4 June 2016

Loaning out Thomas Mitchell

During Hollywood's Golden Age, it was very common for a studio to loan out a contract player to another studio. Actors usually didn't have a say in the matter as they were virtually owned by the studios. In 1939, Thomas Mitchell was under contract to Columbia Pictures when he was loaned out to other studios for several pictures. While Mitchell did make a few gems for Columbia that year (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Only Angels Have Wings), his loan-outs were equally impressive. There was The Hunchback of Notre Dame for RKO Radio Pictures, Stagecoach for independent producer Walter Wanger and Gone with the Wind for Selznick International Pictures.

For Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick had to borrow several of his key players. Not only was Mitchell borrowed from Columbia, but Clark Gable came from MGM and Olivia de Havilland from Warner Brothers. (Vivien Leigh was one of Selznick's own contract players.) And of course, each loan-out required a contract. Shown below is part of the agreement between Selznick and Columbia regarding the loan-out of Thomas Mitchell. Interesting to note is that Mitchell would be simultaneously working on GWTW and a Columbia picture entitled Plane No.4 which he had already started to work on (Plane No.4 was the working title for Only Angels Have Wings). Furthermore, it is noteworthy that for his role as Gerald O'Hara in GWTW Mitchell was to earn "on per diem basis at daily rate of 1/6th of $1500.00 per week", which makes $250 per day. 

Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, in bottom photo shown with film daughter Vivien Leigh.
Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Transcript:

Dated; January 26, 1939

Between: SELZNICK INTERNATIONAL PICTURES, INC. (Selznick)

and COLUMBIA PICTURES CORPORATION (Columbia)

Re: THOMAS MITCHELL (Artist)

Subject: 

Selznick and Columbia agree that Artist, who is presently portraying a role for Columbia in "PLANE NO.4", will be permitted to render his services for Selznick in portrayal of role of "Gerald" in Selznick's photoplay "GONE WITH THE WIND" during the remainder of his present term with Columbia, and on January 27th and 28th particularly. Artist's services may be used by Selznick on such other days as required by Selznick and not required by Columbia.

Compensation: 

Selznick to pay Artist on per diem basis at daily rate of 1/6th of $1500.00 per week. 

Artist has agreed that, except where he renders services for both Selznick and Columbia on the same day, he shall not be entitled to compensation from Columbia on days he is entitled to compensation from Selznick.

Columbia will pay Artist's compensation for days he does not render services for either Columbia or Selznick during remainder of Artist's term for Columbia.

Further services:

It is expected that Selznick will use services of Artist for role of "Gerald" at later date after he shall have completed his services for Columbia. 

By Daniel O'Shea
Secretary [to Selznick]

Thomas Mitchell and Jean Arthur in Only Angels Have Wings, one of the two films Mitchell made for his own studio Columbia in 1939.

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