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Title: All Work or No Play: Key Themes in the History of the American Stage Actor as Worker
Authors: Holmes, SP
Keywords: Protest;Screen Actor's Guild;Actors
Issue Date: 2008
Citation: European Journal of American Studies [online], 2008, 2, 2008
Abstract: When stage actors in the United States walked off the job in the summer of 1919 in protest at the persistent refusal of the major theatrical producers to recognize their union, most commentators were unwilling to take the strike seriously, preferring instead to exploit the moment for cheap laughs. “Perhaps we soon shall see . . . [actor] DeWolf Hopper . . . in front of some Broadway theater, banner on shoulder, aided and supported by the dapper but militant [musical-comedy star] Francis Wilson,” joked one reporter, playing upon the apparent incongruity of prominent stage performers engaging in actions more closely associated with the industrial working class. “Tottie Tootles and her thirty-five beautiful charm cavorters might refuse to cherry their lips or paint their eyebrows . . . and thereby destroy the illusion of the stage for a century,” suggested another newsman, casting chorus girls not as exploited wage earners but as temperamental bundles of commodified sexuality.1 More than eighty years on and little had changed. In October 2000, when actress Elizabeth Hurley was barracked by pickets from the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) at the premiere of her movie Bedazzled for breaking a strike over payments for commercials, the international press paid far more attention to the protestors’ placards—most memorably the one that read “Liz Scabley You Make Me Hurl”—than to what was at stake in the dispute.
ISSN: 1991-9336
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Research Papers

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