The Archivist’s Nook: If This Table Had Ears!

The Table, up close and personal, photo by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.
The Table, up close and personal, photo by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.

This week’s post is guest authored by Angela Geosits, archives assistant and doctoral student in English.

Any visitor to McMahon Hall is likely familiar with the massive marble table which dominates the central foyer. Set between the two great staircases out of the flow of foot traffic, this stately table blends in with the neutral colors of the space and feels as if it has always been there. But contrary to all expectations, this 2 ½ ton marble table is surprisingly well traveled, and even enjoyed a misspent youth loitering in the lobby of Loew’s Capitol Theatre, the last surviving Broadway vaudeville house. Some traces of this thespian origin can be seen in the detailed carvings of Comedy and Tragedy on the table’s supports.

But how on earth did our table get from a vaudeville theatre in New York City to an academic building at Catholic University in Washington, DC? The story begins in the winter of 1967, when the roof of the Army surplus theater the Drama Department had been using as their performance space collapsed under a heavy load of snow. Enthusiastic fundraising efforts began in order to fill the desperate need for a new stage. CUA Drama alumnus Ed McMahon (no relation to Monsignor James McMahon for whom the building is named) knew the Loews and organized a special benefit for the CUA Drama Department on the last night of performances at the Capitol Theatre. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: If This Table Had Ears!”

The Archivist’s Nook: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean

Cleopatra, 1963
Cleopatra (1963), scourge of the National Legion of Decency [source: wikimedia commons]

This week’s post is guest authored by Vitalina A. Nova, Archives assistant and LIS graduate.

Regardless of your opinion of Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) movie ratings, you’re likely familiar with them and know the MPAA reviews film content to determine suitability for specific audiences. What you’re less likely to know is that the indignation which led to the formation of the MPAA’s predecessor, the Hays Code, also led to the formation of the National Legion of Decency, a Catholic interest group with similar goals.

The Hays Code imposed restrictions on the film industry beginning in the early 1930s, aiming to align content on the big screen with moral standards codified as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) Don’ts and Be Carefuls.  The Hays code was replaced by the MPAA in 1968.  The full list of Don’ts and Be Carefuls is available from the School of Media Arts at the Santa Barbara City College.

In contrast, the National Legion of Decency maintained an interest in advising the American public on the morality of films long after the Hays Code went out of use.  Formed in 1933, the Legion was initially composed of religious and laity of Jewish and Christian faiths concerned that exposure to immoral material harmed viewers’ quality of character.  Censurable material included the discussion or depiction of childbirth, immodest dress, and a lack of ultimate judgment on characters’ questionable behavior (as defined by the Legion).  Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean”