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National I. O. B. B. Leaders Issue Statement on ‘king of Kings’; Explain Position

December 12, 1927
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Say They Have Matter in Hand; Seek to Prevent Showing of Film in Eastern Europe (Jewish Daily Bulletin)

A statement was made public here today, signed by Alfred M. Cohen, president of the International Order B’nai Brith and Sigmund Livingston, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, setting forth the altitude of the national leaders of the I. O. B. B. toward the “King of Kings” issue and telling of the efforts of the Anti-Defamation League to minimize the harm which might result from the picture.

The statement contains a request “kindly but none the less earnestly” to “ail having the welfare ot our people at heart to desist from so acting as to make more difficult the undertaking of the League.” The statement declares:

“The proper handling of defamation requires keen discernment, calm judgment and effective diplomacy. The treatment of no form of defamation calls for so much care in determining what is fit, proper and right than when the subject matter deals with religious sentiment.

“The picture founded upon the story of the New Testament, known as De Mille’s ‘King of Kings,’ has received from its very inception the most earnest attention of those in charge of the Anti-Defamation League. If it had been within the power of the League to have prevented the making of the picture, that power would have been exercised. Not having that power, the League has directed its efforts towards a minimization of the ill effects that the picture from its very nature would produce.

“Modifications of the original designs were effected before the picture was exhibited. Other requests then made were denied. This refusal has not deterred the League from pressing its demands. These have lately been recognized by a call from Will H. Hays, President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc., on the President of the B’nai Brith for a conference for the purpose of taking steps to remove as far as possible the League’s objections to the picture. At this time as a result of the conference, work is proceeding in line with the recommendations of the League. Exclusion of the picture from certain European countries is likewise under consideration.

“In dealing with ‘The King of Kings’ the Governing Board of the League had to weigh three opinions, each of which was supported by men of good judgment; one is that the picture is bad throughout, that no modification of it will in any appreciable degree lessen the effect thereof, and that every sort of influence be brought to bear to prevent its continued presentation; another opinion is the picture is harmless; a third opinion is that while it would be preferable not to have the story of the New Testament visualized in picture form, if it could have been prevented in the inception thereof, now that it has been produced and seen by hundreds of thousands of people, the wisest course is to secure such additional amendments and modifications coupled with an explanation of the incidents of the story, as will minimize its hurtful effects.

“The unanimous judgment of the Governing Board favored the view last expressed.

“The League in its eventual career has succeeded in having withdrawn from public view many films which scandalized or ridiculed the Jew. All of them were of a scurrilous or libelous nature and pure fiction. No group had an interest in them. They were produced for the mere purpose of provoking laughter or affording amusement.

“The K’ing of Kings’ is removed as far as possible from such exhibitions. It is a depiction, more or less accurate, of incidents of the New Testament, the basis of the religious belief of the largst part of the citizenry of our country. In the opinion of the League an attempt by the Jewish people to suppress its presentation could not succeed, and moreover quite conceivably might be resented in a way calculated to reopen a breach between Christians and Jews, which all were happy to think had well nigh healed.

“The Anti-Defamation League and the President of the B’nai B’rith are bending every effort towards affecting changes in the ‘King of Kings’ and of obtaining an agreement with the producers that it be not presented in those European countries where the merest excuse to fan the flame of prejudice for the Jew is taken advantage of. Hope is entertained that their proposals will be granted. If they are, the hurt of the picture will be minimized. More than this, it is our belief that relations now established between the B’nai Brith and the Motion Picture Producers of America, Inc., will prevent future causes for complaint against film productions.

“We would kindly but none the less earnestly urge all having the welfare of our people at heart, to desist from so acting as to make more difficult the undertaking of the League.”

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