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The Burning Cross

The Burning Cross(1947)

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Although a print of this film was not viewed, the above credits were taken from a cutting continuity deposited with the Copyright Office. The picture opens with a brief narrated montage depicting the history of the Ku Klux Klan in America. Voice-overs spoken by character "Johnny Larrimer" are heard intermittently throughout the film and are finally revealed to be his confession to the police. An article about the film in the September 1947 issue of Ebony magazine gives the following information about the production: Producer Selvyn Levinson got his inspiration for the project while he was serving in the military during World War II. At his unit in Chengtu, China, an African American staff sergeant was put in charge of an all-white aircraft battery, and Levinson was impressed with the way in which all of the soldiers worked together to make it the "most proficient...on the field." When Levinson sought financing for The Burning Cross, he was turned down by "every national bank in the country," according to the Ebony article. The picture, which cost $150,000 to make, was financed by "individuals interested in tolerance." Levinson also noted that while the writers with whom he consulted refused to "touch it," many actors volunteered their services on the film.
       Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add the following actors to the cast: Rory Mallinson, Betty McMahon, Peggy Wynne, Herbert Wilms, Tom Daly, Victor Zimmerman, Marion Brown, Bill Murphy and Mollie MacIntosh. Their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed, however. According to a Los Angeles Times news item, The Burning Cross was the first film to be shot at the newly renovated Motion Picture Center, formerly the Metro Pictures Corp. studio.
       In a May 12, 1947 letter to producer-director Walter Colmes, contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen approved the shooting script, but cautioned that "the Negroes throughout the production will at no time be shown as too subvervient, and that their dialogue will be cleaned up so that the English will be grammatical." Although Breen had only minor objections to the story, Hollywood Reporter announced in late September 1947 that the Virginia Board of Censors had banned the film, calling it "inhuman and an incitement to crime." The Board felt that the film might "arouse animosity" between blacks and whites, not "believed existing in Virginia." In October 1947, Variety announced that Screen Guild Productions had filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Board before the state court of appeals. The disposition of that suit is not known.