862.4061 Motion Pictures/67

The Ambassador in Germany (Sackett) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 708 of September 17, 1932, concerning the complaint of American film interests against certain provisions of the German regulations with regard to the importation and exhibition of foreign films in Germany.

Upon receipt of this instruction, the Embassy took the matter up with the Foreign Office and advanced at considerable length arguments in support of the American objections to the German regulations. On three subsequent occasions the Embassy impressed upon the Foreign Office the desirability of an equitable solution in the premises and finally, under date of November 28, a note was received from the Foreign Office, copy and translation of which are enclosed.

[Page 372]

On the face of it this note appears to be somewhat evasive and unsatisfactory. It seems, however, that the official attitude of the German Government as expressed therein was dependent upon, and represented the progress made in, current negotiations between the German (in this connection see Special Report No. 10, of November 12, from the office of the Commercial Attaché to the Embassy entitled “Startling Developments in the German Film Situation”).

The passage in the Foreign Office note stating that “the Reich Government takes the stand, as a matter of principle, that the issuance of a general prohibition to close contracts without a preview is thoroughly desirable from a cultural point of view”, is of interest as being the first official acknowledgment that the “blindbooking” provision of the German film regulations is unfair when applied to the foreign product alone. The expectation among American film interests here appears to be that the “blindbooking” provision will be equalized in the governmental regulations which will be issued to cover the next film release season.

I may add that, in the opinion of the Embassy, American film interests may not for a considerable length of time hope to obtain a relaxation of the German dubbing regulations. Aside from the argument of principle, the very general testimony of local film-goers—of American as well as of German nationality—is that many American films, dubbed in the United States for presentation here, lend themselves to considerable criticism with respect to their quality as artistic and finished products.

Respectfully yours,

Frederic M. Sackett

The German Foreign Office to the American Embassy

VIC 6090/32

Note Verbale

Referring to the remarks of the American Chargé d’Affaires on the occasion of his call at the Foreign Office on October 6, 1932, the Foreign Office has the honor to inform the Embassy of the United States of America as follows:

The Memorandum of September 20, 1932, relative to the “Decree of June 28, 1932, governing the exhibition of foreign films”, which was presented by the American Chargé d’Affaires, has been studied with the greatest care by the competent German authorities. The result may be summed up as follows:

The German authorities in question are entirely inclined to deal favorably with applications for exhibiting American films within the [Page 373] framework of existing legal provision. In particular, the Reich Minister of the Interior is willing, in principle, to facilitate the importation of American films into Germany, by granting certificates from a relief fund which has been made available’ and put at his personal disposal. According to the regulations for the use of certificates based on this fund, permission may only be granted, however, if German cultural interests are served thereby, that is to say, that they apply only import films but who at the same time, by producing a film of their own in Germany, contribute to the stimulation of the German film market, which is desired for cultural reasons. As the Reich Minister of the Interior has so far dealt favorably with applications of such American film companies for contingent certificates based on the relief fund, he also intends to do so in future. The Foreign Office ventures to mention the fact that only recently the Paramount Film Company was again allotted four contingent certificates out of the relief fund, in recognition of its cooperation in German film production, and, out of the same considerations, the First National Company was granted two. Other American film companies which render services to film production in Germany and which submit their wishes to the competent German authorities will also be able to count on similar favorable treatment.

Regarding the remarks contained in the Memorandum about the so-called “prohibition to close contracts without a preview” (Blindbuchungsverbot, the Reich Government takes the stand, as a matter of principle, that the issuance of a general prohibition to close contracts without a preview is thoroughly desirable from a cultural point of view. If it has not been possible up to now to pronounce such a prohibition to apply to German films, the reason is to be found exclusively in the extraordinarily difficult business situation of the German film industry, a large part of which would find that a prohibition of closing contracts without a preview would render it impossible to finance their productions. The result would be additional failures of German film companies, which must be prevented for obvious cultural reasons.

Another point in the Memorandum regards the regulations contained in Section 14 of the “Decree of June 28 governing the exhibition of foreign films”, that foreign films dubbed in the German language can only be recorded if the dubbing and other work connected therewith is done in Germany, as prescribed in Section 2 of the above-mentioned decree. Experience in connection with the most recent films dubbed abroad and exhibited in Germany has proved once more that the appearance of films of that kind is not in keeping [Page 374] with German cultural interests. Aside from this fact, the regulation in Section 14 should also be favorable to the business interests of the foreign firms themselves, as films dubbed abroad meet with difficulties in their commercial exploitation because of defects appearing in them, which could easily be avoided if the dubbing were done in Germany.

Out of cultural considerations—not the least of which is based on the above-mentioned unfavorable experience—the Reich Government must adhere to its opinion that dubbed films are undesirable as such and that their production should therefore be restricted as much as possible. Whether or not it will be possible in future decrees to change the proportion of dubbed films admitted as compared with films having original texts cannot be decided until it is possible to gain a survey of the results of exhibiting a corresponding number of German sound films on the non-German European market.

Finally, regarding the reference in the Memorandum to the fact that there are no contingent decrees in the United States of America, the Foreign Office ventures to state, as a counter-argument, that as a result of an organization of the American film business, the exhibiting of non-American films is regulated in such a way, to begin with, that the interests of the American film industry are thereby protected. It is a fact, that in spite of the regulations of the German contingent legislation American sound films enter Germany far more easily than German ones the United States of America, where no legal regulations of that kind exist.

To sum up, the Foreign Office begs to emphasize once more the fact that the German Government thoroughly welcomes the appearance of valuable (worthwhile) American films on the German film market, and is prepared to facilitate the exhibition thereof in conformity with existing laws.