Marie Louise Gagner graduated from teacher training college in Stockholm in 1892 with the highest possible grade for teaching skills, and has been described as a gifted teacher. She taught Swedish and was a lively debater on the subject, both in public discussion and in the leading education magazine of the time, Verdandi.
Her social pathos was also directed at film. Gagner was an active contributor to Biografen – a publication for cinematographic art, literature and film, started in 1912 by the poet Erik Brogren. Its ambition was to educate people, and contributors included leading educators, and censor and school-film lobbyists. When film was introduced to Sweden around the turn of the 20th century, there were no films made specially for children; young people were drawn to the cinema during the day with special matinée prices to boost ticket sales, while the grown-ups were at work. The programme was the same repertoire of short films as was on in the evenings: nature films, romance, humour and thrillers. Marie Louise Gagner was strongly opposed to this, and in 1908 she gave a lively lecture on the harmful effects of film on children to the Pedagogic Society of Stockholm, and this marked the starting point for the debate on violence in films. The lecture was entitled Barn och biografföreställningar or Children and Cinema Screenings, and was later printed and distributed widely. Her criticisms were repeated with little variation right up until the 1970s. Some of it reads as follows (in translation): “What are we doing […] to our children? Well, we’re closing the door to their beautiful, magical world and throwing them into the world of adults with all its sin, crime, bad habits, excited worry, sorrow and tension. We may well ask ourselves, what will people turn out like who have grown accustomed to this world at such a young age?!” During the lecture she demonstrated a series of unsuitable programmes, and called for public control of film screenings. The lecture made an impact, and government authorities intervened. The Ministry of Civil Affairs asked Gagner, as an expert, to help produce regulations regarding the control of cinema screenings (1909–10). The eventual result was that Sweden became the first country to introduce a government body for film censorship in 1911. Gagner was of course one of the original members, and remained active as a film censor until 1933.
The censor brought in minimum age limits, and films to be screened at Swedish cinemas were allotted different coloured censor cards: Red for universal, Yellow for 15 and White for a complete ban.
(translated by Matt Bibby)
Main profession: Film Censor
“Barnen och biografteatern”, Idun 20. 49 (5 december 1907): 607-08.
“Barn och biografföreställningar: Ett föredrag jämte ett uttalande i samma ämne af B.E Gadelius.” Stockholm: Hökerberg, 1908. Reprinted from Verdandi 26 (1908): 154ff.
“Hjälten bland hjältar: Charles George Gordons liv och stordåd skildrade för barn och ungdom.” Stockholm: Folkskolans barntidn., 1928 .