SAG Timeline: 1930's

SAG Timeline: 1930's


  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences adds 12-hour rest period to its contract for free lance film actors.


  • Great Depression continues to take its toll
  • "Efficiency experts" brought in by studios, actors salaries cut by as much as 50 percent.
  • Broadway hurt by Depression, even more stage actors come to Hollywood.
  • Variety slashes cover price from 25 cents to 15 cents.
  • Boris Karloff experiences hellish 25-hours straight shooting on Frankenstein and files complaint with Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
  • Ralph Morgan arrives in Hollywood under contract to Fox Films.


  • March 4: Franklin Delano Roosevelt begins first term as President and declares "Bank Holiday", closing all banks for several days.
  • March 7: Producers Association announces temporary salary cuts of 50% for studio employees-including actors. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences soon proposes sliding scale of cuts.
  • Six actors [Berton Churchill, Grant Mitchell, Ralph Morgan (all three members of Actors' Equity Council), Charles Miller (Actors' Equity's West Coast representative, Kenneth Thomson and his wife Alden Gay) meet in the Thomsons' Hollywood hills home to discuss formation of self-governing organization of film actors-membership would be open to all , as opposed to the "by invitation only" membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
  • Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) passed June 16, creating the National Recovery Administration (NRA).
  • June 30: SAG Articles of Incorporation filed. 21 actors become the Guild's first officers and Board of Directors, with Ralph Morgan as President.
  • Actor Ivan Simpson gives the Guild a motto: "He best serves himself who serves others."
  • Protests against provisions in NRA's proposed Motion Picture Code of Fair Competition result in mass exodus of stars from the Academy in October.
  • All officers, including President Ralph Morgan, and 2/3 of the SAG Board of Directors resign to allow bigger stars with "clout" to take as many Board seats as they will -- Morgan yields SAG presidency to Eddie Cantor, one of the most popular theatre, film and radio stars in the country.
  • FDR suspends objectionable provisions of this Code after persuasive visit from Cantor, who knows Roosevelt well.
  • Screen Actors Guild agrees to admit extras as members, but they will not be "voting members", primarily because the Guild believes their greater numbers would give them too much control over Guild matters.
  • First SAG newsletter, Screen Actors' News issued.
  • Geo. Raft, Warner Oland, Fredric March, Adolph Menjou, J. Cagney, Groucho Marx join Guild
  • July 10, 1933 - group application signed by 17 SAG founders
  • Mar. 8, 1933: the "50% cut"- catalyst for forming the Guild
  • NRA Code of Fair Competition for the Motion Picture Industry


  • SAG's first magazine, The Screen Player debuts.
  • SAG joins with Screen Writers Guild to jointly publish The Screen Guilds' Magazine.
  • Studios practice self-censorship through new enforcement of the 1930 Production Code
  • Certificates of approval now required for each film.
  • First Screen Actors Guild ball fundraiser a success.
  • Eddie Cantor, Richard Tucker, James Cagney, Boris Karloff, Ann Harding, Dick Powell and Mary Astor host SAG's 3-day "Film Stars Frolic" fundraiser in May-a failure, which wipes out the Guild treasury! Several stars, including Cantor, Cagney, Harding, Fredric March, and Robert Montgomery, loan the Guild the money to restore the funds.
  • SAG proposes Code of Fair Practices.
  • Actors' Equity surrenders its film jurisdiction to the Guild.


  • Guild granted an American Federation of Labor charter by the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (Four A's).
  • Membership passes 5,000.
  • Robert Montgomery succeeds Eddie Cantor as Guild President.
  • Monthly balloting by actors on "the outstanding work of their fellows" produces first Guild Awards for the "Best Performances of the Month", results published in SAG Magazine and winners are recognized at the Guild Balls at the Biltmore Bowl and Cocoanut Grove.


  • SAG boycotts the Oscars
  • Producer-dominated Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences denounced for "selling the actor down the river" by representing itself as a bargaining unit for talent; one year later, the Guild and the Academy work together to produce the first Academy Players Directory.


  • Negotiating Committee: Robert Montgomery, Aubrey Blair, Franchot Tone, Kenneth Thomson, and Guild attorney Laurence W. Beilenson
  • Screen Actors Guild recognized May 9 after thousands of stars, contract players and extras vote 96% to strike at midnight, May 10, if Guild not recognized.
  • Willie Bioff, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE) "Hollywood Representative" encourages movie moguls Louis B. Mayer and Joseph Schenck to accept Guild demands
  • President Montgomery declares Guild recognition "the victory of an ideal."Thirteen producers sign first SAG Contract, pay minimum $25 per day; $35 for stunts, $5.50 for extras, and portions of the 1935 contract of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences become part of the new SAG contract
  • SAG opens New York office June 21
  • American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA) founded with Eddie Cantor as first president
  • August: IATSE's Bioff puts pressure on President Montgomery to reinstate a suspended Guild member, Montgomery refuses, Bioff threatens him
  • September: Bioff announces IATSE intends to take over jurisdiction of all motion picture workers (including actors), and demands producers place IA "logo" on all motion pictures
  • Interim Labor Committee launches investigation of IATSE, Robert Montgomery testifies for the Guild.
  • 1937: Montgomery, Blair, Tone, Thomson announce Guild recognition
  • 1937: Schenck/Mayer letter recognizing Screen Actors Guild


  • Montgomery launches investigation of IATSE's Willie Bioff, which eventually unearths his criminal past.
  • Guild discusses merging all branches of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.
  • Ralph Morgan elected Guild President in September.
  • 1938: Board members Paul Harvey, Joan Crawford & Gloria Stuart
  • 1938: Pres. Robert Montgomery and Executive Secretary Kenneth Thomson


  • Through creation of the Screen Guild Theatre radio show (1939-1952), SAG members raise money for the Motion Picture Relief Fund to build a facility and hospital for actors in need.
  • IATSE International President George Browne and Willie Bioff, announce their second strong-arm attempt to take over all actor unions, after granting an IATSE charter to the American Federation of Actors. Takeover thwarted by Guild strike threat. IATSE's attempt results in increased motivation to merge the performer unions.
  • Guild enacts first Agency Regulations.
  • Sep. 1939: Guild newsletter announces battle with IATSE
  • August, 1939: exhausted Guild President Morgan explains battle with IATSE to reporters
  • Aug.1939 flyer announces meeting to discuss IATSE takeover threat
SAG Presidents