How Times have Changed

Paul Thompson
A little over 50 years ago, the MGM film "Blackboard Jungle" an adaptation of the Evan Hunter novel of the same name was the latest box office hit.  At the time it was fairly controversial.  The film was submitted to the 1955 Venice Film Festival.  Claire Boothe Luce, then the US ambassador to Italy was fearful that the film, with its portrayal of a New York City public high school as a place of out of control violence was likely to damage the image of the United States.  Accordingly, she pulled the appropriate wires and arranged to have the film withdrawn from the competition.

Today, we routinely accept that Hollywood filmmakers present the world with a picture of the United States as populated by routinely violent, promiscuous, dysfunctional people.  But in 1955, Ambassador Luce's action caused a great deal of controversy.

Interestingly, in 1955 Time magazine was still under the direct control of her husband Henry Luce, the founder of Time/Life and the Editor-in-Chief of Time.  Luce was strongly conservative and accordingly Time magazine reflected his outlook.

Consider Time's opening paragraph

"Probably the deepest trouble of the contemporary U.S. is its inability to produce a reasonably accurate image of itself. In plays, movies, novels, it cruelly caricatures its life, parades its vices, mutes its excellences. This tendency, far more than Communist propaganda, is responsible for the repulsive picture of U.S. life in the minds of many Europeans and Asians."
And then the closer:

MGM's Dore Schary raged: "What Ambassador Luce has done represents flagrant political censorship." Italy's Communists, of course, agreed, and, in the ensuing verbal brouhaha, sight was lost of the fact that no censorship had been imposed by either the Italian or U.S. governments. All that had happened was that Europeans had been informed that not all Americans are content to receive their mail addressed to "Tobacco Road."
It's interesting to speculate how Mr. Luce would view the direction in which Time has moved since 1955.
A little over 50 years ago, the MGM film "Blackboard Jungle" an adaptation of the Evan Hunter novel of the same name was the latest box office hit.  At the time it was fairly controversial.  The film was submitted to the 1955 Venice Film Festival.  Claire Boothe Luce, then the US ambassador to Italy was fearful that the film, with its portrayal of a New York City public high school as a place of out of control violence was likely to damage the image of the United States.  Accordingly, she pulled the appropriate wires and arranged to have the film withdrawn from the competition.

Today, we routinely accept that Hollywood filmmakers present the world with a picture of the United States as populated by routinely violent, promiscuous, dysfunctional people.  But in 1955, Ambassador Luce's action caused a great deal of controversy.

Interestingly, in 1955 Time magazine was still under the direct control of her husband Henry Luce, the founder of Time/Life and the Editor-in-Chief of Time.  Luce was strongly conservative and accordingly Time magazine reflected his outlook.

Consider Time's opening paragraph

"Probably the deepest trouble of the contemporary U.S. is its inability to produce a reasonably accurate image of itself. In plays, movies, novels, it cruelly caricatures its life, parades its vices, mutes its excellences. This tendency, far more than Communist propaganda, is responsible for the repulsive picture of U.S. life in the minds of many Europeans and Asians."
And then the closer:

MGM's Dore Schary raged: "What Ambassador Luce has done represents flagrant political censorship." Italy's Communists, of course, agreed, and, in the ensuing verbal brouhaha, sight was lost of the fact that no censorship had been imposed by either the Italian or U.S. governments. All that had happened was that Europeans had been informed that not all Americans are content to receive their mail addressed to "Tobacco Road."
It's interesting to speculate how Mr. Luce would view the direction in which Time has moved since 1955.