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Cecil De Mille Will Change ‘king of Kings’ Film to Eradicate Prejudice

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(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

A complete revision of the motion picture “King of Kings” will be made by Cecil De Mille, its producer, eliminating all the scenes objected to by Jews as well as leaders of Catholic and other Christian denominations, before it goes on tour in the United States, according to Alfred M. Cohen, International President of the Independent Order of B’nai Brith, who made public here a telegram from John C. Flinn, president of Pathe Exchange, owners of the film, in which this assurance was given.

The revision is the outcome of negotiations between Mr. Cohen on behalf of his organization and its Anti-Defamation League with Will H. Hays, representing the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc., and will be made in accordance with detailed suggestions by Mr. Cohen and Dr. D. Philipson, dean of American Reform Rabbis.

Mr. Flinn’s telegram read: “New York City, January 4, 1928. Alfred M. Cohen, President B’nai Brith, Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. De Mille has agreed to the changes of titles and modifications of scenes outlined in letter written by yourself and Dr. David Philipson of December 21, to Governor Milliken of Hays organization. Am leaving for California tomorrow (Thursday) to assist on these changes to the end that both the spirit and the letter of what you wanted will be accomplished and the corrections made in the picture now on exhibition before the public in all cities may be made by January 18. Regards,

John C. Flinn, Vice President Pathe Exchange.”

Mr. Cohen, declining to make public the letter detailing the modifications outlined by him and Dr. Philipson and accepted by Mr. DeMille and the Pathe Exchange, nevertheless stated that the picture as revised will be preceded by a special prologue written and signed by the producer. In this preface Mr. DeMille seeks completely to exculpate the Jews of guilt for the death of Jesus. The responsibility for the crucifixion, Mr. DeMille’s preface will say, was entirely that of Caiphas, the corrupt High Priest, an appointee of the Roman Empire and other hirelings of that despotism which at the time held Judea in thrall.

The revision of the “King of Kings” as it is to be shown after January 18 in this country it is expected will bring to an end a fight which has been waged against the motion picture on the grounds that it libelled the Jewish race against whom it tended to arouse prejudice and also that from the historic point of view it was grossly inaccurate. Protests against the picture were not limited to Jews, many leading Catholics and prominent leaders of other Christian denominations inveighing against it also. When, before it was licensed for production in London, it was privately displayed to an invited gathering of British clergymen, the same controversy broke out there.

The protests of the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith stressed fear that the film, if exhibited in its original version in certain countries in Europe, would fan the fires of anti-Semitism to such as extent that acts of violence might ensue.

Definite assurance by Will Hays that the picture would not be shown in countries where it might lead to pogroms, was given last month as the outcome of a conference between him and ex-Governor Milliken representing the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. Inc. and Mr. Cohen and Dr. Philipson representing the B’nai Brith.

The negotiations which have resulted in the acceptance of the revisions in the “King of Kings” were begun last November on the initiative of Mr. Hays. Ex-Governor Milliken and Mr. John Flinn were present at the conference. Mr. Hays then said that he desired above everything else that the motion picture be an agency for the greatest good; that he realized its vast possibilities between racial and religions groups and rejoiced that it has been given to him to aid in directing it to that end. According to Mr. Cohen. Mr. Hays went on to say that be had called the conference because be sought to find the way of good will and to shun all the paths that lead to prejudice.

At another conference the following day. Mr. Hays told Mr. Cohen that he sought friendly and reliable guidance so that when the industry produced a picture having to do with Jews it could be sure that the picture would give no offense or be an instigator of prejudice. To this end he invited the cooperation of the B’nai Brith due to the many occasions when its Anti-Defamation League had called the attention of the motion picture industry to films containing matter offensive to Jews.

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