Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

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missdupont

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Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 8:15 am

In a repeat post, I discuss the legal court matters surrounding the MGM film LETTY LYNTON. Because of their arrogant actions, the Federal Court issued a permanent injunction against the film ever being shown again and awarded huge monetary damages to the playwrights. Federal court decisions can only be overturned by an Act of Congress, which means the film will probably never see the light of day.
https://ladailymirror.com/2018/04/30/ma ... -lynton-2/
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buskeat

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 8:27 am

But if Dishonored Lady hits public domain in 2025, doesn't that mean Letty Lynton will then be free to be screened?
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Paul Penna

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 9:10 am

buskeat wrote:But if Dishonored Lady hits public domain in 2025, doesn't that mean Letty Lynton will then be free to be screened?


That's what the last line of the article says.
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missdupont

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 9:22 am

After looking into this, I don't think so. Permanent injunctions mean just that, permanent, it's not a temporary one that can be lifted if situations are met. From the American Bar Association:
Permanent Injunction—These types of injunctions are meant to pre­serve a status of action or inaction per­manently. They are generally issued as final judgments, or rulings, in a case. In some cases, the conditions estab­lished by the preliminary injunctions are continued as permanent arrange­ments.
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Dave Pitts

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 11:53 am

In any case, Letty Lynton has been fairly easily available to buffs since the 1990s, which isn't the case with other much-sought titles. (Apologies to those who won't in any circumstance buy from the "gray market", but I do. The alternative is to forever deny yourself seeing certain titles -- and if the studios aren't seeing any revenue possible on releasing old back inventory, then I'll see 'em when I can. Why does a film exist, if it must stay vaulted/inaccessible?)
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Harold Aherne

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 4:43 pm

I would certainly be in favour of having this permanent injunction overturned, not only because of the length of time that's passed, but because the bar to the film's commercial availability is by now a greater injustice than the original plagiarism was.

It's understandable why the authors of Dishonored Lady were upset, but their actions shouldn't have the power to permanently deny the public the ability to legally view a piece of cinematic art ("art" being used broadly here). Clarence Brown, Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery and others who worked on the picture weren't responsible for the circumstances that led to its withdrawal, and their contributions should be allowed to circulate legally.

(Interesting aside: the 1947 film of Dishonored Lady apparently *wasn't* renewed. The 1974 and 1975 renewal indices aren't arranged alphabetically and I don't feel like searching right now, but the film has been released on several PD labels, meaning that whoever the current copyright holders of the play are, they either aren't aware of a derivative work being sold openly, don't care, or don't feel it's worth the potential court battles.)

Imagine that the copyright holders of "He's So Fine" decided to seek a permanent injunction against George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" (and let's suppose, of course, that Harrison fought with the same level of "arrogance" tht MGM did). Would the world be a little more right and proper if it had been illegal to sell the song for the last 40 years? Or does there come a point when we have to acknowledge that the creative arts do sometimes have cases of "subconscious influence" that aren't so cut and dried as to justify an 80+ year ban on an 84-minute film?

--HA
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missdupont

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 5:20 pm

It was the lack of action and arrogance on the part of MGM throughout the whole process for flagrantly plagiarizing and for not living up to the original terms of the appeals court decision. As Judge Learned Hand said, they basically copied the play line for line in scenes at the conclusion, so it wasn't a little petty thing they did, but something major. They also thought they were above the law and could do whatever they liked because they thought the authors would cower and not stand up to a major studio and demand they follow what the court decided, so the judge came down on MGM, as he should. As most of the films were never re-released nor new technologies considered, the action was understandable. It's like the Mary Astor diary, people wanted to read it after it was introduced at her 1936 divorce trial, but the judge had it locked up and then destroyed in 1952.
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Harold Aherne

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 6:10 pm

This post collects some of the information I've found on permanent injunctions.

In short, permanent injunctions CAN be removed -- the correct (or at least most common) legal term is to "dissolve" a permanent injunction. The cases of dissolving permanent injunctions that one encounters online frequently involve restraining orders as part of domestic cases, but there are others, like this:
http://www.patentdocs.org/2008/01/innogenetics-nv.html

Now, this case involved the Circuit Court dissolving a permanent injunction issued by a district court. The Lynton injunction was likewise issued by a district court, so the Circuit Court or SCOTUS presumably hold the power to dissolve it if the circumstances were deemed to justify the action.

--HA
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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 6:50 pm

What is likely to happen is that some cut-rate distributor like Alpha will start selling this title after the copyright expires. It is unlikely that the heirs would challenge this in court. But I doubt that the Warner Archive would try to re-establish the rights to this film.
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missdupont

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostMon Apr 30, 2018 9:46 pm

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, that's why the lower decision stood, so that point is moot.
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Jay Salsberg

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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostWed May 02, 2018 7:02 am

The play DISHONORED LADY was copyrighted in 1930 by Margaret Ayer Barnes and Edward Sheldon. Sheldon died in 1946. The copyright was renewed in 1957 by Barnes and she died 10 years later. Under current law, the copyright will expire 70 years after her death (2037), and the work will fall into the public domain. I don't know if that will free up Warner Bros from legal entanglements, but it will certainly allow the public domain companies like Alpha to distribute the film... on the condition that they can first get their hands on a film print.
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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostWed May 02, 2018 7:38 am

One of the ironies of the Letty Lynton situation is that the movie adapted officially from Dishonored Lady (called, conveniently, Dishonored Lady) is a public domain perennial, and is hiding in plain sight on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and all sorts of other internet locations. Having seen both, I prefer Dishonored Lady, particularly as it showcases Hedy Lamarr in the sort of role she should have been playing all through her Hollywood career. Letty Lynton has some great scenes, but my four year old memories of the film have me recalling that the final reels are more than a little tedious.
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Re: Letty Lynton and Its Permanent Injunction

PostThu May 03, 2018 2:59 pm

I'm sure the ghost of Edward Sheldon would have long ago (he's been dead since 1946) relinquished such strangle hold on a work of his. Having read his biography by Eric Barnes some thirty years ago[the book is from 1956], Sheldon was one of the most benevolent characters in Broadway history. Letty Lynton was one of his lesser works, in conjunction with his big hits like Salvation Nell and Romance[made into a Garbo MGM of 1930]. But isn't this issue similar to some films with music by Irving Berlin being denied reissue by his estate/?family ?

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