Bogart's "The African Queen" and Flynn's "Santa Fe Trail"
#1
My folks were down in the Florida Keys a few weeks ago and mentioned that they'd seen the boat used in the filming of the Bogart/Hepburn film The African Queen. My dad said he'd like to see the film, but I doubt our local rental places are going to have it, since they're pathetic. Any classics they had were lost when they cleaned out their VHS inventory after DVD became the standard format. So I figure I'll just buy the film for him. Only to find out there's been no official US DVD release of the picture.

Go figure. A John Huston film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The film Bogart won an Oscar for. What gives? One person suggested that it had to do with who held the rights to the film. According to IMDb, the film was originally released by United Artists. Given the nature of that company, and the fact that they've been sold a few times, if I remember correctly, I can see how this would happen. But you'd think someone would make the effort to sort it out!

Another oddity Santa Fe Trail. Directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan, and Olivia de Havilland.

In this case, though, instead of no one having the rights for a US release, it seems that everyone does. According to IMDb, about 9 different companies have released the film to DVD since 1998.

This was a Warner Brothers Studio picture! Warners maintains the rights to the rest of their Flynn films, and has made fine DVD releases of almost all of them in the last few years.

Any insight into what would cause an oscar winner like The African Queen end up in DVD no-man's-land, or what would make a major studio picture from the prime of Flynn's career become practically public domain?
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#2
No clue, but both turn up on cable all the time. Obviously it relates to rights... I do know that every now and then something falls through the cracks and the studio misses a deadline to renew its copyright. I recall that was the case with It's A Wonderful Life, which is why it was on every independent channel non-stop at Christmas for years, and became far more popular a generation later than it had ever been in the theatres. Eventually, somone got smart and bought the copyright on the music in the soundtrack, and then exercised a right no one ever does, and said "sorry, you can't use the music without or permission..." meaning that they could't use the film.

BTW Santa Fe Trail can be seen in its enitrety on Google Video!

Maybe at some point, like back in the 50's, it got sold to TV, by itself, and then rights were passed around thereafter?

With African Queen, I do know that United Artists just released it. Huston (and presumably a couple of investors) basically paid for it out of his/their own pocket. So the owners would be whatever entity they incorporated themselves under, or their aging children and grandchildren, and maybe they're just biding their time, and enjoying the $$ they made/are making from the VHS sales and the repeated tv showings. Or for that matter, maybe that actually is the case - Huston had, what, 3 children? Several ex-wives? If he had, say, four partners who invested in the film, they might have three children each, so there could be a dozen people or more, and/or their agents, managers and accountants who have to sign off on something like that, and it may not be a huge priority for them all. Just speculating though....
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#3
Yeah It's a Wonderful Life was actually a bomb, if I recall correctly. It did horribly, and so the property rights weren't cared for as other, more lucrative movies were. No one knew what the future would hold, or they would be more circumspect with such things.

There are also a lot of television shows that didn't fare that well, but while nowadays they would go to DVD after their limited run, so that fans would purchase them, thus turning a second profit, these titles have slipped through the cracks. It may be some time, if never, before we see "Tales of the Gold Monkey" "It's Like, You Know" or "Wizards and Warriors" re-released via DVD, since the fan base has mostly dried up and faded away.
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#4
august Wrote:BTW Santa Fe Trail can be seen in its enitrety on Google Video!

Thanks for the heads-up on that!

Quote:With African Queen, I do know that United Artists just released it. Huston (and presumably a couple of investors) basically paid for it out of his/their own pocket.

IIRC Bogart had formed his own production company at some point. If he was in on the financing/production of the film that could help muddle things up even more. He was married several times, too, I have no idea if his former wives fought over his estate after his passing.

Edited to add:
I was just looking at the Wikipedia entry for Santa Fe Trail, and it claims that the film is in fact public domain, since United Artists failed to renew the copyright in 1968. I'm not sure why United Artists had anything to do with it. It was distributed by Warner Brothers, and features actors under contract to WB, and Curtiz, obviously, was the big cheese at the studio as far as directors went.

The African Queen entry mentions that Paramount is planning a DVD release of the film in the future, but it cites no source.

Guess I should have looked there first. :bg:
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#5
Conceivably Warners could have sold off rights to United Artists for TV reruns, since back in the day there was no expectation of life after the big screen for anything, with the exception of a few "big" titles that would occasionally get re-releases in theatres years, even decades later. Like I saw Casablanca and Adventures of Robin Hood on the big-screen in the 70's, for example, long before they turned up on tv, but decades after their release.
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#6
august Wrote:Conceivably Warners could have sold off rights to United Artists for TV reruns, since back in the day there was no expectation of life after the big screen for anything, with the exception of a few "big" titles that would occasionally get re-releases in theatres years, even decades later. Like I saw Casablanca and Adventures of Robin Hood on the big-screen in the 70's, for example, long before they turned up on tv, but decades after their release.

Interesting. I watched Casablanca on the big screen in the 90s, and I'm pretty certain I watched Robin Hood on the big screen in the 80s. I wonder how many times they re-released it?
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#7
Aha! The IMDB has the answer!

Robin Hood releases

Casablanca releases

Of course, there were some prints that were still floating around, since art house theatres and college campuses could show things like that whenever they wanted.
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
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#8
Notre Dame had an outdoor screening of Robin Hood last summer, unfortunately I missed it. It would have been fun to see with a crowd.
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#9
Boomstick Wrote:Notre Dame had an outdoor screening of Robin Hood last summer, unfortunately I missed it. It would have been fun to see with a crowd.

They always are, since people who go to see those movies are usually there for the movie going experience, and thus less likely to be kicking the back of your chair . . . or the turf you're sitting on in this case.
All your base are belong to us.

It could be that the purpose of my life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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#10
Of course, in a university setting there's always the high probability that annoying first year undergrads will do their best to ruin it for everyone. :bg:
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