George Murphy

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George Murphy

George Murphy“Murph,” as his friends called him, was a popular movie song-and-dance man when elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1944. His began his show business career in the 1920s as a dancer, and had an act, “Murphy and Johnson” with his wife, Julie. Murphy & Johnson appeared together on Broadway in the musical “Shoot the Works” in 1931, and he would perform twice more in Broadway musicals in 1933. 1942: with Judy Garland, For Me and My GalHe first came to Hollywood to play a leading role in the 1934 comedy Kid Millions starring Screen Actors Guild President Eddie Cantor. December, 1937 found Murphy as an alternate on the Board of Directors, for Jean Muir, and he would be elected to the Board in November, 1939 (the year he became a Republican) and serve three terms as 1st Vice-President between 1940 and 1944. In 1943’s patriotic WWII feature film “This is the Army” Vice-president Murphy was cast as the father of Ronald Reagan, our future Guild president, although he was but eight years Reagan’s senior! 1944: Show Business As Guild President between 1944 and 1946, George Murphy was burdened with two pressing issues in particular: dissatisfaction among many Guild extras, leading to their separation from the Guild, and also a series of strikes by the Conference of Studio Unions, led by Herb Sorrell of the Motion Picture Painters. James Cagney, Murphy’s predecessor, had declared the extras situation one of the Guild’s “most serious internal problems” and indeed “Murph” had to deal with two groups vying to represent Guild extra players: the Screen Players Union (formed first, and believed, rightly or wrongly, by the majority of the Guild’s Board of Directors to be Communist - controlled) and the Screen Extras Guild (which had the full support of the Screen Actors Guild and eventually emerged the “winner” in the contest in 1945, receiving its AFL charter through the Associated Actors and Artistes of America). 1944: Show Business with former SAG president Eddie Cantor The second tough, highly complicated issue for Murphy concerned several often violent strikes by the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU), which most of the Guild Board also believed Communist-controlled, beginning in March 1945, before the end of WWII. Upon the recommendation of the Board, which declared the CSU strikes to be against the jurisdiction of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE), the majority of the Guild membership voted to cross CSU picket lines. George Murphy contributed 16 years of Guild service, as Board member, 1st VP, 2nd VP and President, between 1937 and his resignation in November 1953, due to the time commitment of his involvement with the Republican National Committee. In 1964, he was elected a California Senator, occupying the office until 1975. He died of leukemia on May 3, 1992.