1973 marked the 40th anniversary of the Screen Actors Guild, and brought blustery winds of change. McCloud, starring Dennis Weaver as Deputy Marshall Sam McCloud was one of television's most popular shows when he was elected President of the Screen Actors Guild in November 1973, over President John Gavin. Dennis was the first candidate to successfully unseat an incumbent Guild president, and his election also made him the first to begin a two-year term. For 40 years, from Ralph Morgan to John Gavin, Guild presidential terms had been for one year each.
A new era had commenced. As the new president expressed it in his opening address to the membership at the Annual Meeting on November 18,1973: “This election has been unique. Never before in the history of the Guild have any National Officers running by independent petition been elected. You have elected four, including the President, First and Second Vice Presidents, and the Recording Secretary. Only two Hollywood Board members running by independent petition have heretofore been elected. You have elected four.” His address drew standing ovations and shouts of "bravo" in what one of the trades called a "fiery fightin' man's speech." Weaver asserted that “…there is strength in numbers – there is strength in unity. With it we go forward – without it we stumble…Your involvement is the life blood of our union. With it we are vital and strong – without it we are little more than a shell – a union in name only – impotent and without substance.” Poking good-natured fun at Dennis’ popular "McCloud" character, a New York Board member declared he saw immediate change in the Guild once he took office: " Already our board members are talking slower, wearing buckskin boots and growing mustaches. And these are just the women."
In 1974, Dennis encouraged the Guild membership and the TV viewing public to write to the FCC and protest the "re-run situation," stating: "The networks are now devoting more than 50% of their primetime programming to re-runs. The re-runs used to be on for 13 weeks out of the year - now it's 26 weeks. That means TV production has been cut in half." Dennis Weaver’s presidency produced numerous achievements, including: residuals in perpetuity for TV shows in syndication, replacing the previous buyout at the tenth run; primetime TV residuals for every rerun in prime time, instead of just two; the Wages and Working Conditions Committee voted to invite all Guild members to contribute ideas for the 1974 television negotiations; Screen Actors Guild Film Society began; and the non-Communist loyalty oath on membership applications (in place since 1953) was eliminated. After completing his two-year term as President, in November 1975, he was elected to a one-year seat on the Board of Directors, serving alongside his presidential successor, Kathleen Nolan.
Dennis Weaver passed away from complications of cancer on February 24, 2006. You can learn more about Dennis' life and works at www.dennisweaver.com