Movies not on DVD caught in 'rights hell'

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Charles Ellis, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    I'd like to talk about those films that have yet to appear on DVD (or any other form of home video) due to disputes regarding either the ownership of the particular title or the material it was based on (play/book/Broadway musical) A few come to mind:

    Letty Lynton- this Joan Crawford film was the subject of an infamous civil suit in which MGM lost to the author of a play. It seems that MGM failed to get the rights to a hit Broadway play Dishonored Lady by Edward Sheldon, which in turn was based on the notorious Madeline Smith case of the 1800s. As a result, MGM decided to do its own version of the Smith case, but with modern-day charcters played by joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery and Nils Asther. The movie was a box-office bonanza, but Sheldon sued and won the right to have the film removed from circulation.

    http://www.faculty.piercelaw.edu/red...heldon.mgm.htm

    (This was a VERY bad time for MGM in the courts- at the same time they had to deal with a slander suit regarding Rasputin and the Empress, which led to the now familiar credit 'This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between characters and actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental"- yeah, they lost that case, too!)

    Then there's the time-travel fantasy Berkeley Square starring Leslie Howard as a 1930s man who winds up in the 1800s and falls in love (sound familiar, Christopher Reeve fans?), and its part-Techincolor (in the past sequences) remake I'll Never Forget You a.k.a. The House In The Square starring Tyrone Power. Both of these films are apparently caught in a rights dispute over the source material and are scarely seen today.

    Also, the Samuel Goldywn version of Porgy and Bess is being held up by the estate of George Gershwin (supposedly they're not too thrilled with it), kinda like the situation with the Irving Berlin estate holding on to Annie Get Your Gun until a few years ago.

    I've also heard that the Bette Davis trash classic Beyond The Forest may also be in a rights dispute, but I can't find anything to prove this.

    I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg: there are probably a lot of films out there that haven't seen the light of day in years due to courtroom litigation (like a few Orson Welles films and of course Jerry Lewis' The Day The Clown Cried). Okay- the thread is now open!
     
  2. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Visconti's THE STRANGER has been held up for decades, I believe because of a dispute with the Camus estate.
     
  3. CineKarine

    CineKarine Supporting Actor

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    The Constant Nymph (43) and the earlier 30s version are both tied up to the estate of Margaret Kennedy, author of the book which inspired the films. And what a shame - Fontaine's Nymph is one of the greatest films ever made and a prize jewel in Warner history in every single way.

    Sergeants 3 (62), the Rat Pack version of Gunga Din, has been tied up for years in a legal battle between Frank Sinatra’s estate and the studios (now MGM).

    The Joker Is Wild (57), with Sinatra, has some rights problems involving its music that Paramount has not been able (willing?) to clear. I believe With a Song in My Heart (52) is in the same sort of predicament.

    Not sure if Alan Ladd's version of The Great Gatsby (49) is caught up in a similar situation or if Paramount is just being capricious. Does anyone know?

    Apparently, Money from Home (53) (Damon Runyon striking again?) and Three Ring Circus (54) (reason?) are in a rights no-show as well.
     
  4. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Ooh boy- it's worse than I thought! Of course, everyone loses in this situation, but the public most of all.....
     
  5. CineKarine

    CineKarine Supporting Actor

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    The Blue Veil (51) is also in litigation - another supremely beautiful film.

    Spring Parade (40) Universal lost the rights to the film in 1945, after the scriptwriter of the Austrian original sued. Universal had the chance to buy the property back years later but refused.
     
  6. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    I suspect that the Moss Hart estate (Kitty Carlisle?) have held up the video rights to WINGED VICTORY and LADY IN THE DARK. (LADY was about to come out on vhs but was abruptly pulled; it was shown on AMC ages ago.) Then there is the very mysterious case of BOOMERANG. Nobody seems to know what happened there. There are no video releases of the Bob Hope films THE CAT AND THE CANARY and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (both announced at one time for VHS) and LET'S FACE IT. My own holy grail is WHERE'S CHARLEY?, but the Frank Loesser estate believes it is an inferior representation of the original show. Pauline Kael and I beg to disagree. Warners was going to release JEALOUSY, the 1929 Paramount version of THE LETTER, but nothing has been heard recently about that. Maybe on THE UNFAITHFUL dvd? And the disapproval of the Maugham estate of Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly's CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY may be why it has not been released in the USA. I wonder if story rights to Otto Preminger's THE THIRTEENTH LETTER, a remake of LE CORBEAU have prevented it from being put on home video?
     
