Warner Bros V Nelson 1937 Case Study

WARNER BROS v NELSON 1937 Case Study Facts – Small time actress Bette Davis who had a contract with the Warner Bros to act for the them and at the same time not to act or sing for anybody else for two years without the plaintiff’s written consent and no other employment could be taken up during this period without the plaintiff’s consent. Bette Davis was convinced that all the staring in mediocre film rolls provided by Warner Bros was ruining her career. She accepted an offer in Britain to appear in two film rolls in 1936 knowing that this was breaching her contract with Warner Bros she fled to Canada to avoid legal prosecution.

The Court Case – Eventually Bette Davis brought her case to caught in Britain hoping to get out of the contract with Warner Bros. Warner Bros was suing Davis hoping to get an injunction preventing her from further breach of the contract. The Barrister, Sir Patrick Hastings described Bette as a ‘rather a naughty young lady and that what she wants is more money’. Bette described her contract as ‘slavery’ but even the British press described her as overpaid and ungrateful.

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As Davis’s Defence her counsel presented her complaints and showed that her contract was unfair by pointing out that she could be suspended without pay for refusing a part, with the period of suspension added to her contract, that she could be called upon to play any part within her abilities regardless of her personal beliefs, that she could be required to support a political party against her beliefs, and that her image and likeness could be displayed in any manner deemed applicable by the studio. When Jack Warner was asked if this was true in count he simply replied “Yes, she must play it. Davis lost the case as Branson J. (The Judge) decided that the defendant could be restrained by injunction from breaking the second undertaking but she would not be forced to act for the plaintiff because she could earn a living by doing other work. Bette Davis was left penniless after losing her case in England and felt she had no option but to return to America and resume working for the studio she had unsuccessfully sued. But after doing so she became one of the richest and most and acclaimed actresses in history.

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