The entertainment world mourned the death of one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age the weekend of July 25, 2020. Olivia de Havilland who starred in Gone with the Wind and had an over 50 year career both on the big and small screen passed away at the age of 104. Ms. De Havilland was not just an actress, she also was a trail blazer in the law.
In the 1920s and 1930s, it was not uncommon for the motion picture business for movie talent to sign exclusive services contracts. These contracts would make the talent exclusive to that particular movie studio, thus the talent could not shoot films for competing movie studios. The contracts were written for a duration of time, which counted days as only including days the talent was on set shooting. Therefore, a “two year contract” could easily last five to ten years, as talent would not be on set shooting seven days a week.
The talent that came after Ms. De Havilland are greatly indebted to her, as in 1943, she filed a lawsuit challenging the contracts, specifically her contract with Warner Bros. In 1944, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled that the term of the contract had to refer to calendar days not days on set. This precedent created significant more freedom for the talents that had signed these contracts in the 1920s and 1930s, many of whom remained under these contracts at the time of the decision.
Looking at the history of Entertainment Law decisions in the US, Ms. De Havilland’s fight was one of the most monumental decisions in the history of Entertainment Law. The Ticktin Law Group’s Entertainment Law Division, under the leadership of Michael Vater, is also a trendsetter, and fights for the rights of its clients across the US.
Michael Vater, Esq.
The Ticktin Law Group, P.A.