The Formation of the Society (1941
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen
The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers had its origins in the
great antitrust battle between the U.S. government and the large Hollywood
studios which enveloped the industry in the late 1930s (see the
Paramount case). Though most of the independent producers distributed
their films through the Big Eight studios, the independents opposed the studio
monopolies, and joined the side of the Justice Department in attacking the
majors. The independent producers joined together to fight the studios
collectively, and to use the society to help secure a place for independents in
an industry dominated by big business.
When the government temporarily called off the antitrust suit in 1940, the
independents decided to join together. The unification of the independent
producers in Hollywood had been rumored several times since 1940 when the
government's consent decree took
effect. Whenever any of the prominent producers were queried about their plans
to organize their own trade organization, they admitted only that such an
alliance was "under discussion." The Society began to take shape in
secrecy throughout 1941.
The First President of SIMPP
The independent producers decided to organize SIMPP much like the other
prominent film trade organizations by selecting a non-filmmaker as president and
spokesman. The independents chose Loyd Wright,
a prominent Los Angeles attorney who was well-known in the independent
community. Wright served as Chaplin's lawyer since the 1920s, and even
represented Mary Pickford in her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks in the mid
1930s. Other clients of his included D. W. Griffith,
David O. Selznick, and Frank Capra. He served on
the board of directors for Selznick International Pictures and the United
Artists Corporation, among others.
The executive secretary of the early independent society was James Allen,
previously the public relations head of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was
known for his extensive knowledge and contacts in Washington, D.C., appropriate
to the antitrust agenda of the independents. Actually Allen only served a short
time with SIMPP before he was released in 1942 to assume an important wartime
position as the assistant to the chief of the motion picture bureau of the
Office of War Information, Lowell Mellett (the government censorship liaison
sarcastically called "the United States Ambassador to Hollywood").
The Original Members
Financial records of the Society indicated that the group was active by at
least the summer of 1941. On September 2, Wright paid a $2.00 filing fee to
register the name of the Society with the California Secretary of State.
Founding member Walter Wanger personally advanced James Allen expenses for the
Society beginning September 5, 1941. Walt Disney contributing the first of the
Society's dues in the month of November.
Seven producers signed the original articles, Charles
Chaplin, Walt Disney,
Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda, Mary
Pickford, David O. Selznick, and Walter
Wanger. The organizational structure and other policies were settled during a
weekend lunch-time meeting on December 20 at Perino's, a Hollywood restaurant
that became a regular SIMPP meeting place. All of this was done without the
general knowledge of the rest of the industry.
Early in 1942 they began to review the membership of other producers. At a
meeting on January 20, they considered the invitation of two producer-directors
who both seemed agreeable to the Society. The first was young Orson
had several intriguing follow-up projects to Citizen Kane (1941) in the
works, making his Mercury Productions one of the most auspicious new independent
production companies in the business. The other SIMPP applicant, the veteran
filmmaker Frank Lloyd was the modest and well-liked director of Cavalcade
(1933) and Mutiny of the Bounty (1935). He had headed his own production
unit at Paramount, but since 1939 acted as a freelance producer. The previous
November, Selznick had loaned out his contract director Alfred Hitchcock to
Lloyd who produced the espionage thriller Saboteur (1942) at Universal.
Welles decided to join the organization, but, for unknown reasons, Frank Lloyd
never became a part of SIMPP—leaving the Society of Independent Motion Picture
Producers with eight founding producer-members.
The News Leaks
Not yet incorporated, the Society waited to announce the formation of the
group. However, the news of the Society was leaked to the trade press, without
the knowledge of Wright or Allen, and published in the Hollywood Reporter
on January 23, 1942. Taken from an undisclosed source, the article contained
misinformation about the unnamed organization, and even gave a list of members
which included those who were not affiliated with the group—including Frank
Lloyd, Frank Capra who was already committed in wartime service, and Edward
Small who would not join SIMPP for another year. Loyd Wright telegraphed the
independent producers the same day of the Reporter story. He proposed
accelerating plans for incorporation, and to have James Allen announce the
formation the next week.
The Announcement Is Made
When the announcement was made in Hollywood, James Allen released a lengthy
statement detailing the reasons why the organization was formed—to
"strengthen and protect the role and function of the independent producer
of motion pictures." Their primary purpose was to protect freedom of the
screen "that the motion picture shall be maintained as a force for good and
as an integral part of a democratic society." They vowed to publicize
issues that affected the audience members, and put pressure on the Justice
Department to step in when necessary. During the press conference, SIMPP
discussed some of the ways in which the independents had been disadvantaged in
To clarify misleading press reports, the SIMPP
announcement claimed that the intent was not "to create a minority or
opposition group within the industry," but rather "to cooperate with
other motion picture groups and through which me may make our own contributions
to sound and healthy progress." Nevertheless, SIMPP was the only
significant trade organization to oppose UMPI's Unity Plan, and was widely
regarded as a potential troublemaker from the start. In an ironic twist, the Hollywood
Reporter story broke during the Motion Picture Industry Conference, so that
when the formation of UMPI made trade headlines on January 23, they shared the
front page of the Reporter with the headline "Top Indie Producers in
Setup, Organize Away From Hays Influence" along with its accompanying story
about independent producers rising in collective opposition against the rest of
the industry. The Society leaders were originally enraged by the news leak to
the trade press, but the fortuitous timing could not have been better planned
for the independents as the formation of SIMPP overshadowed the organization of
Biographical information on Loyd Wright: "Loyd Wright" (obituary), Variety,
October 30, 1974; Los Angeles Examiner, December 21, 1961; LAT,
March 10, 1954.
James Allen: "Mellett Sets Allen Here," HR, February 4,
1942, p. 1.
SIMPP early history: Statement of Receipts and Disbursements of Society of
Independent Motion Pictures, Handled By Loyd Wright From Inception of Society To
Date, March 1, 1943, pp. 1-7, WWP.
Pre-SIMPP rumors mentioned: "Independent Producers Form an
Association," Boxoffice, January 31, 1942.
Formation of SIMPP: Loyd Wright to Walter Wanger, telegram, December 16,
1941, WWP; "Film Producers Form Independent Society," NYT,
January 29, 1942, p. 24; "Indie Producers Filing Org Papers, Wright
Prez," DV, January 29, 1942, p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter scoop: "Top Indie Producers In Setup:
Organizes Away From Hayes Influence; Loyd Wright Prez, Jim Allen in
Washington," HR, January 23, 1942, pp. 1, 4.