Friday, 6 May 2016

The Cinema And Crime

From the Cambrian Daily Leader, 27th April 1916.



At the annual meeting of the Carmarthenshire County Council at Llandilo on Wednesday…. a letter written by the late Sir Stafford Howard was read with reference to the recent conference at Cardiff with regard to cinema films.  [He was] convinced .. that the censorship in London was worth nothing.  There were complaints in many towns of the increase in juvenile crime, largely attributable to the cinema pictures.  Some of the pictures shown created an admiration for the criminal's skill and daring and a desire to follow his example.  He … suggested that in granting licenses the County Council should impose conditions affecting the subjects of films and rule out any exhibition tending to encourage or make light of immorality or crime.

The Chairman expressed the view that it would be a fitting memorial to the great services rendered by the late Sir Stafford Howard if the Council adopted his suggestion.  This was agreed to, and the matter of censoring films referred to a committee.


Juvenile Criminals Copy the Pictures.
Paris, April 26.-The pernicious influence of a certain class of cinematograph films which weave a halo of romance around the nefarious doings of burglars and thieves is attracting attention in Paris.
Recent captures of the French police reveal a tendency on the part of the young criminal class to dress in the smartest style and in general to copy the manners of the “gentleman” burglar type, so much in evidence nowadays in detective stories and in the picture palaces.

A band of burglars which the Paris police have just rounded up and which had concentrated its activities on the Opera quarter furnishes an example.

The members of this band were always dressed in clothes cut by the best tailors of Paris, with immaculate linen, and they never operated but in white kid gloves.  Their air of “men about town” and haughty demeanour imposed upon the concierges of the houses they “visited,” and allayed all suspicions.

19-year-old Leader.
To the magistrates who interrogated them they boasted of their knowledge of the psychology of their “profession,” which they said they had studied seriously, as they might have studied law or medicine.  The leader of the band is a young man of 19 years who had managed to obtain the complicity of a concierge or house porter.  The latter, after a certain burglarious exploit, cheated the young bandit of a sum of £16.

Disdaining the violent methods of revenge practised by the older “apache” class, this modern Bill Sikes preferred to invent a complicated story leading to the conclusion that the police were on the track of the band, and that the complicity of the concierge had become known.  Then the burglar chief intimated that with a thousand francs (£40) he could get the affair hushed up.  The frightened concierge paid up.  A day or two afterwards he received an elegantly-turned letter from the young man sarcastically explaining bow the £40 settled the little debt of £16.

[It seems incredible now that the silent films of 1916 should have seemed so realistic that they would inspire young people to imitate the crimes they showed, but clearly when films were new, they had a great impact. (And the older generation always thinks that the younger generation is going to the dogs - that was probably a factor, too.)]  

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