Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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James A. Mulvey - SIMPP Executive

President of Samuel Goldwyn Inc.

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen


SIMPP executive secretary John Flinn had been put in charge of a newly-expanded Hollywood base of operations. Unfortunately Flinn died unexpectedly in 1946, leaving his duties to be filled by several emerging figures in the Society. Flinn's actual position was occupied by a new secretary Marvin L. Faris. However, many of the executive responsibilities were assumed by representatives of the leading producers-specifically two key delegates: James Mulvey, president of Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., and Gunther Lessing, vice president of Walt Disney Productions.

James Mulvey

James A. Mulvey had been with Sam Goldwyn from the inception of his independent production company in the early 1920s, and over the years became Goldwyn's most trusted business confidant. Before Goldwyn, Mulvey worked for the old Boston & Westchester Railroad in New York, then moved to Price-Waterhouse where he served as an accountant to movie client Sam Goldwyn. When Goldwyn went independent in 1922, he hired Mulvey to run his New York office to enable the producer to became a hands-on filmmaker on the west coast. Mulvey preferred anonymity, and rejected generous offers to become a high-ranking executive at several major studios. He remained as president of Samuel Goldwyn Productions (later Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.) for over four decades. In what was essentially a privately-held company, Goldwyn took exception to his rule of never taking on partners, and gave Mulvey a five and a fraction percentage ownership of his independent studio. James Mulvey, who specialized in distribution, was frequently consulted by his colleagues on complex industry issues, making him ideally suited for the collaborative interests of SIMPP.

Both James Mulvey and Gunther Lessing became important leaders of the Society. Mulvey would demonstrate his resourcefulness as a negotiator representing the independent producers in many of the foreign territorial disputes over quotas, while on the legal front, Lessing would stimulate the Society's antitrust agenda. As Mulvey and Lessing's influence grew, it also illustrated the prominence of the two most important SIMPP members, Goldwyn and Disney.


Exit from SIMPP

After Goldwyn exited SIMPP in 1955, James A. Mulvey also relinquished his responsibilities from the Society. Then in 1960 Mulvey resigned from Samuel Goldwyn Productions to form a joint venture with a Canadian theater circuit to distribute foreign films with big-budget advertising campaigns. He had also taken an active interest in the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball franchise, serving as vice president since 1937. He became part owner of the team, and helped manage the Dodgers move to Los Angeles.

Goldwyn had a difficult time reclaiming the 5 percent interest Mulvey held in the Samuel Goldwyn film company. When litigation ensued between Goldwyn and Mulvey, the incident became a blunt reminder to Goldwyn why he had always resisted taking on partners over the years. Mulvey made the ironic accusation that Goldwyn had sold his films to television in a block sale that diluted the value of Mulvey's stock just when Goldwyn came to reclaim the shares. The court dismissed the block booking antitrust claim against Goldwyn, but awarded a $1 million settlement to Mulvey in 1972. He and Goldwyn instead settled in undisclosed terms out of court shortly before Mulvey died in December 1973.


SOURCES:

Death of John Flinn: Mary Pickford to Courtney A. Flinn, 1946, MPC.

James A. Mulvey biographical information: "Mulvey Luncheon Marks 30 Years With Goldwyn," MPH, April 25, 1953; "James A. Mulvey, Retired Goldwyn Co. Prez, Dies in Fla.," DV, December 4, 1973, pp. 1, 9; Thomas M. Prior, "James Mulvey, 74, Dies In Fla., Goldwyn Partner & Litigant," Variety, December 5, 1973, pp. 4, 28.

Mulvey versus Goldwyn: “Mulvey Heads New Company With Canadian Group; Hutner in Setup,” HR, October 17, 1960; “Court Dismisses Antitrust Angle, Orders Mulvey Suit vs. Goldwyn To Trial,” DV, January 8, 1969, pp. 1, 8; “Similar Elements In Mulvey-Goldwyn Suit,” DV, October 24, 1979; also Berg, Goldwyn, pp. 501-502.

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