Showbiz gets the Word

While most people were still waiting to get their own copies of Cardinal Roger Mahony’s pastoral letter–and were thus not willing to comment–initial reaction Thursday in the entertainment industry was positive to Mahony’s remarks.

On Wednesday, Mahony had issued a 40-page letter to the industry (Daily Variety, Oct. 1), asking its creative and decision-making members to be more aware of human values when creating films and TV programs that have influence over the masses.

In contrast to the rather cool reception Mahony received from industryites last February, when he asked that the industry consider adopting the Christian Film and Television Commission’s motion picture code, his latest change of direction has found a more enthusiastic response.

“Cardinal Mahony’s statements are reasonable and insightful,” said Jack Valenti, prexy of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. “He is suggesting that we try to rise creatively both in entertaining and enlightening. That is a goal to be devoutly wished for.”

Del Reisman, president of the Writers Guild of America West, also called Mahony’s document a positive challenge to the industry.

“This is not asking for voluntary guidelines,” Reisman said. “He’s not looking for censorship of any kind. Instead he’s addressing what has become a national debate, that being has Hollywood gone too far? I believe he’s sent a challenge to writers and directors to look for the human values in the stories they create.”

Reisman said he was even surprised to see Mahony’s recognition of violence and sexuality as important parts of filmmaking.

“It’s interesting to me that the Cardinal writes about violence in real life and acknowledges that it is therefore reasonable that it be portrayed in movies, ” Reisman said.

Sitcom director Jack Shea said he was also very encouraged by Mahony’s direction, saying he believes it will incite a good deal of discussion in industry circles.

“I think there are a lot of people who are anxious to see a diminution of violent pictures,” Shea said. ” A lot of people agree there is too much violence right now. Whether this is a causal effect is up for grabs, though.”

Meanwhile, the major guilds said they will be making an effort to distribute Mahony’s 40-page letter. Additionally, Mahony will address the Caucus of Producers, Writers & Directors at its meeting next week.

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