"A Good Show Town": Censorship and Reform in Dallas Theaters, 1890 to 1940
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This thesis chronicles the censorship and reform of theaters in Dallas, Texas from 1890 to 1930 by southern progressives struggling to cope with the rapid onslaught of modernization and urbanization. Starting in the 1890s, reformers condemned theaters known as variety theaters for their permission of alcohol, gambling, supposed prostitution, and violence. By the turn of the century, after variety theaters were removed from Dallas and elsewhere, vaudeville theaters opened their doors to Dallas theatergoers. Despite being recognized by most as offering more family-oriented entertainment, vaudeville theaters such as the Majestic Theater were criticized for their policy of allowing performances on Sunday. This debate continued for well over a decade, and caused great turmoil for theater owners and their employees, who were fined and even incarcerated for offering amusements on Sundays. By the 1920s, the Sunday show controversy faded into irrelevance as the community openly accepted the practice. A new threat emerged with the rise of motion pictures, however. Reformers shifted their attention toward the supposedly degenerative effects that motion pictures and plays had on the youth of Dallas, and created a local Censorship Board to regulate the quality of entertainment viewed in Dallas theaters. Though this body did censor and even ban many performances, the popularity and acceptance of theatrical entertainment was simply too great a force to be restrained, and the Censorship Board was abolished in 1929 as a result. Censorship efforts in the 1930s were few and far between, and the efforts at censorship and reform ceased to be a viable option for reformers.