A RAISIN IN THE SUN — Ah, Phooey!

Anyway, a decent lineup for September. 3 Stars

This is part of the new Criterion announcement, and I was about to throw a street party. I thought, wow! Criterion finally got hold of the rights to this film that hasn’t been released on any video format or been seen by anyone for decades! Then it occurred to me, no, I actually already own A RAISIN IN THE SUN on DVD. For some reason I was mistaking it for PORGY AND BESS. Well, Criterion, there’s a challenge for you — wrestle that one from the current rights holder! Anyway, a decent lineup for September.

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29 Comments

  1. Who the hell does have the rights to Preminger's Porgy and Bess now? The absence of this beloved classic in any form except horrid bootlegs is an embarrassment. It was part of the Samuel Goldwyn collection and God knows where it ended up.

  2. Samual Goldwyn estate has the rights. The Gershwin estate had a hold on anything happening due difficulties with that they did not like the film. It has been reported that those problems have been resolved. So possibly Warner has them with their license agreement.

    When the license agreement was announced it stated WHV had rights to all Goldwyn titles except one. It was speculated the title was Porgy and Bess. But, the title that was not included turned out to be The Hurricane. Sooooo where is Porgy?

  3. The ONLY copy that's been shown was a 35mm IB Tech print that never looked right because it was not projected with carbon arc, which is what the print was timed for. Since the owner of that print died last year, hard to know where it will end up, but that's not a viable source for a transfer. And yes, it would be fairly expensive getting Porgy on Blu-ray, although I'd imagine the negative didn't have that much use, as the film was pretty much a bomb.

  4. Nobody running the Gershwin or Heywood estates was even alive when the film came out. There is so much conjecture about who was unhappy with it and why, none of it based on any truth that I've been able to find. So you read things like "Ira Gershwin was rumored to be displeased." But we have no actual proof in writing or in first-hand word that he was displeased. I think the misguided estate who allowed the fairly wretched B'way revival a few years ago makes it up as they go. Originally it was Previn who was the scapegoat because he reorchestrated some of it – of course, he won an Oscar and the soundtrack album won a Grammy – I don't think anyone in 1959 was displeased with it winning those awards. Not ever publicized is the monetary aspect – both estates are looking for a payday and no one will give it to them because there's only a marginal audience for a home video release.

    Wikipedia itself is so filled with bogus information that anyone who takes anything on Wikipedia seriously should have their head examined – anyone, including you or I, could go in there right now and edit and change everything to outright lies and there it would be. For example, they (whoever) state that for years it was thought that a complete 35mm dye transfer print in four-track mag was held by the UCLA Archive. Oh really? Who thought that? And of course when asked the UCLA Archive said it was hooey. But there is no mention of who actually did own that print even though it's finally mentioned that it was screened in NY. But to tell you what the estate is really about, there's the rather astonishing and hilarious BS press agentry BS of 2013, where Mike Medavoy was developing an updated completely rethought Porgy and Bess for the screen and was looking for the perfect director. Uh huh. But even though that was all BS, who do you think is quoted in the article? Right – the estate, saying what a great idea. So, they're apparently fine with anyone doing anything to Porgy and Bess IF it involves money. The Preminger film deserves to be presented as it was filmed – a great Todd-AO transfer in a pristine restoration. That would be very expensive and if you add a payday for the estates, who are now apparently willing to have it happen as LONG as there's money for them, then the 1000 or 2000 sales wouldn't even pay for an eighth of it.

  5. haineshisway

    … the fairly wretched B'way revival a few years ago…

    Fairly wretched? You are being too generous. It was one of the worst productions I have seen in my half-century of theatergoing. A total travesty. How it won the Best Musical Revival Tony is beyond comprehension.

    I caught the movie years ago at the Library of Congress here in DC. It's far from a masterpiece, but a totally respectable adaptation of the original work. A legitimate home video release would be a day one purchase for me.

  6. RichMurphy

    Fairly wretched? You are being too generous. It was one of the worst productions I have seen in my half-century of theatergoing. A total travesty. How it won the Best Musical Revival Tony is beyond comprehension.

    I caught the movie years ago at the Library of Congress here in DC. It's far from a masterpiece, but a totally respectable adaptation of the original work. A legitimate home video release would be a day one purchase for me.

    Is that the "happy ending" revisal that Sondheim ripped for (A) "rewriting and distorting" the characters and (B) calling it "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," thereby ignoring DuBose Heyward, who wrote the book and most of the lyrics (Sondheim: "including all of the good ones"), PLUS the play on which it was based? Sondheim added, "I assume that's in case anyone worried it was the Rodgers and Hart 'Porgy and Bess' that was coming to town."

