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SIMPP Divided: Goldwyn Leaves the Society

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.

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)

 


SOURCES:

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, 4.

See Bibliography.

 

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