Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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Mary Pickford's Up in Arms Address

In 1944, Mary Pickford assisted Samuel Goldwyn in his showdown with the major studios (see chapter 7 excerpt from Hollywood Renegades). In Reno, Nevada, where Fox theaters dominated the district, SIMPP backed Goldwyn as he converted a ballroom into a makeshift theater. The opening of the film Up in Arms on August 22, 1944, became a national event. Several SIMPP members lent their support including Mary Pickford (who attended the Reno opening in person) and Walt Disney, James Cagney, and Orson Welles who sent out telegrams that became press releases. Below is the complete text of Mary Pickford's address that was carried live via radio. In the statement, she also reads from the telegram provided by Walt Disney.

Mary Pickford in 1929, recipient of one of the earliest Oscars for Coquette. (Aberdeen collection). 

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The El Patio Ballroom, Reno - August 22, 1944.

Good evening I am proud to be here tonight to represent two most worthwhile causes, first, the benefits for the camp and hospital service committee of Reno, secondly, to take my stand for independence and freedom from the dictates of a picture theatre monopoly. When Mr. Samuel Goldwyn telephoned me I dropped my personal business for the time being in order to be here tonight, well knowing the vital importance of this issue of monopoly, an issue not only vital to Mr. Goldwyn and all independent producers but to the future advancement of the American motion picture industry itself.

I have known Samuel Goldwyn the better part of my life as a man of high purpose, of great courage, a producer of artistic integrity. It is such men as Samuel Goldwyn whose vision, courage and inspiration has led and emanated the motion picture from the obscurity of the Nickelodeon era up to the great and dignified medium of entertainment which it is today. To produce the film Up In Arms Mr. Goldwyn spent a whole year of intensive work and two and a half million dollars of his own; that is a lot of time and very great deal of money but to what avail? Only to be told upon the completion of a year’s work and expenditure of two and one-half million dollars that he shall not be permitted to show his picture but dictated by a theater monopoly. I would prefer and in this I am assured you would agree to sit on a wooden chair, a wooden bench, or even on the floor to see a fine film than to rest upon plush covered opera chairs and to be forced to witness a dull, stupid film in the most elaborate movie palace in the country. No, my friends all the grandeur of the finest theater does not make nor mar a great film. Bricks, mortar, plush and soft lights are empty things without fine entertainment which commemorates the very living soul of the theater.

We are making history here tonight, you, Mr. Goldwyn and I, for we are taking our stand from our inalienable rights for free enterprise and a free America to see to it that no man, group, combine nor monopoly shall dictate where, when or how we shall show our picture.

Danny Kaye in Up In Arms (1944) - Movie still from the famous "Lobby Number" sequence, a satire of musical films, one of the longest comedy routines of its kind, written by Kaye's wife Sylvia Fine and Max Liebman. (Aberdeen collection). 

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Our boys, American boys, this very night on the four corners of the earth are fighting and dying in order to protect Democracy and the American way of life. Shall we here at home fail them? Shall we permit the American way of life to perish here in the United States while our men are fighting for that same God given right in every part of the world? Certainly not, so I say it is not merely whether this one or a dozen of Mr. Goldwyn’s pictures do, or do not play in Reno or for that matter in the entire state of Nevada. It is rather the question whether he and I or other Americans are to be given an opportunity to carry on our lives and our business openly, honestly and fairly.

There are a number of wires that have come to us, too numerous to read here, so I shall read just this one from an author whom you all know, respect and love. It is Walt Disney, one of the outstanding independent producers of the motion picture industry. It is an indication of how the creative workers of Hollywood feel about monopoly and I quote, ‘Samuel Goldwyn, Riverside Hotel, Reno, Nevada, I heartily endorse your efforts to carry directly to the people of Reno and indirectly to the American public the question whether the motion picture industry as an industry should continue to exist under American competition principles or be throttled by monopolistic restrictions and limitations. When the channels of motion picture reach the public are restricted or blocked it behooves all of us who are charged with responsibility to the public for the industry to break down these barriers. Impending world competition which will be based on low cost and fostered by forming governmental endowment franchise and tariffs make it imperative that our American products at least in our own country be permitted to operate without artificial obstacles being thrown in its path by selfish interest. The American picture must continue to receive returns, commensurate with the large costs and the better living standards of the people who make them. Our government has recognized the importance of American films as political and commercial assets in foreign relations for America, to lose its leadership in motion pictures would be a blow to all American industry and to our public relations. The motion picture industry and in time the American public will acknowledge and appreciate yours, Sam, your courage and foresight, regards, Walt Disney.’ This is Mary Pickford, good night and thank you.



Transcription from radio station KEO, FBI report, October 19, 1944, Salt Lake City, FBI 60-86—see
Trethewey, Walt Disney: The FBI Files, pp. 117-120.

See Bibliography.

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