Considering the long trend of razing older buildings in cities all over the country, the Screen Actors Guild was fortunate in that each of the five previous structures that housed its National Headquarters, beginning in 1933, may still be seen today, generally with little external change, in and near Hollywood – from the first home in the Hollywood Center building, where the Guild started with one employee in one small office off a long, narrow corridor, through the former Hollywood Congregational Church. All have been sites of creation, innovation, frustration, cooperation and conflict, hilarity and sadness, victory and defeat. They remain visual reminders of the growth and change of the Screen Actors Guild from 1933 until merger with AFTRA in 2012.
Hollywood Center Building (1933-1936)
Important events: first employee hired in July, 1933 (Marjorie "Midge" Van Buren) – National Recovery Act Code hearings in Washington – exodus of major stars from Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences membership into the Guild – Guild expands its membership to include extra players; publishes first newsletter Screen Actors' News; holds first fund-raiser-the Screen Actors Guild Ball; first magazine The Screen Player – jointly publishes magazine The Screen Guilds' Magazine with the Screen Writers Guild (headquartered across the hall) – holds second fundraiser The Film Stars Frolic (a financial failure that wipes out the Guild's treasury) – Actors' Equity Association gives up jurisdiction over motion picture players to the Guild – the Associated Actors and Artistes of America grants the Guild a charter.
Constance Bennett Building (1936-1939)
Important events: Guild recognized by the major motion picture producers in May, 1937, signs first contract, and is flooded with new applicants – first Guild branch office opened (in New York, headed by Mrs. Florence "Bobbie" Marston) – American Federation of Radio Artists formed, with Eddie Cantor as first President– first threat by International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE) International President George Browne and his "personal representative" in Hollywood, Willie Bioff to take over all actor unions (after President Robert Montgomery refused Bioff's request to re-instate a suspended Guild/IATSE joint-member. Bioff felt his contribution in getting Louis B. Mayer and Joseph Scheck to recognize the Guild entitled him to "favors" from it) – IATSE requests American Federation of Labor revoke the Guild's charter; Montgomery initiates investigation of Bioff; Guild temporarily closes membership to new extra players.
Hollywood Professional Building (1939-1956)
The Guild rented the entire eighth floor. Executive offices overlooked Hollywood Blvd. Board Room was at building's rear, southeast corner. Important events: IATSE grants charter to expelled AFofL union, the American Federation of Actors, initiating second attempt by Bioff and Browne to take over all actor union jurisdiction - Guild threatens strike against signatories if IATSE fails to back down – Bioff/Browne action results in serious discussion of merger among the actor unions – Congressman Martin Dies comes to Hollywood seeking Communists – first Agency Regulations enacted by the Guild – U.S. enters World War II – Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) conducts several strikes – extras leave the Guild– fight ensues between Screen Players Union and Screen Extras Guild over representation of extras – first atomic bomb exploded – WWII ends – Communism spreads/Cold War begins – television goes national – "Hollywood Ten" HUAC hearings – Paramount Decree of 1948 ends the "studio system" – Korean War begins – Runaway Production becomes a notable problem – MCA waiver granted – Guild wins jurisdiction for filmed TV programs over the Television Authority (TvA) – TvA & the American Federation of Radio Artists merge to become AFTRA – first Screen Actors Guild strike (filmed TV Commercials) – second Guild strike (TV Programs) – first television program residuals.
Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters (1956-1986)
Important events: second story added to the building, as space gets tight – Guild branch representatives added to National Board of Directors – "pay-per-play" enters Commercials Contract – Theatrical strike (March/April 1960) results in first pension & health plan, and residuals for feature films shown on television – President John F. Kennedy assassinated – Runaway Production on-going concern – "American Scene" language enters contract – U.S. enters Vietnam War - in 1968 – Guild Board tightens "conflict of interest rule" to preclude a member with any production interest, no matter how small, from serving on the Board of Directors – SAG Conservatory established– non-Communist "loyalty oath" removed as requirement of Guild membership – SAG Film Society begins – Commercials Strike (Dec. 1978 - Feb. 1979) – Theatrical/TV strike (July-October, 1980) gives new impetus to discussion of SAG/AFTRA merger – SAG Foundation established.
Hollywood Congregational Church (1986-1993)
Thirty years after moving national headquarters from 7046 Hollywood Blvd., the Guild found itself back in the ol' neighborhood, diagonally across Hollywood Blvd. from its 1938-1956 location. Just up the block, on North Sycamore, was Masquers Club clubhouse, from which the Guildsprang in 1933. Important events: 1987: Guild announces distribution of one billion dollars in film/TV residuals since their inception in 1952 - Animation Strike (June 15 - July 24, 1987) - Writers Guild strike (March 7 -August 8), 1988 - Patty Duke resigns Guild presidency June 15, 1988 - actress Rebecca Schaeffer murdered July 18, 1988, leading to the Guild's push for privacy legislation - SAG regains partial jurisdiction over Hollywood extras, 1990 - In 1992, Guild regains remaining jurisdiction over Hollywood extras, in wake of Screen Extras Guild's demise - SAG Foundation establishes BookPals program - 2 billion dollars in film/TVresiduals distributed since 1952.
Museum Square (1993-2012 merger, renamed SAG-AFTRA Plaza, 2015)
Museum Square (which opened in 1948 as the Prudential Building) just down the street from the famous La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It rises nine stories, plus a penthouse, and the Guild occupied space on three different floors. First Guild headquarters to be non-smoking. American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and a branch of the Actors' Equity Association had offices here as well. Important events: Northridge earthquake hits January 17, 1994 – Screen Actors Guild Awards show debuts – President Barry Gordon resigns – Guild website debuts in December 1996 – First SAG/AFTRA merger vote fails – Guild begins "Indie Outreach" program – digital film making begins – Guild changes most contract language from traditional term "extras" to "background actors" in June 1999 – incumbent SAG President Richard Masur defeated by challenger William Daniels – six-month Commercials Strike May - October 2000 – CastSAG debuts on internet – September 11 terrorist attacks - anthrax scare across USA – Robert Pisano begins Guild re-structuring - SAG national election rerun for President, Recording Secretary and Treasurer – new Agency Franchise agreement voted down by SAG membership – "Global Rule 1" goes into effect – Second merger vote defeated – 2003.