Written By Anniversary : Page 2

FADe in Just like everyone else in Hol-lywood, we don’t talk about our age. But turning 76 is the birth-day we couldn’t refuse, a very good year for reminiscence, and one hopefully worth celebrat-ing—or at least acknowledging. Hence this 76th anniversary is-sue of Written By. We weren’t always called Written By. Guild magazines have gone by a variety of monikers, from The Screen Writers’ Magazine (1934) to POV (1963) to The Journal (1988) to the title you’re holding now (1997). What’s never changed: en-tertainment writers deserving recognition, respect, equitable compensation for seminal labor, and a Guild publication’s role in pursuing these goals. So, here’s our story, a narrative decoded thanks to writers who bequeathed documents and musty magazines to the Guild Foundation Library: On April 6, 1933, the Screen Writers Guild was founded. Less than a year later came a child of this union: Volume 1, Number 1 of The Screen Writers’ Magazine . Published in July 1934, the inaugural issue cost 15 cents, had 26 pages crowded with ads, cartoons, sto-ries by prominent members, poems, jingles, and promised “news and gossip.” Editor Tristram Tupper’s baptismal column stated the magazine’s mission: “…the writer, the creative branch, should, we believe, point the way to advancement and lead in the fight against such stupidity as may stand in the path. To this end The Screen Writers’ Magazine is dedicated.” That inaugural issue was also the last Screen Writers’ Magazine . One month later: “It was bound to come, this wedding of the writer and the actor! Here’s hoping that their first offspring, the new Screen Guilds’ Magazine, will grow up to be a lusty and healthy addition to our motion picture family.” This 1934 pronouncement by Eddie Kantor, a Hollywood star and the first president of the Screen Actors Guild, signaled that SAG had joined forces with SWG to battle the studio producers. The Screen Guilds’ Magazine became the primary symbol of the unions’ solidarity as well as a weapon in their labor war. Sharing space with Kantor in that August 1934 issue was Er-nest Pascal, president of the Screen Writers’ Guild of the Authors’ League of America. In an essay, “The Author of the Piece,” Pascal asks why screenwriters “were so generally neglected in distribu-tion of credit for outstanding work” and vows that the magazine would eventually correct such neglect. By the July 1935 issue, such a modest proposal was replaced in Pascal’s “What the Screen Writers’ Guild Really Wants” manifesto: “What it wants—and what it means to get—is GUILD SHOP…” Unable to gain an accurate depiction of writers in the main-stream press, the Guild used its magazine to communicate unex-purgated, accurate information with writers and the public. For ex-ample, in the April 1936 issue, President Pascal explained the SWG purpose, eloquently defining the necessity for both the Guild and M ar K H anauer Call it the SpiritS of 76. the magazine’s existence: “Basically, the problem of all writers is the same and always has been. It consists invariably of a struggle be-tween the writer and businessmen who seek to exploit that which the writer creates for monetary gain. And when, as so often hap-pens, these businessmen gather together, as it were, into combines and corporations, then the individual writer is as helpless against them as a babe in arms.” Pascal’s frank observation inspired members but infuriated moguls. The studios branded SWG a haven for communists and began conspiring effectively to undermine and destroy the union. By late summer 1936, SWG filed a legal notice of dis-solution; with it, the Screen Guilds’ Magazine perished. (For a vivid, thoroughly researched article on this period of Guild his-tory, see Pat Sierchio’s “The War for the Guild” in November 2007 Written By.) A band of courageous writers continued meeting secretly to discuss grievances and maintain hope for a union. No print could be exchanged during this time, for fear of an unofficial blacklist by the studios. (Even phones were tapped.) Gradually, the clandestine meetings led to stronger unity. A reorganized SWG held its first open meeting on June 11, 1937. When the studios were finally forced to legally recognize the writers union in July 1941, a new “magazine” appeared: The Guild Bulletin . On its fourth and last page, the Bulletin presented an invita-tion to SWG members: “A NEW-BORN SPEAKS! This is the first issue of The Guild Bulletin . It may be great, grand, or plain lousy. Whatever you think, tell us. We want the Bulletin fact-ful [sic], newsy, and entertaining. What are your ideas?” A celebratory tone dominated the tiny monthly as “the time draws ever closer to the signing of our long hoped for and fought for contract with the producers.” But in the Guild’s third Bulletin an ominous item also appeared: “Mass Meeting Called to Probe Prob-ers.” Now that the Guild legally existed, a Senate committee had begun making “false charges and irresponsible statements” through a publicity campaign, aiming misinformation at Hollywood’s cre-ative unions, targeting in particular SWG. Less than three months later, the United States formally entered the Second World War, and the union “probe” was forgotten. Patriotism replaced unionism as writers went to war. The Bulletin seemed irrelevant. After the war, a confident SWG proudly began publishing a new and impressive literary magazine. Averaging 56 pages, The Screen Writer was sold on newsstands for a quarter and con-tained articles by the likes of James M. Cain, Norman Corwin, I.A. Diamond, Sam Fuller, Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Dudley Nichols, and Fred Zinneman. Its editor was Dalton Trumbo. On its editorial board sat Ring Lardner Jr. In May 1947, the Senate held the initial House Un-American Committee hearings at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los An-geles, strategically seeking maximum publicity by going after SWG “reds” in Hollywood. The Screen Writer became the front line of resistance to the Senate’s barely disguised campaign to break the union. For example, in 1948 the magazine published a major story that was either ignored or distorted by the popular media: “SWG continued on page 52 2 • WGA W Written By special anniversary issue

