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Board of Review - Scope Notes

Scope Notes

The records of the Board of Review (1915-1966) consisit of twenty-eight cubic feet of material. Included in the collection are law enforcement officer reports, annual and biennial reports, correspondence from film companies, state officials and the general public. A large part of the collection is financial in nature: budget reports, deposit slips, bank statements and bills paid. Over half of the records in the collection ( sixteen cubic feet ) consist of review cards. These 3x5 index cards, the foundation of the collection, record every film reviewd by the board, listing date, number of reels, title, film company and whether accepted, rejected or rejected with eliminations. Cards for films that were rejected with eliminations contain a detailed description of the portions to be censored.

One of the weaknesses of these records is its lack of correspondence from the first thirty years of its forty-eight year existence. However, the correspondence available is one of the more interesting aspects of the records. One example of the type of correspondence received is the letters sent by film companies to the BOR. Along with submitting the film for review, companies would also often send letters stating that the film was being "submitted under protest" in accordance with the laws of the state. Letters for the general public came in two forms, those which offered support or praise and those which requested further information about the board. Suspiciously underrepresented are letters criticizing the agency.

The material in this collection can be used in a variety of ways. A study of the review cards over time would offer insight into the attitudes of the BOR (especially in the earlier years when elimination of offensive scenes, titles and dialogue was more common). Because the BOR was made up almost entirely of white, middle class women, the review cards also shed light on what was socially acceptable to this demographic. Study of the law enforcement officer reports, which record the name and location of the theater, the manager, the films being shown and any infractions committed, could supply information on regional tastes in film. In addition, these records could be used to explain the sorts of infractions typical of theaters. Careful study of the fee registers and the correspondence from film companies allows inferences to be made about the changing face of the film industry, especially its centralization. Finally, by reviewing the minutes of the BOR, the researcher could gain an understanding of the basic structure and operations of the board.