Actors celebrate their own profession
''Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland can't put on a musical show in the barn anymore - the barn has been converted into a condominium.'' That's the kind of change that has taken place in the acting profession in the past 50 years, says Edward Asner, president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). We have this, and more, in a two-hour tribute to the guild, its members, and the entire acting profession, entitled The Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration (CBS, Tuesday, 9-11 p.m.). It's like a private party by and for actors - with the public invited to eavesdrop.Skip to next paragraph
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The fact that the show is a Smith-Hemion Production is enough to cause knowledgeable TV viewers to pay attention - this team has produced some of television's most remarkable musical programs. The broadcast makes no pretense at being anything other than what it is - a salute to the world of movie and TV actors, and especially to the union that has brought them some measure of dignity and equity from their labor.
The special begins with what might seem to be a grand finale - a rousing song titled ''I'm An Actor . . . Here's My Card,'' in which hundreds of guild members , recognizable and unknown, take part. In this number, as well as in other numbers throughout the show, there are pertinent film clips from new and old movies which help make the point of the film: that actors have been contributing to our society for a long time and still only a small percentage are able to earn a decent living from it. An especially clever and poignant production number points this up as actors in temporary, sometimes menial, jobs sing about ''What I Do for Love.'' Mr. Asner declares, ''Nobody ever said it'd happen like in the movies.''
But at the end of this special, despite current political differences, president Asner, with quiet dignity and respect, reads a congratulatory telegram from Ronald Reagan, the former six-term SAG president.
Although the ''SAG Anniversary Celebration'' is loaded with ''significant'' little speeches, tableaux, and dialogues, there are many light, entertaining moments - including a superb recital of the development of an actress by Cloris Leachman.
But the fact is that ''The SAG 50th Anniversary Celebration'' is basically a show about a labor union, a kind of 1980s ''Pins and Needles.'' Although you may be enchanted by some of its lightheartedness, behind the entertainment it is clear there is solid, serious resolve.
A chat with Edward Asner
''I would be delighted to shut up if everybody else who isn't an actor began to shout,'' says Ed Asner, better known as Lou Grant of ''Lou Grant'' and ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show.''
I have just asked him, over lunch at Mindy's, if it is true that he has lowered the volume of his highly publicized protests on US foreign policy in Central America. He is in New York to publicize his recent special (''Anatomy of an Illness,'' in which he plays Norman Cousins), as well as to do the SAG special (see above).
''If people want me to maintain silence because I am an actor, I should turn in my credentials as an American citizen. We crow mightily about our great freedom of speech in this land, and yet there is an unbelievable paucity of it in this country. The only reason I started shouting was because I was frustrated to see the things I believe in not printed, not talked about.''