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Goldwyn's Antitrust Warpath (After SIMPP)

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen


Sam Goldwyn, during his anti-trust battles in the 1930s and 40s. (Aberdeen collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click here.

Sam Goldwyn had already begun to reassert his individuality on the antitrust front. He waged his own civil suit against his archenemy Fox West Coast—this time without SIMPP. He filed the Fox West Coast case in San Francisco in May 1950, when the Detroit suit was stalled by the deposition requirement.

Some of the problems with the Fox theater chain had gone back years before. For instance in the late 1920s, the independent producers opposed the monopoly of Fox's notorious West Coast Theatres circuit that dominated the Pacific states. On November 6, 1930, Joe Schenck and Sam Goldwyn issued a statement signed by the United Artists compatriots Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, D. W. Griffith, and Ronald Coleman. They denounced the Fox West Coast monopoly as "greedy and short-sighted." Fox responded by boycotting all United Artists films, therefore cutting the independents out of many zones. Goldwyn publicly threatened to show his movies "in halls and armories" rather than give in to Fox. When the United Artists theaters began an aggressive expansion in areas of California, Fox settled with the independents in 1931.

In the early 1940s, when SIMPP helped Goldwyn fight the Fox theaters in the west by staging a showdown in Reno, the action promted an FBI investigation of the Fox practices.

In the later 1950s suit, Goldwyn claimed that Twentieth Century-Fox, Fox West Coast Theatres, National Theatres, Charles P. Skouras, and several affiliated circuits including T. & D. Junior Enterprises had intentionally discriminated against independently-produced films, and he sought compensation for years of perceived oppression.

Cecil B. DeMille, who operated as an independent studio and semi-independent production company at Paramount. (Aberdeen collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click here.

Early on, the case transpired much like the Detroit suit. There were delays before the trial. Also the defendants were then in a state of flux as Twentieth Century-Fox completed its divestiture and Charles Skouras passed away. Likewise, as in Detroit, the suit was inhibited by statute of limitations problems that forced Goldwyn to scale back his suit from 28 films (treble damages of $6.75 million) to only seven films (seeking $1.75 million). Goldwyn was represented by Joseph L. Alioto, one of the triumvirate of SIMPP attorneys in the Detroit case, who would later become mayor of San Francisco. After the demise of the SIMPP Detroit lawsuit, Goldwyn revived his Fox West Coast case, and headed to pre-trial in September 1954.

The suit attracted attention off and on for several years. It was like the good-old antitrust days—the independent producer accusing the theater monopoly of eliminating competition by threatening to build on adjacent lots, price-fixing, and over-buying films which they never intended to show. Goldwyn gobbled up headlines when he brought in high-profile character witnesses on his behalf, including Mary Pickford and Cecil B. DeMille. James Mulvey became one of the heroes of the trial when he contributed his first-hand distribution information that turned the case in favor of Goldwyn. Eleven years into the suit, the decision finally came on May 5, 1961, and the judge awarded Goldwyn $300,000 in damages.

The 1963 demolition of the Fox Theatre in San Francisco. Built in 1929 as the western showplace for the Fox empire, the famous facade of the "Fabulous Fox" theater was declared "irreplacable" by preservationists who failed to save the movie palace. 

 

SOURCES:

United Artists Theatre Circuit and the battle with Fox West Coast: “Movie Stars Fight Fox Chain in West,” NYT, November 7, 1930, p. 32; “Fox Replies to Artists,” NYT, November 8, 1930, pp. 8; also see Balio, pp. 64-65, 113.

Goldwyn versus Fox West Coast—suit filed: "$6,750,000 Is Asked by Goldwyn in Suit," NYT, May 17, 1950, p. 35; delayed by depositions: "Goldwyn Gains in Theatre Suit," NYT, February 26, 1955, p. 13; statute of limitations: "Antitrust Trial on Fox Films Is On," NYT, July 11, 1957, p. 21; "Goldwyn Loss on Films Told at Antitrust Trial," LAT, July 11, 1957; Skouras stock deal: Thomas M. Prior, "Hollywood in Court," NYT, July 14, 1957, sec. II, p. 5; appearances from Pickford and DeMille: Lawrence E. Davies, "Mary Pickford Stars for Goldwyn in Suit Against Fox Film Interests," NYT, August 8, 1957, p. 25, and "DeMille Lauds Goldwyn," NYT, September 18, 1957, p. 37; "Sam Goldwyn Appears Briefly In Trust Suit," Hollywood Citizen-News, November 19, 1957; "Film Trust Trial Ends First Phase," NYT, November 21, 1957, p. 38; Marx, Goldwyn, pp. 331-333; Berg, Goldwyn, p. 387.

See Bibliography.

 

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