OF EQUITY AND SHUBERTS
World War I, the first "modern" war, gave birth to new hopes, new ideals, and a feeling that the postwar world had somehow to be "different," with new values that would give credence to the description of the conflict as "the war to end all wars." ( Warren G. Harding "Return to Normalcy" was the other side of this coin.) The country began to look more favorably on unions, and Actors' Equity Association, formed in 1913, attracted many members as the war drew to a close.
On Thursday, August 7, 1919, Actors' Equity, claiming the Producing Managers' Association had stalled, if not reneged, on a promise to negotiate, called a strike of Broadway shows produced by members of the P.M.A. Frank Bacon, father of motion picture director Lloyd Bacon, immortalized himself as the first star to strike on Equity's behalf, and Lightnin'became the first play closed by A.E.A. As a member of Equity's Council, and as a leading player in the Ziegfeld Follies, Cantor was thrust center stage.
Some expected Cantor to walk out of the Follies the same night Bacon took his stand. The Follies, though, played that night according to the program -- with Cantor. It was "explained" that Cantor was not reached in time. In fact, he had thought better of such drastic action. He admired Ziegfeld, was at the beginning of a promising career, and had a wife and three small daughters to support. Forced to balance forthrightness with prudence, Cantor determined not to strike the Follies until he had spoken with Ziegfeld.
Cantor spent the next afternoon out on Broadway, recruiting new members for Equity, declaring that the Follies would not open that evening, and mentioning Bert Williams, Eddie Dowling, and Johnny and Rae Dooley as fellow strikers in the show.