Our family recently discovered an old copy of The Advocate amongst my grandmother’s papers; a Melbourne-based Catholic newspaper reporting on all things moral and wholesome, it was first published on February 1, 1868, and ceased publication in 1990. This particular copy was published on December 8, 1955. The content, as one would expect, features very orthodox views on topics ranging from the latest films to commentary on the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the threat of Communist involvement. On the film review page, a guideline offers insight into just how conservative the views of certain Catholics were back in the 50s, with films being separated into an archaic, though quite amusing, ratings system. In place of G, PG, M15+, MA, and R, we have:
A1: Suitable for General Patronage
A2: Suitable for Adults
B: Objectionable in Part
As the photograph below reveals, both A Star is Born, with Judy Garland, and The Seven Year Itch, starring the curvaceous temptress Marilyn Monroe, belong strictly to the ‘Condemned’ column. Other films in the ‘Condemned’ list include the 1954 film noir Black Tuesday and 1954 dance flick Mambo. The Barefoot Contessa gets off lightly in the B column, criticised for ‘misrepresenting Catholic practices’ and containing ‘suggestive scenes’ (our version of ‘sexual references’). Women without Hope – a French film by Raoul Andre about prostitution – also sits in the ‘partly objectionable’ column, featuring a ‘low moral tone’ and ‘unfit subjects’.
A film review of The Young Lovers notes: ‘Aside from these reflections, The Young Lovers can be accepted at the level of fine entertainment without swallowing the spineless philosophy on which it is based’. A review of The Man from Laramie praises James Stewart though notes: ‘The formula is as trite and predictable as last Sunday’s dinner’. Also found in the newspaper is an article on Communism at the Melbourne Olympics. ‘From behind the Iron Curtain’, it begins, ‘comes fragmentary but reliable news that the Communists are aiming to dominate the Melbourne Olympic Games and indeed have a good chance of winning’. It continues: ‘If they win, immediately they will follow the triumph with a propaganda barrage claiming the superiority of the “Communist man”. This is not sport with them, it is grim business […] We of the West may have to develop new ideas on what is “an amateur” and what isn’t’.