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Weavers of Dreams, Unite!Actors' Unionism in Early Twentieth-Century America$
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Sean P. Holmes

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037481

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037481.001.0001

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Ain’t No Peace in the Family Now

Ain’t No Peace in the Family Now

The Actors’ Equity Association and the Movies, 1919–1929

(p.141) Chapter Six Ain’t No Peace in the Family Now
Weavers of Dreams, Unite!

Sean P. Holmes

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on new technology and its impact on acting as an occupation. It begins by describing how the advent of film transformed patterns of employment in the commercial entertainment industry. Returning to the theme of cultural hierarchy, it goes on to argue that even as the legitimate theater drifted toward the periphery of the nation's cultural life, the old theatrical elite continued to claim the right, through the mechanism of the Actors' Equity Association (AEA), to speak for the entire acting community. After examining working conditions in the motion picture studios, it turns its attention to the Equity campaign to organize the film industry, asserting that its architects were less concerned with negotiating a standard contract than with imposing their authority upon the men and women of the silver screen. The chapter argues that an overwhelming majority of motion picture actors reacted with hostility to what they saw as the AEA's attempt to “Broadwayize” Hollywood, interpreting it as a threat to their collective autonomy and a denial of the specificity of their work. By refusing to obey the strike call in the summer of 1929, they were declaring their independence from the traditions of the legitimate stage.

Keywords:   film industry, commercial entertainment industry, employment, Actors' Equity Association, motion pictures, cultural hierarchy

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