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1980 Strike Button
1980's TV/Theatrical strike proved long and bitter for President William Schallert and National Executive Secretary, Chet Migden, to lead. Main issues were Pay-TV and videocassettes, and its disappointing results gave renewed impetus to discussions of merger between the Guild and AFTRA. Screen Actor magazine observed: "Times have changed. Instead of the movie moguls, we [now] have to contend with multinational corporations; instead of Louis B. Mayer, we have Gulf-Western. They may both be bad employers, but at least L.B. Mayer cared about movies…With union-busting law firms gaining in sophistication — and with employers more willing to spend money destroying unions than paying workers - it's going to be harder to win a good settlement."
1988 Strike Button
From March 21, 1988 until April 15, the Guild and AFTRA (and the Screen Extras Guild, as well) engaged in a strike against producers of TV and radio commercials. Picket lines went up in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Nashville. Afterwards, SAG National Executive Director, Ken Orsatti declared “We made a significant breakthrough in establishing guaranteed payments for commercials shown on cable TV – this was the primary goal of our strike”. SAG President Patty Duke praised the members: ‘Whatever success we had in this strike we owe to our rank-and-file members… it was a difficult time for everyone, but I am extremely proud of the membership of the Guild.”
Numerous documents from the "blacklist" era of the 1940s and 50s survive in the Guild's files. One of the more interesting is this booklet, presenting reproductions of documents allegedly proving that Herb Sorrell, business agent of the Motion Picture Painters, local 644, and leader of the Conference of Studio Unions (which conducted several violent motion picture industry strikes in 1945 and 1946), was a Communist Party member. The headstrong, independent Sorrell always denied this, and insisted the "Herb Stewart" signature on the Communist Party membership card reproduced in the booklet, was not his. Based on surviving historical evidence and accounts, the question of whether or not Sorrell actually joined the party is still debated among writers.
Paragraph 2 (b) of the Guild's "Modification Agreement of 1938" required the Standing Committee on Extras to investigate conditions in the industry and recommend solutions. One result was this compact 8 1/2 x 10", 12-page report: "The Problem of the Extra Player: First Recommendations of the Standing Committee of the Motion Picture Producers and of Screen Actors Guild, Inc.," released in October, 1940. It is in nearly mint condition-as if just off the press.
Film Stars Frolic
"The public frolicked elsewhere" was the Guild's lament, in the face of its second fund-raising event. Held at Gilmore Stadium (now the site of CBS Television City, by the Farmer's Market), May 18-20 1934, only about 150 Guild members, out of 3,000 (!) showed up, and the losses wiped out the Guild's meager treasury! The Guild was saved through the generosity of $1,000 loans from President Eddie Cantor, 1st Vice-President Robert Montgomery, 2nd Vice-President Ann Harding, 3rd Vice-President James Cagney, and Board member Fredric March. The "Frolic" featured a rodeo, circus acts, a chariot race (manned by the same teams as were in Eddie Cantor's film Roman Scandals), and appearances by stars like W.C. Fields, Jeanette MacDonald, Pat O'Brien, Mary Astor, Jimmy Durante, Spencer Tracy, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Ralph & Frank Morgan, Carole Lombard, Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.
Nearly 51 years to the day after its founding, the Guild celebrated with a “Golden Anniversary Gala Ball” attended by almost 1,500 guests at the Hollywood Palladium, June 23, 1984. Celebrations were also held by Guild branches in New York (with a “Moving Picture Ball”), Arizona, Boston, Detroit, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. At the Hollywood ball, State Senator Hersch Rosenthal presented the state legislature’s resolution, declaring June 30, 1984 “Screen Actors Guild Day” throughout California.
Gambol of Stars
This exquisite 1941 program commemorates the second of two events, sponsored by the Guild and the American Federation of Radio Artists ("AFRA" 11 years before it became "AFTRA"). The previous "Gambol of Stars," held March 14, 1940, was sponsored by the Guild, Actors' Equity, American Federation of Radio Artists, American Guild of Musical Artists, and American Guild of Variety Artists, and intended as a show of solidarity (and possible merger) in the face of fighting off the most recent attempt of George Browne and Willie Bioff of the I.A.T.S.E. to take over ALL performer unions. By the end of 1941, the United States entered World War II, and there were no more "Gambols." The Guild has both programs, but the 1941 has the more attractive cover.
Grant Mitchell, (founding member #30) is part of Screen Actors Guild lore: he was one of the original five actors who met at Kenneth Thomson's home in March 1933 to discuss forming what would become the Screen Actors Guild. Before coming to Hollywood in 1931, he had a fabulously successful stage career of 30 years, often with "star billing", as in this 1922 flyer for The Champion. In May 1913, Mitchell became a founding member of the new Actors' Equity Association, joining at the organizing meeting.
