Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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The Independent Producers and the Paramount Case, 1938-1949

Part 5: Friend of the Court—SIMPP Files For Amicus Curiae, 1947

Independent Producers Assist the Government

Previously SIMPP had preferred to submitted court briefs on short notice, in order to coordinate the Society’s publicity efforts with the events of the case. These had been hurried efforts, working late into the night, usually over the course of a weekend, and submitted at just the right time for dramatic effect. For the Supreme Court brief, Donald Nelson, prior to his resignation in December 1947, authorized an extensive research program before executing the independent produces’ defense strategy. “Great care should be taken on the Society’s brief to the court,” SIMPP attorney Morris L. Ernst recommended to the president, “because it not only speaks to the court, it speaks to the rest of the industry.”

Part of SIMPP’s preparations involved question-and-answer sessions with Robert L. Wright, the chief prosecutor for the government in the Paramount case. Wright (incidentally the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright) had worked on the case since its inception in 1938, and delivered the opening arguments in the New York Equity Suit in 1945. At the invitation of Nelson, Robert Wright visited Los Angeles in April 1947 as guest of the Society. In a series of meetings, the SIMPP members, and then the SIMPP attorneys, discussed the case as it made its way to the Supreme Court trial calendar for early the following year. The members happily discovered the objectives of the Justice Department in nearly complete harmony with their own desires, and the independents agreed to support the case as needed.

The SIMPP Antitrust Investigation

SIMPP’s antitrust investigation went into full-swing in the latter part of 1947. To lead the research team, SIMPP selected Robert J. Rubin who joined SIMPP officially as assistant to the president, and soon became general counsel for the Society. Before this, Rubin was a legal expert for the government, and headed all Justice Department antitrust actions on the west coast. Robert J. Rubin (not to be confused with prominent MGM executive J. Robert Rubin) became the antitrust spokesperson for SIMPP, and attended the Supreme Court hearings to speak on behalf of the independent producers.

After months of prearranging their friend-of-the-court status, the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers completed the amicus curiae brief without the approval of the Paramount defendants, and officially joined sides with the Department of Justice to restore free competition to the industry.

Friend of the Court

The SIMPP amicus curiae made several demands. First of all, the Society asked that the Supreme Court uphold the ban on block booking so that the dreaded practice finally be declared illegal. The independents also petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse part of the Statutory Court ruling by requiring the majors to dispose of all their theater holdings. “As the only creative force competitive to the defendants,” SIMPP declared, the independent producers “continue to operate under a constant burden so long as the defendants continue to own and run their own theatres.”

SIMPP also wanted to reverse some of the competitive bidding provisions which would have outlawed road show film selling. If the New York Equity Suit mandate went into effect, the producers would not have been allowed to select prestige theaters that charged premium admission prices-for this would be interpreted as exhibitor discrimination. Road show premieres would be impossible to arrange, and the way in which independents launched their movies would be called into question. SIMPP asked for judicial clarification to declare the independent producers free to market their films in this manner.

The friend of the court petition, filed in Washington by Morris Ernst on December 2, 1947, was one of Donald Nelson’s final actions in his executive role with SIMPP. Slightly delayed from its January 12 court date, the Supreme Court trial began on February 9, 1948, nearly one year after the government appealed the Statutory Court ruling.




“Great care should be taken”: Morris L. Ernst to Donald M. Nelson, January 3, 1947, WWP.
Robert L. Wright visits with SIMPP: Donald M. Nelson to Walter Wanger, April 9, 1947, WWP.
Robert J. Rubin information - joins SIMPP in latter 1947: see Marvin L. Faris to Walter Wanger, January 29, 1948, WWP; biographical information: HR, April 28, 1948.
SIMPP amicus curiae: Donald M. Nelson to SIMPP members, December 1, 1947, pp. 2, WWP; “Indie Prods Demand Big 5 Be Divorced From Theatres,” DV, December 3, 1947, pp. 1, 11; Film Daily Yearbook 1948, p. 47.

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