Motion Picture Relief Fund

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Motion Picture Relief Fund

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Motion Picture Relief Fund


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The Screen Guild Players radio program originated as a manner in which to raise money for the Motion Picture Relief Fund. The Motion Picture Relief Fund was created on December 24, 1924 in response to increasing financial need in the Hollywood community. While there had been an earlier attempt to provide relief in the form of the Motion Picture War Service Association (created to help the families of those in the motion picture industry who had either enlisted or been drafted), it disbanded at the end of World War I. However, in many cases the need for financial assistance remained. And, with the onset of the Depression, many other individuals found themselves in financial straits. The Motion Picture Relief Fund was created to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, from 1924 to 1938, the fund's expenditures consistently exceeded its income. As a result, the fund was reorganized

During the first year of the newly organized fund, Jules Stein, founder of the Music Corporation of America, presented both the new president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund and the president of the Screen Actor's Guild with an idea to raise money. He proposed that a radio program be presented by the motion picture industry with proceeds contributed to the fund. Under this proposal, actors and directors would donate their time, and writers and producers would allow the use of their material. A special contract would be arranged so that the sponsor would pay the Motion Picture Relief Fund a predetermined weekly fee.

After legal issues were resolved, the Columbia Broadcasting System presented the first network radio broadcast of the Screen Guild Show on Sunday, January 8, 1939, at 4:30 Pacific Time. At first, the program was formatted to meet the talents of the performers appearing in each particular show. This provided a large variety of program styles, including revues, musicals, and dramatizations. As time went on, it became obvious that actors were more willing to volunteer their services if they were already familiar with the part. As a result, the number of cinema adaptations presented in the show began to increase. The title of the show was changed to the Screen Guild Theatre, reflecting the increased use of dramatizations.

Gulf Oil Corporation sponsored the initial three years of the program. However, due to the uncertainty of the oil market with the onset of World War II, Gulf Oil chose not to continue. The Lady Esther Corporation took over and changed the name of the program to the Screen Guild Players, and during its sponsorship, the program consistently ranked in the top ten of the most popular radio shows. Unfortunately, there was a depression in the cosmetic industry in 1947, which caused Lady Esther to discontinue sponsorship. Camel Cigarettes, on a three-year contract, then purchased the show, but due to a time change, ratings began to fall. The show moved to various broadcasting networks before it was repurchased by the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1950. By this time, many of the usual radio sponsors were moving to the new medium of television, and ratings of the Screen Guild Players continued to fall. The final production of the show occurred on June 30, 1952.

In the thirteen years that the radio program ran, it earned $5,235,607 for the Motion Picture Relief Fund. A large portion of this amount went into the building of the Country Home, a retirement home for people from the Hollywood community, located in Woodland Hills.

From the guide to the Screen Guild Players Recordings Collection, 1942-1948, (University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections)



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