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Director sees Mahony's point, says people responsible, too.

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood director Arthur Hiller makes "relationship movies" in which "people with whom we are asked to identify undergo a life change, and for the better," he said recently. So it was not difficult for him, he added, to identify with much that Mahony was reaching for in his September letter when he urged filmmakers to consider "human values".

Hiller, the man in the director's chair for such films as "The Americanization of Emily," "Silver Streak" and "The Babe," said he thinks many of Hollywood's creative people - "insecure like everybody who's in the creative area" - listened when Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony addressed the film and entertainment industry.

"Obviously, I feel very strongly about the Judeo-Christian ethic and human values," said Hiller. He said a leader of Mahony's stature has an important effect on people's thinking.

As Hiller reads it, Mahony's letter is saying to filmmakers: "Do what you want and what you feel, but be aware of human values. You can make entertaining films and still project that."

The Canadian-born Hiller, whose early U.S. television credits include "Playhouse 90" dramas, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Gunsmoke" and "Route 66," gave an example of how and where he thought Mahony could be influential.

"For instance," he said, "I was once an expert witness in a porno (movie) trial - expert in the sense of saying that a film could undergo great changes between the time it's first put together and the time it's finally put together. The FBI had picked it up in its first assembly and said, |It's pornographic.'

"Obviously, I would prefer to defend freedom of speech on a topic I felt at home with - but you have to defend freedom of speech even for people you disagree with. But Cardinal Mahony is trying to infuse them, too, with feelings (for) those good values."

Quality can be improved, said Hiller, who serves on the board of the Humanitas Awards for television writers established by Paulist Father Ellwood Kieser (producer of "Romero"). "You see," said Hiller, "those awards honor the writers of the best television shows that, in various areas, do display human values, the Judeo-Christian ethic."

Does Hollywood underestimate its influence?

"That's possible," said Hiller. "People don't realize the impact they are making. In the old days, everybody saw the world through movies. It's how Europeans saw America, how Americans saw Europeans or Asians. Whatever we saw, that's what we went with. That's why it's incumbent on us to be so careful."

At the same time, viewers often underestimate Hollywood, Hiller explained.

"When people complain |all these pictures are so terrible,' I grab ahold of the newspaper and open it up and make them go through every picture that's showing," he said. "Then they realize how many films are being made with human values, how many films children can go to see.

"The one thing we don't seem to get across - that the cardinal does address - is that you as the audience have a degree of responsibility, too, to read the reviews and find out something about the film. The motion-picture industry does have a code and it is intended to help people."

And filmmakers will listen to what their audiences say, if only out of insecurity, Hiller said. "We're all - everybody who's in the creative area - insecure to some degree," he said. "We want to be liked. It's terrible when the milkman says he didn't like your film. |Omigod,' you're thinking, |the world has just dropped out.'"
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Title Annotation:Arthur Hiller, Cardinal Roger Mahony; criticism of popular movies
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Dec 18, 1992
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