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Goudal v. Cecil B. DeMille Pictures Corp.

5 P.2d 432, 118 Cal. App. 407 (1931)

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Goudal v. Cecil B. DeMille Pictures Corp.

California Court of Appeal

5 P.2d 432, 118 Cal. App. 407 (1931)

Facts

Around May 1925, actress Jetta Goudal (plaintiff) signed a special-employment contract with Cecil B. DeMille Pictures Corp. (defendant) for one year. Goudal’s contract required unique and extraordinary services. The studio chose to renew Goudal’s contract twice, which resulted in a pay increase with each renewal. However, during the third year, Cecil B. DeMille Pictures Corp. terminated Goudal’s contract. Goudal sued the studio for wrongful dismissal and won. The studio appealed the verdict and argued that Goudal’s termination was warranted because she violated the terms of her employment contract. On appeal, the studio cited several grounds for Goudal’s termination. For example, the studio alleged that instead of simply doing as the directors of films asked, Goudal argued with the directors and offered suggestions regarding making scenes better. The directors sometimes adopted Goudal’s ideas, and when they did not, Goudal took the matter up with the studio’s president, who sometimes agreed with her. Before Goudal began working, the president had made it clear that he did not want to employ robots, and that he would appreciate Goudal’s feedback. In fact, several directors testified that the films they worked on with Goudal reflected their best pictures. The studio also alleged that Goudal showed up late to the set. However, Goudal countered that when she arrived late to a set, it was as a result of voluntarily handling some other aspect of a scene such as working with the costumes. The studio’s complaints related mainly to incidents that happened prior to its second renewal of Goudal’s contract in May 1927, after she had already starred in seven of the eight films she made for Cecil B. DeMille Pictures Corp.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fricke, J.)

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