Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Donald's Personal Service Contract (or...PSC II)

Click on the thumbnail at left for a full-page version, or hit the More ... link below

Not Mr. Duck's. Not Mr. Trump's. But the actor and director Donald Crisp's July 23, 1925 service agreement with The Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation. If you have trouble reading the text, here it is:

July 23, 1925

Mr. Donald Crisp,

Hollywood, California

Dear Mr. Crisp:-

In accordance with our verbal understanding of today, with reference to your employment by us, which, if agreeable to you, you will please signify same, by affixing your signature under the word "ACCEPTED", at the bottom of this letter.

1st: You are engaged to appear in our forthcoming production in the part assigned to you, and your employment to continue as long as your services are satsfactory and required in the making of said production.

2nd: Also, in adition to appearing in this production as an actor, you agree also to aid, as a member of the staff, in any way that Mr. Douglas Fairbanks shall require.

3rd: That, your salary is to start on or before six weeks from the date hereof, and if for any reason on that date we are unable to start shooting, you will accept a salary of Seven Hundred Fifty, ($750.) per week for two weeks and thereafter your salary is to be at the rate of Fifteen Hundred, ($1,500.) Dollars per week.

Yours very truly,


By: Robert Fairbanks (signature)



Donald Crisp (signature)

We put this up to demonstrate that, yes Virginia, Personal Service Contracts can be simple, one-page documents. (And with typos. The secretary EH spelled "addition" wrong.) We also put it up to show you what kind of bucks a director-actor was making in this burg eighty-two years ago.

Donald Crisp began in movies at the dawn of commercial film-making. He started in films in 1910, and was still making movies when I was a teenager in junior high school. His last two flicks were Greyfriars Bobby for Disney (1961) and Spencer's Moutain for Warner Bros. (his main employer during the 'thirties) in 1963.

Here's a bunch of things you should know about Donald Crisp: He directed seventy films between 1914 and 1930, including Keatons' The Navigator and Fairbanks' Don Q., Son of Zorro. He appeared in three or four hundred movies over fifty-four years. (And 148 of them are here.) Mr. Crisp was ubiquitous in Warner Bros. films of the '30s and '40s playing fatherly types, and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for How Green Was My Valley in 1942.) He saved like half of every paycheck, invested wisely, and became very, very rich. (For years he was a director for the Bank of America.) He died in 1974 at the Motion Picture Country Home at the age of either 91 or 93, depending on which July 27 he was born during the previous century.

Second-to-last point: The Douglas Fairbanks Picture Corporation produced Don Q, Son of Zorro and The Black Pirate pretty much back-to-back in 1925. Crisp was a director/actor in the first and an actor in the second. I'm thinking that the PSC above is for Pirate, since Don Q would have probably been finished by late July.

Last point: Crisp's $1500 per week would be $17,000 per week today. (I'm using the CPI inflation calculator. Using other calculators, his salary would be way higher than that.)

And the really last point: Click on the title above for PSC I


Steve Hulett said...

I neglected to mention: this contract comes from the collection of Robert S. Birchard, who's got one of the more extensive film and film document collections in the U.S. of A.

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