propagandistic nature of this controversial film . . . offers a warped, oversimplified and strongly emotional solution to a complex problem of American life. Its specious arguments tend seriously to be misleading and misrepresentative by reason of an inept and distorted representation." (Quoted from "Rating of Movie Brings Protest," New York Times, July 23, 1956, 16) 2. The Motion Picture Industry Council: "[T]he action by the Legion goes beyond normal criticism and spiritual advice and is a form of censorship with the purpose of dictating and controlling the content of motion pictures, contrary to American principles of freedom of thought and expression. (Quoted from "Rating of Movie Brings Protest") 3. Editorial opinion in the magazine America: "The Legion of Decency, in rating the picture, did not voice any moral objection, but in a special note criticized the handling of the theme on the ground that the film is 'highly propagandistic, oversimplified, [and] misleading.' To this criticism the Motion Picture Industry Council stridently objected...crying out that 'the Legion goes beyond normal criticism...with the purpose of dictating the controlling the content of motion pictures.' The answer to this charge is twofold. First, in giving a special classification to the film, the Legion has not departed from its custom. For over twenty years this device has been used by the Legion, when, as in the present instance, 'some analysis and explanation [is required] as a protection to the uninformed against wrong interpretations and false conclusions.' Second, the effort [by the Motion Picture Council] to quash adverse criticism with the chrage that criticism is aimed at 'dictating and controlling' content is an attempt to limit the very freedom of expression the Council piously pretends to uphold. Is the Council really interested in that freedom, or merely publicizing the film?" ("Is Criticism Censorship?" America 95, 18 [August 4, 1956] 414) 4. Father Finley in The Catholic World: "The story is an attempt to deliver a broadside at censorship--that mean old bugaboo of our chest[- ]thumping champions of unrestricted license of thought. [It fails] because [it commits all the faults it condemns--which I think is a valid reason for saying it is not a good picture even on the level of picture making. It fails in its 'making' because it is an unbalanced, intemperate, opinionated, expediently arguing film that tries to lambaste unbalanced, intemperate, opinionated, expediently arguing people.... [The film] moves in and out of classification blithely ignorant of or perversely ignoring art's, if not man's, demand for order and consistency. In one scene the producer's heroine is allegorical, her opponents in the same scene are kept actual; in another the librarian is right out of the pages of a parable, her persecutors are factual.... Again and again the film repeats this elementary error of story atmosphere.... This picture is beginning to cause a furor.... The Legion of Decency has placed it under special classification and has been howled at for so doing. Eventually this may become the focus of the fuss and if so, we can discuss the classification later. As of now, judgment on Storm Center can remain on the plane of how it rates as film art." (Catholic World 184, 1099 [October 1956], 64-65)
Storm Center - Cast producer Julian Blaustein director Daniel Taradash & Elick Moll Alicia Hull Bette Davis Brian Keith Paul Duncan Kim Hunter Martha Lockridge Paul Kelly Judge Robert Ellerbe Kevin Coughlin Freddie Slater Joe Mantell George Slater Sallie Brophy Laura Slater Howard Wierum Mayor Levering Curtis Cooksey Stacey Martin Michael Raffetto Edgar Greenbaum Edward Platt Rev. Wilson Kathyrn Grant Hazel Howard Wendell Senator Bascomb Burt Mustin Carl Edith Everson Mrs. Simmons Joseph Kearns Mr. Morrisey Ted Marc Bert Rudy Lee Charlie Phillip Crampton Joe
Storm Center is the rare explicitly anti-anticommunist film of the 1950s; consult a passage on anti-communist films in an article on Hollywood blacklisting.
From Howard Zinn's summary of McCarthyism, see this passage on books being removed from overseas libraries.
SCARSDALE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS, 1952 In 1952, citizens and elected officials of Scarsdale, NY, disagreed about whether subversive books should be on the shelves of the school library. Here is a portion of one article about this controversy: "Editorial Forum: No Fuss or Feathers," Library Journal 77, 11 (June 1, 1952), 948: "The people [Scarsdale] residents voted into office once more were those citizens who stood firm in their fight for the right of free speech and for the right of a free press in the schools of Scarsdale.... A sound policy, adhered to by the school board,...belief in the ability of people to face facts--all these have paid off. The school library is free to have the books which puzzled students need in this chaotic world. The students may study and think about controversial material in textbooks. Students are privileged to read about and to hear people of varying views, in order to be able to make up their own minds about the world.... They may listen to great artists and view great art. They may appreciate the results for art's sake, without the complication of ideological bias."
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