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Autry v. Republic Productions, Inc.

Supreme Court of California

May 23, 1947

L. A. No. 19381

Opinion

 [*146]  [**890]   This is an appeal by the plaintiff from a judgment declaring the rights and obligations of the parties under contracts between them and in effect at the time of the plaintiff's enlistment in the United States Army in 1942.

Prior to his enlistment the plaintiff, Gene Autry, was a motion picture actor dramatizing western or cowboy roles. The defendant, Republic Productions, Inc., was a producer of western photoplays.

On September 22, 1938, the parties entered into a written agreement by which the defendant engaged the plaintiff's services as an actor in ten photoplays during one year commencing July 1, 1938, the plaintiff [***2]  to receive $ 6,000 for each of the first two, and $ 10,000 for each of the remaining eight. By paragraph 20 of the agreement four options were granted to the defendant, each of which, if exercised, would successively extend the contract for a year. Eight photoplays were to be produced each year. An annual increase of $ 1,000 per picture was also provided. Thus, in the year covered by the fourth option, the plaintiff's compensation for each photoplay would become $ 14,000.

In due time and prior to March 7, 1942, the defendant exercised the first three options which by written agreements  [*147]  brought the period for the expiration of employment under the third to March 6, 1943. On April 20, 1942, the plaintiff was ordered to report for physical examination under the Selective Service Act, and was placed in Class 1-A. On May 11, 1942, the parties executed a further written agreement by which the defendant was granted an additional option for one year commencing upon the expiration of the last option of the 1938 agreement and during which eight plays were to be photographed for a compensation of $ 15,000 each. Included in that agreement was a paragraph numbered 24, providing:  [***3]  "In the event that the Artist [plaintiff] shall be required to serve in the armed forces of the United States pursuant to the Selective Service Act, or shall volunteer for such service, the parties hereto will agree upon their mutual rights and obligations hereunder in view of such military service."

The plaintiff enlisted in the Army on July 26, 1942. At that time there remained five plays to be photographed under the third option. The plaintiff rendered no service to the defendant after his enlistment.

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30 Cal. 2d 144 *; 180 P.2d 888 **; 1947 Cal. LEXIS 157 ***

GENE AUTRY, Appellant, v. REPUBLIC PRODUCTIONS, INC. (a Corporation), Respondent

Prior History:  [***1]  APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Charles E. Haas, Judge.

Action for declaration of rights and obligations under a contract of employment.

Disposition: Reversed. Judgment for defendant reversed.

CORE TERMS

military service, parties, contracts, obligations, terminated, impossibility, mutual right, contingency, photoplays, suspended, artistic, terms, frustration, enlistment, expiration, electing, options, substantially greater, provisions, suspension, thereunder, indicates, delayed, neglect, notice, armed, plays

Contracts Law, Breach, Excuse & Repudiation, Acceptance of Goods, Excuse From Performance, Defenses, Affirmative Defenses, Failure of Consideration, Standards of Performance, Impossibility of Performance, General Overview, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Illusory Promises, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Remedies, Equitable Relief, Contract Interpretation, Revival of Contracts, Substantial Performance, Types of Contracts, Personal Service Agreements