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The Miracle Case and Film Censorship

From: WRPI
Length: 25:43

In 1950 the Roberto Rossellini film "The Miracle" was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and censored by the New York State Motion Picture Division. This is the story of how Joseph Burstyn challenged the censorship of the film and won.

Premierewaysoflove_small In 1950 the Roberto Rossellini film "The Miracle," part of a trilogy called "Ways of Love," was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and censored by the New York State Motion Picture Division (the state censor board), "The Miracle's" distributor, Joseph Burstyn, fought back through the New York courts and finally at the United States Supreme Court, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated by the state. Burstyn won and in 1952, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that movies were entitled to the free speech protections of the First Amendment. The story did not end there, though, since the Court allowed state censorship statutes to stand provided they were "narrowly drawn." The fight over the right of states to pre-approve movies continued until 1965 when all states but Maryland stopped censoring movies. For more information on this story, see Laura Wittern-Keller's *Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to State Film Censorship* (University Press of Kentucky) and the forthcoming 8Burstyn v. Wilson: The Miracle Case8 by Ray Haberski, Jr. and Laura Wittern-Keller (Landmarks Law Cases series of the University Press of Kansas).

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Piece Description

In 1950 the Roberto Rossellini film "The Miracle," part of a trilogy called "Ways of Love," was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and censored by the New York State Motion Picture Division (the state censor board), "The Miracle's" distributor, Joseph Burstyn, fought back through the New York courts and finally at the United States Supreme Court, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated by the state. Burstyn won and in 1952, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that movies were entitled to the free speech protections of the First Amendment. The story did not end there, though, since the Court allowed state censorship statutes to stand provided they were "narrowly drawn." The fight over the right of states to pre-approve movies continued until 1965 when all states but Maryland stopped censoring movies. For more information on this story, see Laura Wittern-Keller's *Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to State Film Censorship* (University Press of Kentucky) and the forthcoming 8Burstyn v. Wilson: The Miracle Case8 by Ray Haberski, Jr. and Laura Wittern-Keller (Landmarks Law Cases series of the University Press of Kansas).

Broadcast History

First broadcast 4-15-2008 on WRPI-FM, Troy, NY.

Timing and Cues

In 1950 the Roberto Rossellini film "The Miracle" was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and censored by the New York State Motion Picture Division. This is the story of how Joseph Burstyn challenged the censorship of the film and won. Prof. Laura Wittern-Keller, author of *Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to State Film Censorship* (University Press of Kentucky) and visiting professor of History at the University at Albany, SUNY, tells the story Burstyn's battle.

Related Website

http://www.talkinghistory.org