Call It The Spirits Of 76

Richard Stayton

Just like everyone else in Hollywood, we don’t talk about our age. But turning 76 is the birthday we couldn’t refuse, a very good year for reminiscence, and one hopefully worth celebrating— or at least acknowledging. Hence this 76th anniversary issue of Written By.

We weren’t always called Written By. Guild magazines have gone by a variety of monikers, from The Screen Writers’ Magazine (1934) to POV (1963) to The Journal (1988) to the title you’re holding now (1997).What’s never changed: entertainment writers deserving recognition, respect, equitable compensation for seminal labor, and a Guild publication’s role in pursuing these goals.So, here’s our story, a narrative decoded thanks to writers who bequeathed documents and musty magazines to the Guild Foundation Library:

On April 6, 1933, the Screen Writers Guild was founded. Less than a year later came a child of this union: Volume 1, Number 1 of The Screen Writers’ Magazine.Published in July 1934, the inaugural issue cost 15 cents, had 26 pages crowded with ads, cartoons, stories by prominent members, poems, jingles, and promised “news and gossip.” Editor Tristram Tupper’s baptismal column stated the magazine’s mission: “…the writer, the creative branch, should, we believe, point the way to advancement and lead in the fight against such stupidity as may stand in the path.To this end The Screen Writers’ Magazine is dedicated.”

That inaugural issue was also the last Screen Writers’ Magazine. One month later:“It was bound to come, this wedding of the writer and the actor! Here’s hoping that their first offspring, the new Screen Guilds’Magazine, will grow up to be a lusty and healthy addition to our motion picture family.” This 1934 pronouncement by Eddie Kantor, a Hollywood star and the first president of the Screen Actors Guild, signaled that SAG had joined forces with SWG to battle the studio producers.The Screen Guilds’ Magazine became the primary symbol of the unions’ solidarity as well as a weapon in their labor war.

Sharing space with Kantor in that August 1934 issue was Ernest Pascal, president of the Screen Writers’ Guild of the Authors’ League of America. In an essay, “The Author of the Piece,” Pascal asks why screenwriters “were so generally neglected in distribution of credit for outstanding work” and vows that the magazine would eventually correct such neglect.By the July 1935 issue, such a modest proposal was replaced in Pascal’s “What the Screen Writers’ Guild Really Wants” manifesto:“What it wants—and what it means to get—is GUILD SHOP…”

Unable to gain an accurate depiction of writers in the mainstream press, the Guild used its magazine to communicate unexpurgated, accurate information with writers and the public.For example,in the April 1936 issue, President Pascal explained the SWG purpose, eloquently defining the necessity for both the Guild and The magazine’s existence: “Basically, the problem of all writers is the same and always has been.It consists invariably of a struggle between the writer and businessmen who seek to exploit that which the writer creates for monetary gain.And when, as so often happens, these businessmen gather together, as it were, into combines and corporations, then the individual writer is as helpless against them as a babe in arms.”

