SAG exec Dales dies at 95

Vet instrumental in guild's efforts to obtain residuals

Former Screen Actors Guild exec John L. “Jack” Dales, who was instrumental in the guild’s efforts to obtain residuals, died Thursday of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills. He was 95.

“Jack Dales was a Screen Actors Guild institution for over 35 years,” said SAG president Melissa Gilbert. “All actors owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his championing the creation and implementation of our television, theatrical and commercial residuals. His immeasurable contributions to the betterment of performers will never be forgotten.”

Dales, a Santa Monica native, graduated with a law degree from Stanford in 1932. He joined the 4-year-old guild as its first inhouse attorney in 1937 and was promoted in 1939 to assistant executive secretary.

After SAG co-founder Kenneth Thompson resigned as executive secretary in 1943, SAG prexy James Cagney tapped Dales for that post, which he held for the next 29 years.

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Under Dales’ leadership, SAG began asserting jurisdiction over TV in the late 1940s. The guild told the Natl. Labor Relations Board in 1950, “Motion picture actors are motion picture actors whether they appear in films for theaters or films for television, and the guild is the only logical bargaining agent for motion picture actors, no matter where their films may be exhibited.”

SAG struck for the first time in 1952 over TV commercials, three years later against TV producers and in 1960 over residuals for feature films sold to TV. The settlement of the 1960 work stoppage resulted in residuals for films commencing after January 1960 along with producers’ payment of $2.65 million to create SAG’s first Pension and Welfare Plan.

Diversity push, expansion

Dales’ tenure also was significant in seeing SAG push for diversity in casting, the start of the fight against runaway production and expansion of the org into a national union.

“Jack Dales led the Screen Actors Guild with strength, compassion and diplomacy through both good and difficult times and laid the foundations for many of the collective bargaining rights which all of our members enjoy to this day,” said SAG CEO Bob Pisano. “He was respected by his colleagues from all of the guilds and unions as well as by all industry leaders and employers.”

He worked with 13 SAG presidents: Robert Montgomery, Ralph Morgan, Edward Arnold, James Cagney, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Walter Pidgeon, Leon Ames, Howard Keel, George Chandler, Dana Andrews, Charlton Heston and John Gavin.

Scholarship fund

The John L. Dales Scholarship Fund, administered by the SAG Foundation, was created in 1973 in his honor and has provided over $1 million in scholarships.

He was also president of the Motion Picture & Television Fund Board from 1980-88.

Dales is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Freda “Betty” Dales, and their two sons.

Services will be private. A reception will be held at MPTF; those interested in attending are asked to call (818) 876-1543.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the MPTF or to the Jack L. Dales Scholarship Fund.

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