Tell Your Children (1938)

62 or 65-66 mins | Melodrama | 1938

Director:

Louis Gasnier

Writer:

Arthur Hoerl

Producer:

George A. Hirliman

Editor:

Carl Pierson

Production Designer:

Robert Priestley

Production Company:

G and H Productions
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HISTORY

The following written foreword opens the film: "The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug--a violent narcotic--an unspeakable scourge--The Real Public Enemy Number One! It's first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations--space expands--time slows down--almost stands still...fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagance--followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thought--the loss of all power to resist physical conditions...leading finally to acts of shocking violence...ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionalized for the purposes of this story, are based on actual research into the result of Marihuana addiction. If this stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose...Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth for your son or daughter...or yours...or YOURS." Although an unspecified copyright statement appears on the screen, the film is not listed in copyright records. In 1938 New York State censors rejected this film for exhibition.
       The film was re-released in 1939 as The Burning Question, and in 1947 as Reefer Madness. Actor Warren McCollom's surname was misspelled as "McCullom" in the print viewed, which was the 1947 re-issue. ...

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The following written foreword opens the film: "The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug--a violent narcotic--an unspeakable scourge--The Real Public Enemy Number One! It's first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations--space expands--time slows down--almost stands still...fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagance--followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thought--the loss of all power to resist physical conditions...leading finally to acts of shocking violence...ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionalized for the purposes of this story, are based on actual research into the result of Marihuana addiction. If this stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose...Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth for your son or daughter...or yours...or YOURS." Although an unspecified copyright statement appears on the screen, the film is not listed in copyright records. In 1938 New York State censors rejected this film for exhibition.
       The film was re-released in 1939 as The Burning Question, and in 1947 as Reefer Madness. Actor Warren McCollom's surname was misspelled as "McCullom" in the print viewed, which was the 1947 re-issue. According to a modern interview with Thelma White in a 1987 LAT article, she earned approximately $2,500 per week from RKO for this film, which was produced in three weeks by a religious group. Although George A. Hirliman was associated with RKO, it has not been determined if RKO specifically contributed to the production of this film.
       Under the more commonly known title of Reefer Madness, the film became a cult hit on late-night television and on video. Portions of the film have been included frequently in documentaries about marijuana and American popular culture.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1987
---
The Exhibitor
13 Dec 1939
p. 433
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Ray Nazzaro
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Sam Diege
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Chief cam
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Louis Diege
Props
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd rec
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Reefer Madness
The Burning Question
Release Date:
1938
Production Date:

Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
62 or 65-66
Length(in feet):
5,844
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Newspaper headlines report on the police war against drugs, and the infiltration of drugs into the lives of students. At a School-Parent Association meeting at Truman High School, principal Dr. Alfred Carroll warns parents of the dangers of marijuana to their children. He informs them that the fight against drug traffic is directed by the Department of Narcotics in Washington, D.C., and that an official of that department has sent him a letter stating that the suppression of marijuana is the department's most important objective, and that parent-school organizations are effective educational deterrents. Carroll recalls a recent incident involving students at Truman to illustrate the deadly effects of marijuana: Mae Colman is awakened in her apartment, which she runs as an open house for marijuana users, by Jack Perry, her supplier, who advises her that he will be bringing more young people from the high school that afternoon. Mae protests selling drugs to children, noting that her clients are older and can make decisions for themselves, but Jack is indifferent. In town, Jack encounters Ralph Wiley, an older student who frequents Mae's, and they invite Jimmy and Mary Lane to join them at Joe's soda shop. Although Mary declines, her younger brother eagerly joins them. They meet Mae at the soda shop, and later reconvene at Mae's apartment. One day when Mary has lent her car to Jimmy, he invites Bill Harper, Mary's boyfriend, to join him at Joe's, where they meet Blanche, Ralph's sometime girl friend and an habitué of Mae's. They bring Bill to Mae's apartment, where he is appalled at the licentious behavior and wild dancing that he ...

