SIMPP Divided: Goldwyn Leaves the Society
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen
Goldwyn, during his anti-trust battles in the 1930s and 40s. (Aberdeen
collection). To purchase Aberdeen photos for reprint purposes click
As the Detroit lawsuit began in 1948,
both Sam Goldwyn and Walt
Disney planned to use the case as a springboard to other
antitrust suits. In 1954, even though the case itself was not considered a
complete loss for the independents, the results came as a disappointment,
particularly to Goldwyn. The Detroit suit did not provide Goldwyn with the swift
and definitive precedent that he was looking for. The outcome, along with other
recent events, signified that Walt Disney, who was rapidly becoming the most
prolific independent in the industry, was also taking a dominant position in the
administration of SIMPP affairs.
CLICK HERE to read about the outcome of
the Detroit lawsuit (see Disneyland article)
Walt Disney vs. Kirk Douglas
For example, SIMPP supported Walt Disney in a personal dispute between Disney
and actor Kirk Douglas which erupted in court in 1956. After Disneyland opened,
Douglas was surprised to see 16-millimeter footage of himself and his family,
photographed at the Disney home by Walt himself, broadcast on a Disney
promotional television program. Then Douglas surprised Disney by filing an
astronomical $415,000 lawsuit which became a courtroom showdown of
freedom-of-expression versus right-of-privacy.
Following what he considered an unfavorable ruling in Los Angeles Superior
Court, Gunther Lessing issued a statement on
behalf of SIMPP which attacked the court opinion. The decision was later
overturned, and the suit was settled following a reconciliation between the
actor and the producer. The incident demonstrated, at least in appearance, how
the Society was becoming the bailiwick of the Disney interests, particularly
while Lessing held a key position as both SIMPP chairman and Walt Disney
Productions vice president.
Though the Kirk Douglas incident took place after Goldwyn resigned from SIMPP
(and in all likelihood Goldwyn agreed with Disney's position), he may have
already seen these trends toward a more Disney-centric independent organization,
and preferred not to remain a member. As reporter Alva Johnston wrote in the
1937 biography The Great Goldwyn, "He quickly gets out of anything
he can't boss."
The New Independent Movement
Moreover Goldwyn felt that independent production, like the Society itself,
had changed considerably since 1942, when only a small number of high-profile
producers were carving out a niche separate from the studios. Rather, as
independent production grew, fewer took the road Goldwyn had blazed as his own
financier and copyright holder. Of course, part of this was the inability of
SIMPP to adapt to the new trends in independent production. Furthermore, because
SIMPP dues were tabulated from box office profits, the majority of the Society
revenue was supplied by the busiest producers like Goldwyn and Disney, leaving
Goldwyn to wonder whether his membership was providing him with ample benefit.
Goldwyn Leaves SIMPP
On February 8, 1955 Samuel Goldwyn resigned from SIMPP, leaving Walt Disney
by far the most active founding member. Goldwyn, who did not publicly announce
his withdrawal until May, stated that changes in the structure of the industry
had narrowed the Society's purpose. His statement was a courteous way of saying
that though independent production had grown since the
Paramount verdict, the Society no longer embodied the spirit for
which the founders had designed it.
"The SIMPP has served a fine function over the years," Goldwyn
said. "However, in recent years many of the independent producers who were
among its original members have left the SIMPP and a large part of independent
production is being financed by major companies. As a result, the SIMPP's area
of activities has become quite limited. In view of these conditions, I felt
there was no longer the purpose to be served by the SIMPP which formerly
existed, and therefore on February 8 I submitted my resignation."
Walt Disney continued to be the dominant force behind SIMPP. But within a few
years, the Society would curtain its activities and ultimately become part of
Walt Disney Productions.
Also see Goldwyn's
Antitrust Warpath (After SIMPP)
Douglas versus Disney: "SIMPP Statement Attacks Ruling in
Douglas-Disney Suit," HR, December 11, 1956; also see Tytle, One
of "Walt's Boys," pp. 119-121, and Farber and Green, Hollywood
Dynasties, p. 210.
"He quickly gets out": Johnston, The Great
Goldwyn, pp. 35.
Goldwyn resigns from SIMPP: "Goldwyn Leaves Producers
Group," NYT, May 11, 1955, p. 35. "The SIMPP has served":
"Goldwyn Explains SIMPP Resignation," HR, May 11, 1955, p. 1.
Also see "Goldwyn Resigns From SIMPP," DV, May 11, 1955, pp. 1,