893.4061 Motion Pictures/209: Telegram

The Ambassador in China ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

336. Your 288, November 25, 3 p.m., to Peiping.

1. It appears that the Shanghai office of Paramount was over-sanguine in regard to the terms on which the Censorship Committee offered to resume temporary censoring of Paramount films. On November 24 Peck wrote informally to the Director of the Department of International Affairs of the Foreign Office quoting a letter dated November 23 from the Paramount office, Shanghai, stating that a print of “The General Died at Dawn” was being sent to Nanking and stating that a formal petition had been sent to the Censorship Committee asking that censorship of other films be resumed. Peck inquired [when] resumption would begin. On the same day Peck was informed by [Page 683] the director that the committee had stated that censorship would be resumed at once provided Paramount guaranteed arrival of the film within 40 days and undertook to discuss with the committee what action should be taken on this picture. After discussing these terms with the Paramount office, Shanghai, on the telephone Peck wrote again to the director on November 25 saying that Paramount willingly accepted the terms and wished to know when censorship would be resumed. Matters dragged until November 27 when Paramount informed Peck that the committee’s terms as communicated directly to that office were more onerous than those transmitted through Peck in that they included action on a second film “Klondike Annie”, required that negatives as well as positives of both films be sent to Nanking and required a guaranty of $1,000 which would be forfeited if the films did not arrive within 40 days. In reply to request for advice Peck suggested that while responsibility for decision rested solely on Paramount, it might be well to accept these terms under protest in order to save from heavy financial loss another American firm, the Cathay-Grand Corporation in Shanghai which depended upon receiving Paramount films. On November 28, the representative of Paramount, then in Nanking, informed Peck that after accepting the more severe version of the committee’s terms Paramount had been told by the committee that before censoring could be resumed all copies of “The General Died at Dawn” must be withdrawn immediately from circulation. When the representative protested that this requirement had not been made heretofore the committee replied that it had been “understood”.

2. The Director of the Department of International Affairs has now written Peck as follows under date of November 30:

“I take pleasure to inform you that the Central Motion Picture Censorship Committee will continue to issue certificates to the Paramount Films Company in the immediate future. It is to be understood that the suspension of the original decision will last for a period of 40 days pending the arrival of the negative of the picture ‘General Died at Dawn’.

“It is reported, however, the picture in question ‘General Died at Dawn’ is shortly to be shown in Japan and some other different countries, and this, I believe, will render the situation more difficult. In order to avoid any further aggravation of friction in the present case, you are requested to use your good intermediary in persuading the company to withhold the show of the picture until some settlement of the controversy has been secured. Kindly let me know the result when you receive a reply from the company.”

A copy of the letter has been sent to Paramount, Shanghai. In view of the loss which American interests say they are suffering because of failure to receive Paramount films (see the Embassy’s November 18, noon, from Nanking) I venture to suggest that if Paramount, [Page 684] New York, asks advice the Department reply by representing the possible advisability of acceding to the request of the Chinese authorities for withdrawal of this film.

3. Sent to the Department, by mail to Peiping.

  1. Telegram in two sections.