Tuesday, February 14, 2012
TEAPOT TEMPESTS IN HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood, Cal., May 8
The year 1932 may go down in cinematic history as the Year of the Rebellion. Revolt after revolt has been staged, with more failures checked against the insurgents than victories. Most of the insurrections have been of a personal nature, some of a mass.
Of the latter, that of the screen writers is regarded as the most important.
After some months of arguing and conferring, the writers this week succeeded in securing from the producers a “code of practice” regulating the terms of employment of free lance writers and screen credits for the authors.
The scenarists believe that they won; the producers say the studios were beaten, observers feel that the concessions made by the companies were so slight as to be worth little.
Under the agreement, writers who have worked for ten weeks at less than $500 a week must receive a week's notice of termination of employment; where more than two writers have worked on a story, they may decide among themselves who is to get the credit and that credit must appear in dignified and important fashion on the screen.
These two concessions were worked out by a committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The inside story seems to be that when the negotiations were first started the studios which had always refused to deal with the writers were reluctant to do so at this time, but under implied threats that the authors would withdraw from the academy, virtually the companies' union, and affiliate with the Screen Writers' Guild, a branch of the Authors' League, the producers agreed to discuss the matter.
The producers were represented by B. P. Schulberg and Irving Thalberg, and at this week's meeting the picture they painted of the future was none too bright. They declared the industry was in a critical condition, that better stories must be found, that talent's benefit from the industry is many times greater than capital's.
But through it all, the authors seemed to feel that, as the agreement meant nothing financially to the studios, much ado was being made about comparatively nothing.
However, the evening was brightened by Mr. Schulberg's remark that the writers were very thoughtless in making their demands at a time when all the ability of the industry was being centered on “making the world safe for von Sternberg.”
The producers were defeated in another case, however, when the member branches of the academy rejected a “code of practice” governing the studios' relations with technical help. The technical men, having somewhat of a union attitude, were more rebellious than the writers and they have thrown their controversy back into discussion with a chance of getting what they want.
A personal rebellion and victory is that of Clarence Brown, MGM director. For years, Mr. Brown has been regarded as the “safe and sane” director of the lot. He has been more consistent with successes and has taken a number of pictures which were shelved and made them screenable. “This Modern Age” is the most noticeable example. The picture and story gathered dust around the studio for two years when he resurrected it, reshot some scenes, recut and turned out a money-maker.
When “Grand Hotel” went to another director, Mr. Brown was secretly annoyed. It was the plum of the year, and he felt he should have had it.
When the director’s contract came up this week he declined to sign until certain concessions were made. And at a time when nearly all renewed contracts are being written at a substantially reduced figure, Mr. Brown demanded and got a most satisfactory increase.
At the same studio Clark Gable has staged two insurrections in the past year and has been successful in both.
Ruth Chatterton left Paramount in a spirit of rebellion and got all she asked for at Warner Brothers, including the absolute choice of her stories.
Barbara Stanwyck lost to Columbia. Edmund Lowe lost to Fox in a salary controversy. Janet Gaynor won her war for sophisticated parts on the same lot. Gary Cooper beat Paramount on more money and fewer pictures, as did Dick Arlen.
Three of the current losers are James Cagney, Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich.
Mr. Cagney gets $1000 a week and is admittedly the biggest attraction on the Warner lot. He told the studio that, as he was making the most money for the company, he thought his salary an injustice when two other stars whose drawing power is less were each getting $7000.
The studio declined to see the logic of his position and he has been suspended. Under the producers’ agreement, he cannot work elsewhere.
Most of the arguments between artists and producers are of a deadly nature.
It remained for Arthur Caesar to laugh his way off the Warner lot, however. When his contract came up for renewal, they asked him to take a cut. When he refused the executives told him that he did not show the proper spirit , that he should cooperate.
“Cooperate?” yelled Arthur, “Can you cooperate with an electric chair?” The next day he was under contract to Paramount.
Warners have announced they are to star Warren William, following his performance in “The Mouthpiece.” His first picture is to be a story based on the life of Ivar Kreuger, as yet untitled.
Studios are following the news these days. This is but one example. Within a week after the Kreuger suicide and financial crash, RKO received one hundred stories based on press dispatches.
The Lindbergh kidnapping brought a deluge to every studio. They are still fighting off stories on the Olympic Games, and Boulder Dam has brought dozens.
With much flitting and conferring, Clara Bow has been signed by Fox, and after her first story, “Call Her Savage,” was announced, A. C. Blumenthal wired from New York in an attempt to get her for “Child of Manhattan,” claiming it would be a better vehicle for a come-back.
Fox is reported to have declined to loan her.
The cast of “Red Headed Woman,” the Catherine Bush story, has been chosen at last by MGM.
Jean Harlow, as predicted, is in the title role, while Chester Morris is Bill Jr. and Lewis Stone is the father. Leila Hyams is Irene, Una Merkel is Sally, May Robson and Charles Boyer complete the principals.
On the same lot “Good Time Girl” is announced as the next Marion Davies picture, an original by Frances Marion, with dialogue by Anita Loos and direction by Edmund Goulding, his first since “Grand Hotel.”