Most Dangerous Art

Almost from the start, motion pictures were condemned as a menace to Christian values. In communities across America, projected films were associated with the “peep show” loops of prizefighters and half-dressed women seen in the old penny arcades. Even something as innocent as a kiss between two adults could be enough to trigger outrage.

Now, as thousands of five-cent movie houses spread like a prairie fire through the land, political leaders were feeling the heat. Manhattan’s Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. took action in 1908 and revoked the operating licenses of all the city’s movie theaters just as the all-important Christmas season was getting underway.

Its survival at stake, New York’s most prodigious little movie studio opted to fight City Hall. Led by its high-minded director Lawrence Griffith and a crude Bowery clown named Mack Sennett, American Biograph chose a sweet young newcomer to be the wholesome face of the film company.

No, it wasn’t Mary Pickford. This was the girl before Mary Pickford.

And as everyone would soon discover, she wasn’t nearly as wholesome as she appeared.

“The Designated Virgin” is a serio-comic romp through American cinema’s first run-in with censorship. It uses biography, humor, and the devices of vintage melodrama to explore the artist’s responsibility to the society he lives in.

Designated Virgin Book Cover
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Pulp Hero Press

What People Are Saying

Great piece of historical fiction, well researched and very readable. The book recreates the initial years of the film industry in New York City and how they were picketed by local temperance groups as too decadent. If you like movies and enjoy historical fiction, there is a great deal of pre-Hollywood movie history here to be gleaned.”

–Dan Graham

A fascinating trip into the beginning of the 20th century—when civil war veterans were still with us and their stories informed the times. Film historians will get the many references; the rest of us can enjoy the stories and the feel of a time when the Great Quake of ’06 was a current event.”

–Penelope Williams

Such a good read. I do enjoy historical novels. I suppose James Michener got me started. This one about the very early days of movie-making was similar in that it was both educational and entertaining. Who knew the temperance movement had it out for the first flickers?”

Ralph Galvin

Love this book! I became engrossed in the story right away. The characters and film history come together for a great and informative read.”

–Leslie Black