Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pictures approved by club women

Which films showed where during the silent film era was in part sometimes determined not by individual theaters managers or local tastes but by groups intent on lifting community standards.

Take, for example, this syndicated 1927 newspaper article which grades some 200 films according to their suitability for various audiences. This article ran in the Dispatch-Democrat in Ukiah, California - a small town located about 115 miles north of San Francisco. The article is not unlike other articles and guides authored by local committees which can be found in both small town and big city newspapers around the country.

According to the article, the list of 200 films was based on a published pamphlet. "With the slogan 'Make the Best Pictures Pay Best' a list of two hundred motion pictures has been sent out with the endorsement of the California Federation of Women's Clubs and San Francisco district of Women's clubs, of which the local federated clubs belong. This pamphlet is part of the effort of the women's clubs to raise the standard of moving pictures."

Among the 200 films listed are three shown at past San Francisco Silent Film Festival events - Bardelys the Magnificent, Ben Hur, and The Scarlet Letter. Each received a "Class A" rating. Of course, the California Federation of Women's Clubs -  a group which is still active and today works on different sorts of projects, did not have any influence into their selection. For those interested in film history, it's interesting to note what's on the list - and what's not on the list. Is your favorite film from 1925 or 1926 included? All in all, this article can be read as a "sign of the times."


  1. The Big Parade and Sparrows are also listed here as "Class A" and were shown at SFSFF screenings. Didn't check the entire "Class B" list but noticed SFSFF films For Heaven's Sake, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Clash of the Wolves on it.

  2. Thank you for noticing - somehow, I missed em!