Screen Guild Radio Show

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History

Imagine Hollywood's biggest stars performing, week after week, for thirteen years-free of charge--to help fellow actors in need. This was the Screen Guild Theatre radio show's mission from 1939 to 1952. Each participating SAG member contributed his/her full salary to the Motion Picture Relief Fund (founded in 1921, and known today as the Motion Picture & Television Fund). Generally, the shows were radio versions of current or past theatrical films, frequently with all, or some, of the original cast. The debut show, on January 8, 1939, was simply a revue, hosted by SAG board member George Murphy, with Judy Garland, Jack Benny, Ralph Morgan (SAG President), Joan Crawford (SAG 2nd Vice-President), and Reginald Gardner. Later shows included Clark Gable in Red Dust, China Seas, Command Decision; Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in His Girl Friday; Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe and Sergeant York; Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Babes in Arms; Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon in Mrs. Miniver; Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year; Ronald Reagan and Wayne Morris in Brother Rat, and Humphrey Bogart in The Valiant and The Petrified Forest.



1942: SAG President James Cagney does Yankee Doodle Dandy

Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Roger Pryor examine Country House model

1941: Hersholt, Mary Pickford, Pereira at groundbreaking.


As explained in late 1938 by Jean Hersholt (SAG board member, and President of the Motion Picture Relief Fund), Ralph Morgan (SAG President) and Huntley Gordon (General Manager, Radio Department, of the Motion Picture Relief Fund), the program's purpose was: "...to raise enough money to build and maintain a home for the aged and needy who have given years of service to the motion picture industry."

To assure the success of this venture, we need the enthusiastic cooperation of all our people. For the first time in the history of our industry, its personnel in all branches are united in this great project: to erect a monument, through their unselfish and charitable efforts, for the benefit of their own people. This will stand not only for our own generation, but also for generations to come. Therefore, through your loyalty and enthusiasm, let it be an accomplishment of which each and every one of us will have the right to be eternally proud."

The dedication level could be inspiring: "William Powell was ordered to bed 24 hours before he was supposed to appear with Myrna Loy. Word went out for a substitute. Within an hour Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Fred MacMurray and James Stewart volunteered. Stewart got the job because he telephoned first. Ann Sothern rehearsed in the hospital and then played her role from a chair...Billie Burke broke her leg, but she came to the theatre in an ambulance, and read her script from a wheelchair."



1939: Nov. 17 Gulf Funny Weekly comic

1939: Nov. 24 Gulf Funny Weekly comic


The Guild's belief in "actors helping actors" was so strong that, on September 18, 1938, the following became the Guild's first "Rule 1": "It shall be compulsory for every Class A member to pay to the Guild for and on behalf of the Motion Picture Relief Fund an amount equal to one-half of one percent of such member's motion picture earnings, except from extra work." This remained Rule 1 for nearly 22 years, until 1960 when the pension & health plan was created.

During its thirteen-year run, the Screen Guild show raised 5.3 million dollars for the Fund. This went into purchasing land in the west San Fernando Valley, and building the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital, which opened in 1948.