Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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Ellis G. Arnall

Former Governor of Georgia Becomes Spokesman for the Independent Movement in Hollywood

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, Edward Small, 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.”

Facsimile 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 the people.”

Ellis Arnall would lead the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers through a period a great expansion, and radical change in the industry.


SOURCES:

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. 

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