Merger Button (No)
Two major components of Guild membership are: the responsibility to support it when you believe in its actions, but also the right to speak out and disagree with it, if so moved. Many members came out against the Guild’s official position favoring merger with AFTRA, and united to promote their case. Mailers were sent, listing merger opponents, including former Guild presidents Howard Keel, Charlton Heston, and Dennis Weaver. “Save SAG” buttons were distributed and worn. On November 19, 1998, the day before the merger ballots were mailed to the membership, the “Save SAG” group held an anti-merger rally outside Guild headquarters. On January 28, 1999, ballot counting was complete: merger had been rejected by over 52% of voting Guild members.
Merger Button (Yes)
After discussing merger with other actor unions, on and off for nearly 60 years, the Screen Actors Guild's National Board declared in 1998 : “Times have changed. So must we. The Industry Ain’t What it Used to Be!” Ever-changing technology, jurisdictional questions, and the alarming growth of powerful, multinational entertainment conglomerates producing everything from live and animated film, prime time and non-prime time network and cable TV, computer games, CD-ROMs, etc., produced a formal decision: “The only way to negotiate effectively against these behemoths is to bring SAG and AFTRA together.” Merger. The Guild began an official campaign promoting a first-ever merger vote, but a rival “Save SAG” member group rose in opposition to the plan. When the ballots were tallied on January 28, 1999, merger had been voted down by over 52% of the voting membership, so no merger took place.
New York Ball
"New York Ball": The Screen Actors Guild held its 50th Anniversary balls a year late, in June 1984. This program is from the New York branch's celebration, the "Moving Picture Ball." In Hollywood, the corresponding event was called the "Golden Gala Ball."
New York Screen Actor
This Guild's New York branch produced this magazine, soon to be re-titled the "New York Reel." This Winter, 1967 issue (December 1966-Feb. 1967) features articles and photos of New York President Joyce Gordon; 2nd Vice-President Cy Harris; New York Executive Secretary Harold Hoffman; Board members Ralph Bell, Merrill E. Joels, Ron Rawson, and Joe Silver; legal counsel David Alter; and a full "Meet the Staff" page. The Winter 1967 issue is the oldest copy of "The New York Screen Actor" held in the archives of the Guild's National Headquarters.
Original SAG Logo
Most Guild members have never seen this logo, but it was used exclusively from 1933 until the latter 1950's (when the first version of the "mask" logo of today was devised), then jointly with the "mask" logo until the end of 1965. Depicting a torch (symbolizing liberty, knowledge, the light of truth) bracketed by two halves of a laurel wreath, (symbolizing victory) it was created, appropriately, by an actor: Guild founding member #11, Ivan Simpson, then 58 years old, who was asked to "design a suitable coat-of-arms" for the Guild. In its first incarnation, the torch was bracketed by what appear to be grains of wheat, soon replaced by the more appropriately symbolic laurel.
Ralph Morgan Badge
In 1938, Guild president Ralph Morgan received this badge when he was a Guild representative at the 39th Annual Convention of the California State Federation of Labor, in Santa Barbara. (Ralph's youngest sister, Zoyla Cook, lived in Santa Barbara then, so he might have snuck away to pay her a visit!) The medal attached to the ribbon is embossed with the seal of the American Federation of labor, and the motto, in Latin: "Labor Omnia Vincit" - Work Conquers All. The badge was donated to the Guild in 1999 by actress Frances Tannehill, a friend of Ralph's late daughter, actress Claudia Morgan.
Screen Actors Guild Ball
As the Guild's elegant first ball, earlier in 1934, had earned so much money (and as the non-glamorous "Film Stars Frolic" event a few months later had LOST so much money), the Guild held another ball before the year was out. Like the first, it proved a money-making hit. Performers at the event included Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Jeanette MacDonald, Clarence Muse, and Joe E. Browne. Lyle Talbot ended up as the emcee, as President Eddie Cantor was unable to make it that night. The program includes drawings of actors, advertisements, and the official Screen Actors Guild song: "Stand, Guild, Stand" written by Ralph Morgan's best friend, actor Otto Kruger.
This August 24, 1933 pass to the Fox Studios lot's Western Avenue location (now demolished), was issued to young actress Ann Doran (who would later serve 20 years as a Guild Board member and officer). The words in red at the bottom of the pass read "Notice: The use of sound in pictures has made it impossible to admit visitors to sets."
Two years before creating one of the most famous posters of all time, as the United States entered Word War I (Uncle Sam's "I Want YOU! For U.S. Army") 37 year-old artist James Montgomery Flagg designed the cover of this souvenir program. The occasion was the March 16, 1915 Masque Ball of the White Rats Actors' Union of America, at the Terrace Garden in New York, and the 82-page program is filled with photos, drawings, and advertisements. Artist Flagg numbered among his friends many of the most famous theatre-folk of the day, and was a member of New York's legendary Players Club. Flagg contributed to silent films in the 19-teens as an actor, screenwriter, and director.
White Rats Button
This button bears no date, but the White Rats Actors Union, founded in 1900 by George Fuller Golden and seven others, existed under this name for just 10 years. In 1910, it merged with the Actors International Union, becoming the White Rats Actors Union of America. This button was found on eBay by the Guild's historian-who paid the princely sum of one dollar for it.