Talking History segment, “The Miracle Case,”
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 of the attempt in the early 1950s to block the showing of Roberto Rossellini film 'The Miracle,' and film distributor Joseph Burstyn's battle against film censorship. Recorded at the University at Albany's History and Documentary Studies Sound Studio, April 11, 2008. BACKGROUND: "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 and the forthcoming Burstyn v. Wilson: The Miracle Case by Ray Haberski, Jr. and Laura Wittern-Keller (Landmarks Law Cases series of the University Press of Kansas).
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