Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The DeHavilland Case

Matt Stahl, University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, has published Employee in a Cage? Olivia De Havilland, Warner Bros. Pictures, and the 'Limiting Case' of (Star) Employment. Here is the abstract.

This paper offers a new interpretation of De Havilland’s 1944 contest with Warner Bros. Pictures. It engages some of the more evocative language animating the Superior and Appellate court decisions in order to highlight the insights into employment as an institution that sometimes emerge in the legal struggles over the terms of star employment. Star contracts and the struggles over them, I suggest, present a “limiting case” of employment, illuminating in their extremity a range of political tensions that are otherwise naturalized and obscured in the run of routine of work relations. This paper focuses on some of the ways in which the central arguments in these cases brought out into the open tensions between voluntarism and coercion that inhabit the core of the employment relation in democratic market society. The paper suggests that the employment relations of Hollywood talent – from stars to supporting cast to character actors – constitutes a marginal form of employment: actors’ labor was subject to extraordinary forms of capture and control because of its imperfectly substitutable nature.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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