1960: Labor issues heat up Hollywood

A look back at past labor disputes

March 7, 1960

GOOD MORNING: The Friday firings as major film studios brought this so-called town of make-believe into sharp focus as a city no different than a steeltown like Pittsburgh or an auto city like Detroit… We were on hand at 20th-Fox and Metro to view the futile feeling of film workers, the non-thesps who were pinkslipped. It was a sight that neither the striking actors nor major toppers would have liked in any script… As one vet specialist Artie Jacobson, unemployed because of the shutdown, said, “Where else do you look for a job as an expert breaking down scripts?”… The question most-asked was: “How long do you think it will last?” The answer: a settlement could be achieved immediately with compromise and mediation or — it could go on indefinitely… A very tired-looking Buddy Adler, rushing from his office to Spyros Skouras’, shook his head and said, “This may ruin us economically for years.”… As Metro wound up its production of “Cimarron” late Friday, Edmund Grainger said: “I feel awful — we’ve had our workers going day and night for weeks to help us finish the film before the strike deadline and now as we all achieve the deadline, we have to fire all these people who made it possible.”… In the 20th commissary everyone was required to pay cash for Friday lunch, no “charge-it” signatures were accepted. As for the thesps (in costume) who carried no cash, their lunch tabs were deducted from their checks immediately … The talent agencies were flooded Friday with calls from clients telling of their “suspension” notices with “force majeure” clauses being put into effect… The film departments of the tenpercenters were in meetings to plan sales during the strike period for indie package pacts. Irwin Allen, filming his “Lost World” at 20th, asked his attorneys to investigate the possibility of continuing production a la Frank Sinatra and George Sidney at WB and Col but discovered he could not do so … Ironic that Elvis Presley finally gets out of the Army — but now can’t resume his film career because of the strike. Eddie Cantor says: “They’re shouting from the rooftops, there’s joy in the U.S.A. Haven’t you heard? Elvis is back and Jessel’s away!” (2008 Update: Stay tuned for the federal mediator’s arrival in the latest SAG-studio wrangling.)

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