  7. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

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    Rumor has it that MISSISSIPPI with Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields is in rights hell, but hardly anybody has noticed because so few of Fields films were released on VHS or DVD (the new DVD set will rectify a lot of that, although MISSISSIPPI isn't flowing yet). Ditto, of course, Abbott & Costello in IT AIN'T HAY.
     
  8. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Supporting Actor

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    I believe Bob Hope's THE CAT AND THE CANARY is held up because of issues with the original owners of the source material (the play) that its based on.

    Supposedly, THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED wasn't completed, either...There was an article on it, and it was mostly finished, but not quite. I believe the financing there was international and muddled so that would also be a nightmare to untangle...not that Jerry Lewis will ever let it out!
     
  9. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    Ironically I saw BERKELEY SQUARE at a film convention in 1990. I wish I could recall more of it!
     
  10. ted:r

    ted:r Second Unit

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    I'd have to add "Titicut Follies" (1967). According to IMDB:


    I suppose this is one film that possibly will never show up on DVD.
     
  11. Bob Graham

    Bob Graham Supporting Actor

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    Olson and Johnson's HELLZAPOPPIN is held up over rights issues. Universal doesn't want to pay royalties to the writers (or the estate of the writers) of the original Broadway play. It was released on DVD in Australia.
     
  12. Sean Richardson

    Sean Richardson Stunt Coordinator

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    I saw that in film school. It was really scary.

    Robert Altman's 'HealtH' might belong on the list... there used to be four Altman movies to which the music rights hadn't been negotiated for home video. The other three are now on DVD ('3 Women', 'Images', and 'California Split', which was cut by a few minutes because of this), but 'HealtH' never has been. And the thing is, Fox Movie Channel usually broadcasts stuff in widescreen at least once in a while, but they never have with this, which leads me to believe there isn't even a widescreen version available to them yet (they've shown it in pan-and-scan often). (For comparison, 'The Wedding' played WS two years on FMC before DVD release, and 'Quintet' was about a year before.)
     
  13. Greg_M

    Greg_M Screenwriter

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    In the Warner Bros. Chat we learned the 1961 film version of "Fanny" is no longer owned by Warner Bros. (Who owns the rights to this film then?) Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor (Charles Boyer) plus 3 others (Lost to "West Side Story" which won the bulk of the awards that year) Based on the Pagnol trilogy, this is a very well acted and touching film and should be available for viewing on DVD. Also starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Horst Buchholz this is the dramatic version (not a musical)
     
  14. Dave Simkiss

    Dave Simkiss Stunt Coordinator

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    Richard Stanleys Hardware is another to add to the list, I believe MGM attempted to release it a few years back but it's still caught up in 'who owns the rights' Hell. It got a German DVD release years back, but that appears to now be out of print.
     
  15. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Beyond the Forest, is, indeed, held up because of literary rights problems.
    the same goes for The Wayward Bus and The View from Pompeys Head.
     
  16. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Are sometimes DVD legal issues really the fact a film has a clause where an estate gets money each time the film is reissued?

    In other words the copyright holder may say "oh that film has legal issues, we can't release it", but what they really mean is "if we release that film we will have to hand over $500,000 to
     
  17. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    Isn't the slasher classic Stepfather another one? I just picked up the mediocre sequel because it was cheap but it's just not the same. [​IMG]
     
  18. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    The Wayward Bus? (Or as I call it, The Wayward Busts due to stars Jayne Mansfield and Joan Collins) How can that be when other John Steinbeck-based films like The Grapes Of Wrath and Of Mice And Men have been released? Hmmm- this could explain why it wasn't included in Fox's Jayne Mansfield set.

    So my suspicions regarding Beyond The Forest have sadly been proved true- I only wish to see it again on TCM. For those who haven't seen it- it is truly a great achievement in trash cinema. See the movie that drove Bette Davis out of Warner Brothers!
     
  19. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    Hellzapoppin and The Cat and the Canary are both out in R2.
     
  20. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    Speaking of Robert Altman's Health, is Altman's missing in action Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean also in rights hell? Who owns this film?
     

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