From the archive, 23 August 1932: The working baby on film

California State frames laws to protect babies working in the Hollywood film industry

The infant in arms who so often plucks our heart-strings with a “close-up” of its mute appeal as its parents part company on the films may make a less frequent appearance in future.

The Californian State has just framed laws for the protection of the working baby which should check its indiscriminate exploitation. Its working day is limited to two hours in all. It may not be photographed for more than twenty minutes in a day nor for more than thirty seconds at a time.

Moreover – a benefit which adult first-night theatre audiences will envy – it must not be called upon at all till the rest of the cast are word-perfect and the production is going without a hitch.

By merely waiting in its cradle for that happy moment it makes two pounds a day from the date of engagement. Its rates of pay are such as no other industry knows, for they vary in inverse ratio to its age. The real capitalists in swaddling-clothes are those under thirty days of age, for the handsome fee of £15 a day rewards their extreme infancy. By the time they have matured to three months their value has slumped to a mere “fiver.”

This seems the more odd since the twenty-day-old “star” must be the most incalculable of performers. Of what avail to have the adults perfect in each word and gesture, the lights massed, and the camera whirring if in the highly priced thirty seconds the infant resolutely refuses to register the seraphic smile which should welcome home the father it has never seen, or the spasm of despair which should usher out the mother who is leaving, presumably for ever?

Perhaps, confronted with these accumulated difficulties, producers may decide on grounds of economy to cut out infant “close-ups” altogether. If so, the art of the cinema will not be the loser. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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