The Legion of Decency

“The recent story and photos of Jane Russell in ‘The Outlaw’ bring back memories of what it was like for a Catholic boy to attempt to see a movie in the 1960s.

“There was an organization called the Legion of Decency that rated all movies, long before the movie industry did their own ratings. Woe to the person who the priests or nuns found out had attended a bad movie.

“The Legion’s classification generally classed movies as A (unobjectionable), B (objectionable in Part), and C (condemned). The A category was divided into three levels according to age.

“A friend and I had decided that we were going to see a new movie, ‘A Shot in the Dark’ with Peter Sellers and Elke Sommer. The only problem was that it was a B movie. We were genuinely concerned that someone might see us. It turned out, however, that the movie was an innocuous comedy. We wondered what all the fuss was about. [Bulletin Board speculates: The fuss was about Elke Sommer.] The movie was so tame that, in today’s rating system, it would probably receive a G rating, or at worst a PG.

“The movie that really confused the censors at the Legion, however, was ‘Mondo Cane.’ It consisted of a series of vignettes from around the world. I remember U.S. sailors running from side to side on a warship to see bikini-clad women circling in a speedboat; German drunks acting stupidly; and natives from some other country eating ants. The censors were so baffled as to how to rate the movie that they created a completely new category, A-IV (unobjectionable for adults, with reservations). It seems that they knew that there was something about it that they didn’t like, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on it!”

Only a ______ would notice!

 

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