  7. Rick Thompson

    Is that the "happy ending" revisal that Sondheim ripped for (A) "rewriting and distorting" the characters and (B) calling it "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," thereby ignoring DuBose Heyward, who wrote the book and most of the lyrics (Sondheim: "including all of the good ones"), PLUS the play on which it was based? Sondheim added, "I assume that's in case anyone worried it was the Rodgers and Hart 'Porgy and Bess' that was coming to town."

    Yup, that's the one. I'm not sure I agree with Sondheim's "happy ending" comment, but the script was dumbed down considerably. They made Audra McDonald wear a fake facial scar to make it clear that she had a rough life, and the very talented Norm Lewis was miscast and misdirected as Porgy (instead of a cripple, he just had a slight limp, and why would women "look in his door and keep on walkin'" when you looked like Norm Lewis, easily the handsomest man on that stage).

    Several years ago, I was lucky to see a production of DuBose Hayward's PORGY (the nonmusical source of the opera) and was startled at how much dialog was lifted directly for PORGY AND BESS. Several times I expected the cast to break out into song.

  8. RichMurphy

    Yup, that's the one. I'm not sure I agree with Sondheim's "happy ending" comment, but the script was dumbed down considerably. They made Audra McDonald wear a fake facial scar to make it clear that she had a rough life, and the very talented Norm Lewis was miscast and misdirected as Porgy (instead of a cripple, he just had a slight limp, and why would women "look in his door and keep on walkin'" when you looked like Norm Lewis, easily the handsomest man on that stage).

    Several years ago, I was lucky to see a production of DuBose Hayward's PORGY (the nonmusical source of the opera) and was startled at how much dialog was lifted directly for PORGY AND BESS. Several times I expected the cast to break out into song.[/QUOTE

    I for one thought the singing was fine as it is always a pleasure to listen to Audra McDonald.

  9. Paul Rossen

    I for one thought the singing was fine as it is always a pleasure to listen to Audra McDonald.

    No argument there about Audra singing. To hear her and the vocally more appropriate Brian Stokes Mitchell perform PORGY AND BESS without having to endure a butchered theatrical production, may I recommend the 1998 Gershwin Centennial CD (individual songs are available for download):

    https://www.amazon.com/Gershwin-Celebration-Michael-Tilson-Thomas/dp/B00386JWKM

  10. Raisin In the Sun is a great play made into a great film. I saw it in original release and have the DVD.

    Lorraine Hansberry wrote the play and it holds up very well, not only dealing with issues that were current at the time but foreshadowing things that have happened since. The cast is wonderful. Good underscore.

    The play also brought about a recent sequel called Clyborne Park. It also deals with some interesting issues but has a very different tone.

  11. While I would love to see a Blu-ray of a restored Porgy and Bess, this thread was about A Raisin in the Sun.

    Raisin is a very important theatrical element of the civil rights era and deserves more discussion and study in its own right.

  12. Although it would be great if Criterion could release Porgy & Bess as well, I see no reason to be anything other than delighted about the fact that they are releasing A Raisin in the Sun, which certainly deserves its spot in the prestigious collection and the excellent treatment it will get from them.

  13. Maybe MGM's new CEO will do less to prevent an eventual Porgy & Bess release from happening, but until then it should be interesting to see exactly how this film's disc will look and sound. Sony's technical standards are high and they have rarely disappointed.

    The irony is that Columbia actually distributed the former to theaters originally, but they have no claims on it now. Raisin is theirs outright.

  14. MatthewA

    Maybe MGM's new CEO will do less to prevent an eventual Porgy & Bess release from happening, but until then it should be interesting to see exactly how this film's disc will look and sound. Sony's technical standards are high and they have rarely disappointed.

    The irony is that Columbia actually distributed the former to theaters originally, but they have no claims on it now. Raisin is theirs outright.

    As far as I know, Gary Barber wasn’t involved in the suppression of Porgy and Bess, in fact whether or not they even have the rights is entirely questionable (The Alamo’s suppression on the other hand has Barber’s fingerprints all over it).

  15. A RAISIN IN THE SUN — great. PORGY AND BESS — greater! It may never happen. For some reason the people who own the rights to this have vowed never to release it. You can see an edited, smeary TV version on YouTube. I love it. It has a strange, haunting quality to it.

  16. Dear Warnerbro – did you just not read any of the posts in this thread, which explains all the problems – can't keep trotting out that some of the rights' holders have vowed – because it's not true and I made a lengthy post about it.

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