Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

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Rob Farr
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Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Rob Farr » Sat Jun 06, 2009 8:32 am

I just stumbled upon this historical nugget, which may be old news to the Arbucklistas around here:

"...while the producers were wrangling, the big stars, headed by Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Hart, Pickford and Arbuckle, effected a temporary organization to combat the producers. Each star pledged to forfeit a big sum of money if they tried breaking away. They plan to sell their own pictures and sell to the releasing organization bidding the highest for same." - Variety Jan. 24, 1919

So Arbuckle chose what must have seemed at the time to be a "safer" route by signing a contract with Zukor instead of going with his fellow actors. But what if he hadn't? He would have had the freedom to make fewer and better features and if the events of Labor Day weekend 1921 had occurred, presumably his fellow United Artists would have had the clout to protect their partner once he was exonorated by the courts.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Joan Myers
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Joan Myers » Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:30 am

Rob Farr wrote:I just stumbled upon this historical nugget, which may be old news to the Arbucklistas around here:

"...while the producers were wrangling, the big stars, headed by Griffith, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Hart, Pickford and Arbuckle, effected a temporary organization to combat the producers. Each star pledged to forfeit a big sum of money if they tried breaking away. They plan to sell their own pictures and sell to the releasing organization bidding the highest for same." - Variety Jan. 24, 1919


Rob, Tino Balio, in United Artists, The Company Built by the Stars, quotes the original signed statement released to the press after the January 15, 1919 meeting at Mary Pickford's home. The only names mentioned are Pickford, Fairbanks, Hart, Chaplin, and Griffith. Arbuckle is not mentioned in the statement nor was he (according to the source) at the strategy meeting called by Syd Chaplin. Balio does, however, obliquely indicate that he's not sure the source for the events at the strategy meeting is completely trustworthy

Joan

Paul E. Gierucki
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Paul E. Gierucki » Sat Jun 06, 2009 11:41 am

I've not found anything concrete on this either, Rob, but it is an intriguing thought. Arbuckle and Chaplin were very close friends so I would guess that the matter was discussed at least to some small degree. I also have to imagine that RA would have had a hard time walking away from a prestigious company like Paramount which was promising to promote him as one of their biggest stars and throwing money at him in buckets. He was the undisputed king of comedy on that lot and a move to UA might have been seen as a conflict of interest, thrusting him into direct financial competition with Chaplin. Given the circumstances, I might have stayed with Paramount too.

-- Paul E. Gierucki

Rob Farr
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Rob Farr » Sat Jun 06, 2009 12:39 pm

Until there is some cooberation in Motion Picture New or Moving Picture News or some other source, we have to assume that if Arbuckle did express some early interest, he never followed up on it.

Who knows? Maybe the Comique contract had a clause giving Paramount the right of first refusal if Arbuckle were to ever leave Schenck.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Joan Myers
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Joan Myers » Sat Jun 06, 2009 12:58 pm

Rob Farr wrote:Until there is some cooberation in Motion Picture New or Moving Picture News or some other source, we have to assume that if Arbuckle did express some early interest, he never followed up on it.

Who knows? Maybe the Comique contract had a clause giving Paramount the right of first refusal if Arbuckle were to ever leave Schenck.


Possibly. Frankly, I think it's more likely that the reporter writing the Variety article made a cognitive leap that turned out to be incorrect. UA had a stellar starting lineup, it would be second nature to throw Arbuckle's name in with the rest of them.

Joan

Chris Snowden
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Chris Snowden » Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:57 pm

Rob Farr wrote: So Arbuckle chose what must have seemed at the time to be a "safer" route by signing a contract with Zukor instead of going with his fellow actors.


That's how it worked out for William S. Hart. Famous Players offered him a certain degree of independence, full financial backing for production expenses, plus the nation's premier exhibition network. It wasn't necessarily the wrong choice to make.

Arbuckle may have had a similar point of view. He didn't get the independence from Famous Players, but he did get a terrific paycheck, huge distribution and zero financial risk. Even if he'd have liked to go the UA route, he may not have had the cash to set up his own shop. Either way, signing with Famous Players may have been the smart move.

Independence worked out great for Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks. It turned out very badly for Florence Turner, Charles Ray, Buck Jones, and a lot of other people.

Agnes McFadden
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Re: Arbuckle a Founder of United Artists?

Postby Agnes McFadden » Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:36 pm

I have never seen Arbuckle's name mentioned in any of the writings about the founding of UA before.

He must not have been in the relm of possibilities for very long.

It does make sense. He was such a huge draw that he was one who had the money and the popularity to "take a chance" on such a venture.
Imagine haw different things might have been had he taken that route.............................

Agnes McFadden
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