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Newspaper headlines report on the police war against drugs, and the infiltration of drugs into the lives of students. At a School-Parent Association meeting at Truman High School, principal Dr. Alfred Carroll warns parents of the dangers of marijuana to their children. He informs them that the fight against drug traffic is directed by the Department of Narcotics in Washington, D.C., and that an official of that department has sent him a letter stating that the suppression of marijuana is the department's most important objective, and that parent-school organizations are effective educational deterrents. Carroll recalls a recent incident involving students at Truman to illustrate the deadly effects of marijuana: Mae Colman is awakened in her apartment, which she runs as an open house for marijuana users, by Jack Perry, her supplier, who advises her that he will be bringing more young people from the high school that afternoon. Mae protests selling drugs to children, noting that her clients are older and can make decisions for themselves, but Jack is indifferent. In town, Jack encounters Ralph Wiley, an older student who frequents Mae's, and they invite Jimmy and Mary Lane to join them at Joe's soda shop. Although Mary declines, her younger brother eagerly joins them. They meet Mae at the soda shop, and later reconvene at Mae's apartment. One day when Mary has lent her car to Jimmy, he invites Bill Harper, Mary's boyfriend, to join him at Joe's, where they meet Blanche, Ralph's sometime girl friend and an habitué of Mae's. They bring Bill to Mae's apartment, where he is appalled at the licentious behavior and wild dancing that he sees. Blanche takes an interest in Bill and she goads him into smoking one of her "cigarettes." That day Jimmy drives Jack to pick up more marijuana from Jack's boss, and Jimmy smokes a "reefer" while waiting in the car for Jack. When they leave, Jimmy is so intoxicated that he drives wildly and runs down a pedestrian, but does not stay to assess the damage. The next morning at breakfast, Mary acknowledges to her mother that she has not seen much of Bill lately. Carroll, meanwhile, is at the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanding they do something to bring in the organized gangs selling dope to his students. The FBI official informs him that while in 1930, the records on marijuana scarcely filled one small folder, today they fill cabinets. As the plant grows wild in almost every state, he explains, there is virtually no interstate commerce in the drug, and it is therefore difficult to trace. Carroll leaves equipped with case histories with which to inform his pupils and their parents. Back at school, Carroll meets privately with Jimmy to determine why his grades have plummeted. Jimmy denies acquiring an "undesirable habit," and Carroll lets him leave, telling him that he is available if Jimmy should ever wish to confide in him. That day, Mary becomes angry when she discovers Bill has not been attending his tennis lessons. Meanwhile, Blanche lures Bill into Mae's bedroom, where, high on drugs, they have sex. A police investigation of Jimmy's hit-and-run accident leads them to the Lane home. Mary is shocked to hear of the accident and affirms that she was driving the car that day. After the police leave, Mary looks for Jimmy and is directed to Mae's apartment by Joe. There Ralph informs her that Jimmy has gone out. While Mary awaits Jimmy, Ralph tricks her into smoking a reefer. Mary becomes intoxicated and, Ralph, insane because of the drug, sexually assaults her, despite her cries of protest. Bill emerges from the bedroom and, shocked by what he sees, becomes enraged and attacks Ralph. Jack rushes in from the kitchen and attempts to hit Bill on the head with the handle of his gun, but Bill struggles with him for control of the weapon and a shot is fired, which accidentally kills Mary. Jack knocks Bill unconscious, puts his gun in Bill's hand and urges Ralph and Blanche to leave the apartment and forget they were ever there. When Bill revives, he becomes hysterical over Mary's death, and Jack informs him that he is responsible. Jack quickly leaves, and on his instructions, Mae calls the police and tells them that she was alone in the kitchen while Bill and Mary had a rendezvous in the living room. Bill is arrested and brought to trial, where the evidence and his own admission of guilt prompts the jury to find him guilty of Mary's murder. During the trial, Blanche and Ralph are kept under the watchful eyes of Jack and Mae, although Ralph has become increasingly irrational and is difficult to control. Jack gets permission from his boss to get rid of Ralph because they are afraid he will reveal the truth, but when Jack returns that afternoon, Ralph suspects his intent and beats Jack with a rod. A tenant in the apartment building calls the police, and Ralph, Mae and Blanche are arrested. Based on information given by Mae during her interrogation, police raid the drug houses, and the gang leaders are captured. In the judge's chambers, Blanche confesses that she is responsible for introducing her friends to Mae, and that she was a witness to Mary's murder, which was perpetrated by Jack. Based on her testimony, the judge orders the ruling against Bill set aside and while keeping Blanche as a material witness, also holds her culpable for fostering moral delinquency. As she is being led away by the matron, Blanche recalls the sordid events that led her to this point and, breaking away from the matron, leaps out of the window to her death. The judge forces Bill to stay and witness Ralph's trial so he will know from what he has been saved. The state and Ralph's defense both waive his right to a trial due to insanity, and the judge consents to have Ralph placed in an institution for the criminally insane. At the end of his story, Carroll reminds the parents that with education, they can avert future tragedies such as these.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.