Sir,—The writer of the interesting article on cinematograph on April 9 says—“Whether in this extraordinary greed of the eye we are to see reason for alarm or not we do not know”; and, after suggesting that the cinematograph may after all be helping us in our “fumbling towards some new form of art which is to have movement and shape,” he adds—In the meantime we have a fury for seeing and remain happy, greedy, and terribly indiscriminate.” As to our happiness I cannot agree. Those of us who know what a large proportion of the spectators are children between four and 14, and that before these children’s greedy eyes with heartless indiscrimination horrors unimaginable are in many of the halls presented night after night, are the reverse of happy. Terrific massacres, horrible catastrophes, motor-car smashes, public hangings, lynchings, badger baiting, bull fights, prize fights, pictures of hell fires and the tortures of the damned, etc., are passed before them, and become such realities that they cannot sleep at night and have been known to implore the policemen to guard them on their way home from “the horrid man with the beard.”
Those of us who know that these same children, after sitting in the cinematograph hall till 11 o clock at night, come weary and listless to school the following morning, who also from police and magisterial reports are informed that, while many children become petty pilferers to get pence for admission to the show, others actually begin their downward course of crime by reason of the burglary and pick-pocket scenes they have witnessed, cannot help feeling very real alarm. It remains to be seen if Mr. Redford, the film censor, can work the change for the better that many film-makers desire. Meanwhile I dare to suggest that all who care for the moral well-being and education of the child will set their faces like flint against this new form of excitement, shall insist that no children under school age be allowed to go to these shows in the evening unless accompanied by their parents or guardians, and that our civic authorities should be called upon not to license any cinematograph hall that will not undertake to give afternoon shows for children on Saturday afternoon, at which all films shall be fit for a child to see.
(Times, 12 April 1913, p. 10)