Ellis G. Arnall
Former Governor of Georgia Becomes Spokesman for the Independent Movement in
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen
Throughout 1948, the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers operated
without a president, this following the departure of Donald M. Nelson in late
1947. The administration of SIMPP had been handled
by the executive committee consisting of Sol Lesser, Roy Disney,
Marvin A. Ezzell (of Samuel Goldwyn Productions), Daniel T. O'Shea (representing
Selznick's Vanguard), Earl Rettig (from Rainbow
Productions), and George Bagnall
(the vice president of United Artists).
The division of responsibilities created confusion. Following a
confrontation between SIMPP's James Mulvey and the MPAA president Eric
Johnston, Mulvey traveled from New York, arriving in Hollywood on November 15.
In a week-long conference with Sam Goldwyn, the two of them prepared to convince
the independent members to take swift action in electing a new president.
During that same time, they sent SIMPP counsel Robert Rubin to Georgia on
official business. In Georgia there was a potential candidate for the SIMPP
presidency-a young, progressive leader who gained a reputation as a great
trustbuster as state attorney general and as governor. Rubin had just spent five
weeks in Washington, D.C. representing SIMPP in the Paramount case, and
witnessed the harbinger of studio disintegration, the RKO divorcement decree, in
October. More certain about the end of the studio system, SIMPP believed that a
monopoly-busting Society president would help their antitrust ambitions gain
momentum. On Rubin's trip to the south, he was instructed to gage the interest
of the secret SIMPP candidate whose experience seemed fitting for the
independent film movement.
At a SIMPP meeting in Hollywood on November 18, attended by the big three
SIMPP producers David O. Selznick, Samuel
Goldwyn, and Walt Disney, the SIMPP
executive committee issued a public statement that the Society of Independent
Motion Picture Producers was interested in enlisting the services of Ellis Gibbs
Arnall, the former governor of Georgia, in an unspecified capacity that would
take advantage of his “wide experience in antitrust prosecution.”
photo which appeared in the national and trade papers when Arnall
became the president of SIMPP. From left to right, Walt Disney,
Arnall, Mary Pickford, Sam Goldwyn, and Walter Wanger.
Arnall arrived in Los Angeles on December 12, 1948 to attend a SIMPP dinner
meeting at Perino's restaurant that evening. Mary
Pickford, Edward Small, Walt
Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Charles R. Rogers, Benedict
Bogeaus, George Bagnall, Dan
O'Shea, William Cagney, and Marvin Ezzell were among those in attendance at the
meeting where Arnall was unanimously elected as the new SIMPP president. The
executive committee formed a welcome wagon consisting of Sam Goldwyn, David
Selznick, and Walt Disney to personally extend the offer to Arnall.
At a press conference the following day, Ellis Arnall called the Hollywood
antitrust fight “the greatest fight raging in this country today.” He echoed
the SIMPP message from the past few years that after a victory in world war, it
would be a tragedy to allow studio monopolies to dictate what movies the
American public would see.
“Hollywood has a certain amount of glamour,” Arnall admitted to the SIMPP
members, “and through that we can take the fight to the public so they can
understand it. When the public understands monopolies are holding up better
products, monopolies are going to have real resistance from the Government and
Ellis Arnall would lead the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers
through a period a great expansion, and radical change in the industry.
The SIMPP Executive Committee in 1948: “'Freedom of
Enterprise' To Be SIMPP Goal In New Setup,” HR, January 22, 1948.
Mulvey addresses SIMPP regarding leadership: “Mulvey To Spur
SIMPP To Action,” DV, November 15, 1948, pp. 1, 9.
SIMPP meeting with Arnall, November 18, 1948: “Producers
Confer With Ellis Arnall,” LAT, November 19, 1948, p. 24.
Arnall chosen as SIMPP president: “Arnall Is Elected To High
Film Post,” NYT, December 13, 1948, p. 18; “Arnall Gets Film Post,”
Los Angeles Examiner, December 13, 1948, p. 3.
Arnall press conference, December 13, 1948-“the greatest
fight raging”, “Hollywood has a certain”: “Arnall Pledges War Against
'Monopoly',” Los Angeles Examiner, December 14, 1948. Also see
“Arnall To Fight Film Monopolies,” NYT, December 14, 1948.