Pascal’s frank observation inspired members but infuriated moguls.The studios branded SWG a haven for communists and began conspiring effectively to undermine and destroy the union.By late summer 1936, SWG filed a legal notice of dissolution; with it, the Screen Guilds’ Magazine perished.(For a vivid, thoroughly researched article on this period of Guild history, see Pat Sierchio’s “The War for the Guild” in November 2007 Written By.)

A band of courageous writers continued meeting secretly to discuss grievances and maintain hope for a union.No print could be exchanged during this time, for fear of an unofficial blacklist by the studios.(Even phones were tapped.)Gradually, the clandestine meetings led to stronger unity.A reorganized SWG held its first open meeting on June 11, 1937.When the studios were finally forced to legally recognize the writers union in July 1941, a new “magazine” appeared: The Guild Bulletin.

On its fourth and last page, the Bulletin presented an invitation to SWG members: “A NEW-BORN SPEAKS!This is the first issue of The Guild Bulletin. It may be great, grand, or plain lousy.Whatever you think, tell us.We want the Bulletin fact-ful [sic], newsy, and entertaining.What are your ideas?”

A celebratory tone dominated the tiny monthly as “the time draws ever closer to the signing of our long hoped for and fought for contract with the producers.” But in the Guild’s third Bulletin an ominous item also appeared: “Mass Meeting Called to Probe Probers.”Now that the Guild legally existed, a Senate committee had begun making “false charges and irresponsible statements” through a publicity campaign, aiming misinformation at Hollywood’s creative unions, targeting in particular SWG.Less than three months later, the United States formally entered the Second World War, and the union “probe” was forgotten. Patriotism replaced unionism as writers went to war.The Bulletin seemed irrelevant.

After the war, a confident SWG proudly began publishing a New and impressive literary magazine.Averaging 56 pages, The Screen Writer was sold on newsstands for a quarter and contained articles by the likes of James M. Cain, Norman Corwin, I. A. Diamond, Sam Fuller, Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Dudley Nichols, and Fred Zinneman.Its editor was Dalton Trumbo.On its editorial board sat Ring Lardner Jr.

In May 1947, the Senate held the initial House Un-American Committee hearings at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, strategically seeking maximum publicity by going after SWG “reds” in Hollywood.The Screen Writer became the front line of resistance to the Senate’s barely disguised campaign to break the union.For example, in 1948 the magazine published a major story that was either ignored or distorted by the popular media: “SWG Takes Court Action Charging Blacklist Conspiracy.”

Publishing such stories became crucial to SWG’s survival—informational weapons against the onslaught of the government propaganda favored by radio, newspaper, and the nascent television networks.By 1949, former editor Trumbo and board colleague Ring Lardner Jr. Were imprisoned as members of the so-called “Hollywood Ten.” And The Screen Writer vanished, replaced by frail newsletters and bulletins.Killed by the blacklist?Perhaps.There’s certainly a black hole in the Guild’s Foundation Library where only a few newsletters and bulletins materialize out of the Blacklist decade.

Not until 1963 did a new magazine, “an occasional publication” called P. O.V., emerge from the Writers Guild of America West.Co-editor Michael Blank fort’s editorial in the maiden issue declared “the reason for this magazine— to bring more sharply into focus the real contribution of the screen and television writer.”

And so it did, and it grew and grew, changing shape and size and names, evolving its mission, until maturing into Written By.Now, please accept this exclusive invitation to our birthday party.It’s not every year that someone you know turns 76.And there’s no need to RSVP.We know who you are.

—Richard Stayton, Editor

Read the full article at http://bluetoad.com/article/Call+It+The+Spirits+Of+76/579515/53504/article.html.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here