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Directors Guild milestones

The DGA has always worn its politics on its sleeve. The following milestones are just a few examples.

1936 Screen Directors Guild is founded, and King Vidor, in whose home helmers had met and hatched the idea for the org a year earlier, is its first prexy.

1937 Assistant directors admitted into guild for the first time, including Mexican-American Francisco (Chico) Day, the first Latino on its rolls.

1938 Dorothy Arzner is the first woman member admitted. She’d remain the sole distaff member until the 1950 induction of Ida Lupino.

1941-45 Several helmers film docus to aid the effort in World War II, including Frank Capra, John Ford and William Wyler.

1945 The autonomous Directors Guild Foundation is formed, with a first donation of $25,000 from helmer Leo McCarey. At first mainly a fund to help members through economic rough times with no-interest loans, it evolved to include donations to educational programs and special philanthropic projects.

1948 SDG member Edward Dmytryk is one of the Hollywood Ten who are imprisoned on charges of having ties to the Communist Party by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

1950 The SDG holds a special meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel meeting, in which the guild votes down board member Cecil B. DeMille’s move to oust prexy Joseph Mankiewicz, who refused to go along with DeMille’s push to have the guild actively report on communist sympathizers. DeMille and his board resign after several hours of heated debate, stilled when one helmer — declaring, “My name is John Ford. I make Westerns.” — says the org has little choice but to stick by Mankiewicz, who retains the presidency.

Robert Rossen’s profile of a corrupt political demagogue, “All the King’s Men,” wins the SDG’s second annual award for best film.

1955 Elia Kazan, director of “On the Waterfront,” which focuses on the fight between dock workers and their corrupt union, wins the guild’s annual award.

1960 With the merger of the SDG and the Radio and Television Directors Guild, the org is rechristened the Directors Guild of America.

Stage managers Wendell Franklin and Frederick Lights are among first African-American members of the org.

1964 Creative Rights Negotiation Committee formed –defining the “director’s cut” and mandating the helmer’s name be the final credit on pic’s main title scroll.

1966 The U.S. Court of Appeals voids the guild’s blacklist-era loyalty oath as “inherently vague.”

1969 The DGA creates the credit name “Allen Smithee” to allow helmers whose creative vision are overly compromised the option of declining credit. Smithee’s film debut: “Death of a Gunfighter.”

1970 Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras is among the DGA nominees for “Z,” a political thriller about the 1963 assassination of a Greek liberal activist.

1971 The guild coordinates with its USSR counterpart to participate in a cultural exchange in which helmers from each org visit the other’s nation.

1976 The Special Projects Committee spotlights film’s cultural and educational sides.

1980 The Women’s Steering and Ethnic Minority committees are formed.

The DGA files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over what it termed discriminatory hiring practices by the studios.

1982 Warren Beatty’s “Reds,” about U.S. communist journalist John Reed and the radical American left subculture of the early 20th century, wins the guild award.

1983 DGA sues Warners, Columbia studios over discriminating hiring practices. The suits are thrown out in 1985.

1986 With Hal Roach Studios and Turner Broadcasting beginning to tint B&W pics, the guild’s board votes unanimously to protest colorization. John Huston describes the process as “mindless insipidity.”

1987 The DGA goes on strike for the first and only time … and it lasts a little over three hours. Since then, it has opted for early talks ahead of contract expiration.

Oliver Stone’s warts-and-all Vietnam War drama, “Platoon,” wins the DGA top prize.

1988 With the guild as one of its main proponents, the National Film Preservation Act is passed on Capitol Hill, acknowledging the creative rights of filmmakers and creating a board to select 25 pics a year for a national film registry.

1989 Elliot Silverstein, heading a DGA committee lobbying Congress for a moral rights bill for filmmakers, applauds a Copyright Office report endorsing creative-rights protection.

1990 Stone’s biopic of Vietnam War veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic, “Born on the Fourth of July,” wins the DGA’s top honor.

1991 DGA Latino Commission formed.

DGA joins the Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America West, American Society of Cinematographers and other guilds in forming the Artists Rights Foundation to inform the public about the importance of film preservation and restoration.

1992 Barbara Kopple’s “American Dream,” a documentary about a labor battle in Minnesota, wins the guild’s first feature documentary helming award.

1994 First annual John Huston Award for Artists Rights awarded to Fred Zinnemann.

1996 The guild gains the right of directors to oversee TV, video, airline and overseas edits of their pics.

1997 The DGA joins with the WGA, SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists for a joint apology for behavior during the blacklist era.

Veteran TV director Bruce Paltrow (“St. Elsewhere”), and “ER” executive producers John Wells and Christopher Chulack win the guild’s inaugural Diversity Awards for their efforts in employing women and minorities.

1998 The DGA holds its first Diversity Summit, bringing top industry executives and directors together to discuss the employment situation facing women and minorities

1999 The DGA and the Screen Actors Guild release the results of a study on runaway production, estimating that $2.8 billion worth of filmmaking business left the U.S. over the last year.

The guild drops D.W. Griffith Award for career achievement due to the helmer’s racially insensitive characterizations; the laurel is now called the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award.

2000 The guild’s Asian-American steering committee is formed.

2001 The DGA averts a strike by approving a pact with the studios. Unresolved, however, is a conflict over the helmers’ possessory credit between the DGA and the WGA.

The DGA participates in a meeting between White House representatives and Hollywood leaders about the industry’s potential role during the war on terrorism.

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