Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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The Formation of the Society (1941 & 1942)

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers had its origins in the great antitrust battle between the U.S. government and the large Hollywood studios which enveloped the industry in the late 1930s (see the Paramount case). Though most of the independent producers distributed their films through the Big Eight studios, the independents opposed the studio monopolies, and joined the side of the Justice Department in attacking the majors. The independent producers joined together to fight the studios collectively, and to use the society to help secure a place for independents in an industry dominated by big business.

When the government temporarily called off the antitrust suit in 1940, the independents decided to join together. The unification of the independent producers in Hollywood had been rumored several times since 1940 when the government's consent decree took effect. Whenever any of the prominent producers were queried about their plans to organize their own trade organization, they admitted only that such an alliance was "under discussion." The Society began to take shape in secrecy throughout 1941.

The First President of SIMPP

The independent producers decided to organize SIMPP much like the other prominent film trade organizations by selecting a non-filmmaker as president and spokesman. The independents chose Loyd Wright, a prominent Los Angeles attorney who was well-known in the independent community. Wright served as Chaplin's lawyer since the 1920s, and even represented Mary Pickford in her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks in the mid 1930s. Other clients of his included D. W. Griffith, David O. Selznick, and Frank Capra. He served on the board of directors for Selznick International Pictures and the United Artists Corporation, among others.

The executive secretary of the early independent society was James Allen, previously the public relations head of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was known for his extensive knowledge and contacts in Washington, D.C., appropriate to the antitrust agenda of the independents. Actually Allen only served a short time with SIMPP before he was released in 1942 to assume an important wartime position as the assistant to the chief of the motion picture bureau of the Office of War Information, Lowell Mellett (the government censorship liaison sarcastically called "the United States Ambassador to Hollywood").

The Original Members

Financial records of the Society indicated that the group was active by at least the summer of 1941. On September 2, Wright paid a $2.00 filing fee to register the name of the Society with the California Secretary of State. Founding member Walter Wanger personally advanced James Allen expenses for the Society beginning September 5, 1941. Walt Disney contributing the first of the Society's dues in the month of November.

Seven producers signed the original articles, Charles Chaplin, Walt Disney, Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda, Mary Pickford, David O. Selznick, and Walter Wanger. The organizational structure and other policies were settled during a weekend lunch-time meeting on December 20 at Perino's, a Hollywood restaurant that became a regular SIMPP meeting place. All of this was done without the general knowledge of the rest of the industry.

Early in 1942 they began to review the membership of other producers. At a meeting on January 20, they considered the invitation of two producer-directors who both seemed agreeable to the Society. The first was young Orson Welles, who had several intriguing follow-up projects to Citizen Kane (1941) in the works, making his Mercury Productions one of the most auspicious new independent production companies in the business. The other SIMPP applicant, the veteran filmmaker Frank Lloyd was the modest and well-liked director of Cavalcade (1933) and Mutiny of the Bounty (1935). He had headed his own production unit at Paramount, but since 1939 acted as a freelance producer. The previous November, Selznick had loaned out his contract director Alfred Hitchcock to Lloyd who produced the espionage thriller Saboteur (1942) at Universal. Welles decided to join the organization, but, for unknown reasons, Frank Lloyd never became a part of SIMPP—leaving the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers with eight founding producer-members.

The News Leaks

Not yet incorporated, the Society waited to announce the formation of the group. However, the news of the Society was leaked to the trade press, without the knowledge of Wright or Allen, and published in the Hollywood Reporter on January 23, 1942. Taken from an undisclosed source, the article contained misinformation about the unnamed organization, and even gave a list of members which included those who were not affiliated with the group—including Frank Lloyd, Frank Capra who was already committed in wartime service, and Edward Small who would not join SIMPP for another year. Loyd Wright telegraphed the independent producers the same day of the Reporter story. He proposed accelerating plans for incorporation, and to have James Allen announce the formation the next week.

The Announcement Is Made

When the announcement was made in Hollywood, James Allen released a lengthy statement detailing the reasons why the organization was formed—to "strengthen and protect the role and function of the independent producer of motion pictures." Their primary purpose was to protect freedom of the screen "that the motion picture shall be maintained as a force for good and as an integral part of a democratic society." They vowed to publicize issues that affected the audience members, and put pressure on the Justice Department to step in when necessary. During the press conference, SIMPP discussed some of the ways in which the independents had been disadvantaged in the industry.

To clarify misleading press reports, the SIMPP announcement claimed that the intent was not "to create a minority or opposition group within the industry," but rather "to cooperate with other motion picture groups and through which me may make our own contributions to sound and healthy progress." Nevertheless, SIMPP was the only significant trade organization to oppose UMPI's Unity Plan, and was widely regarded as a potential troublemaker from the start. In an ironic twist, the Hollywood Reporter story broke during the Motion Picture Industry Conference, so that when the formation of UMPI made trade headlines on January 23, they shared the front page of the Reporter with the headline "Top Indie Producers in Setup, Organize Away From Hays Influence" along with its accompanying story about independent producers rising in collective opposition against the rest of the industry. The Society leaders were originally enraged by the news leak to the trade press, but the fortuitous timing could not have been better planned for the independents as the formation of SIMPP overshadowed the organization of UMPI.


Biographical information on Loyd Wright: "Loyd Wright" (obituary), Variety, October 30, 1974; Los Angeles Examiner, December 21, 1961; LAT, March 10, 1954.
James Allen: "Mellett Sets Allen Here," HR, February 4, 1942, p. 1.
SIMPP early history: Statement of Receipts and Disbursements of Society of Independent Motion Pictures, Handled By Loyd Wright From Inception of Society To Date, March 1, 1943, pp. 1-7, WWP.
Pre-SIMPP rumors mentioned: "Independent Producers Form an Association," Boxoffice, January 31, 1942.
Formation of SIMPP: Loyd Wright to Walter Wanger, telegram, December 16, 1941, WWP; "Film Producers Form Independent Society," NYT, January 29, 1942, p. 24; "Indie Producers Filing Org Papers, Wright Prez," DV, January 29, 1942, p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter scoop: "Top Indie Producers In Setup: Organizes Away From Hayes Influence; Loyd Wright Prez, Jim Allen in Washington," HR, January 23, 1942, pp. 1, 4.

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