Letty Lynton (32)

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Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:42 pm

Is this not available at all today because of that MGM lawsuit thing?

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:58 pm

Yup. Another 80-year-old film tied up by legal issues....

" It’s rights have been tied up in legal issues since the late 1930s. A federal court ruled that the story was too close to the play Dishonored Lady, making the film an unauthorized adaptation, thus keeping it completely out of circulation."
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by FrankFay » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:11 pm

I suspect that like quite a few unseen films it would have a hard time living up to the reputation.
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:38 pm

ANYTHING with Crawford in....yes, even BERSERK, even....God help me...TROG...is worth seeing.
:D

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:50 pm

I think it's one of Crawford's best performances in the 1930s.....
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by CoffeeDan » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:01 pm

The Warner Archive has reported on their Facebook page that their legal team is still working to untangle the issues related to LETTY LYNTON. Since they've recently managed to free NIGHT FLIGHT (on WHV) and THE CONSTANT NYMPH from legal limbo after nearly 60 years, maybe LETTY isn't far behind . . .

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by missdupont » Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:40 pm

Here is the post I wrote last year about this case.
http://ladailymirror.com/2011/09/05/mar ... ty-lynton/" target="_blank" target="_blank

This was a federal case, and it won't be easily changed. I hope a lawyer well versed in federal law can speak to this, but MGM appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it, which means that the Appeals Court ruling in favor of the playwrights stands. The only way that I know of that cases that are lost at the Supreme Court based on legislation or laws can become legal again is through federal legislation approved by the Senate and House, and signed off by the President. That would mean that they can't just buy their way out of this. Copyright extends at least another decade too, so they can't say it's now in public domain. Federal court opinions are the law of the land.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:14 am

They could just buy the rights now, couldn't they? Or make a payment of some sort to the heirs for permission-- I mean, what other revenue can be coming in from that play by now?
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by missdupont » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:05 am

I don't think so. MGM did not want to pay the original damages assessed by the Appeals Court, so the playwrights took them back to court and won a permanent injunction against the film on August 3, 1936. Those are usually permanent in federal law. And the playwrights won over 150,000 from MGM, reduced from over 900,000.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by stairstars » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:51 am

It would be interesting to find out who does hold the rights. Of the coauthors, he died in 1946 and she in 1967 and her son in 2004. If, it is with a publishing concern why, like Mike queries, would they not welcome payment for a long dormant work? It would seem an injunction is only as good as the side who wishes to enforce it and could voluntarily be lifted.

On the other hand, would potential DVD revenue justify any substantial amount? I think the film's notoriety would almost assure it of good sales in addition to the loyalty of Joan's fans.


rick

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by CoffeeDan » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:05 am

I think Rick's on to something. Imagine the following scenario:

In an attempt to find the rights holders, Warner Archive (or a Warner-approved assign) sends out a press release saying that it is releasing a special edition of LETTY LYNTON, limited to, say, 2000 copies to be released in Q2 2014, and is now taking pre-orders. Sales are brisk among Joan Crawford fans, and the edition is sold out within a week. In the meantime, the rights holders get wind of the deal and threaten to sue to stop it.

WA says to them, "Wait a minute, is this really what you want to do? This title is popular among fans of Joan Crawford and pre-code cinema, and we now have the sales figures to prove it. This has every sign of being a big-seller now and a steady stream of income for the future. We'd like to discuss terms . . ."

I would bet they would have a deal signed well before that release date. In fact, I'm wondering if the Warner Archive didn't already do something like this when it sent out an ambiguously-worded press release last year mentioning the first-time video release of a rare major Joan Crawford film never before on VHS or DVD. It had a lot of people speculating that it was LETTY LYNTON (indeed, some of that speculation was on this website), when it actually turned out to be UNTAMED, Joan Crawford's first talking film from 1929. A big letdown, to be sure. But maybe the rights holders to LETTY showed up.

If the original play is indeed now held by a publishing concern, as Rick speculates, I don't know of a publishing house anywhere that doesn't want to keep one of its properties from bringing in income. If they knew the income from such a property would be substantial and steady, the walls would come tumbling down faster than you could say Lucille LeSueur. I've seen it happen.

I know this sounds like a lot of woolgathering, but stranger things have happened, and might be happening right now . . .
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:35 pm

CoffeeDan wrote:I think Rick's on to something. Imagine the following scenario:

(SNIP)

I know this sounds like a lot of woolgathering, but stranger things have happened, and might be happening right now . . .
Or, Warners could sell LL to Disney. THAT would end the stalemate and get the film (briefly) released from the vault.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Wm. Charles Morrow » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:35 pm

I happened to see Letty Lynton recently thanks to a friend who has a DVD copy -- a poor quality copy, but unfortunately one can’t be choosy where this film is concerned. During the sequence where Emile (Nils Asther) is killed, I noticed something odd. He tells Letty he expects her to stay the night and locks the door, indicating his intentions. While he’s doing that, she puts the poison in his drink. After he dies, the room service waiter knocks, then opens the door. How did he manage that? The waiter, who doesn’t realize Emile is dead, straightens up the apartment a little, discreetly knocks back some of Emile’s champagne, and leaves. Then Letty goes around the room, removing evidence she was there, unlocks the door, and leaves.

Is it my imagination, or is there a big whopping continuity error in this scene?
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by FrankFay » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:37 am

Would the room service waiter have a pass key?
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Wm. Charles Morrow » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:23 am

FrankFay wrote:Would the room service waiter have a pass key?
Presumably, yes. But I watched the scene a couple of times, wondering if I'd missed something, and it appears he simply opens the door and enters, after knocking only once. (The camera stays inside the room.) I guess for the scene to work we have to assume that he lets himself in with a pass key.
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Wm. Charles Morrow » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:35 am

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
FrankFay wrote:Would the room service waiter have a pass key?
Presumably, yes. But I watched the scene a couple of times, wondering if I'd missed something, and it appears he simply opens the door and enters, after knocking only once. (The camera stays inside the room.) I guess for the scene to work we have to assume that he lets himself in with a pass key.
P.S. Something occurred to me after I posted the note above: when the waiter exits, there's no way he could bolt the door again from the inside, so there would be no need for Letty to unlock it before leaving. I'm going to watch the scene again when I can, but meanwhile it looks like the filmmakers got sloppy with an important plot point.

At any rate, I agree that this was Crawford's best performance of the '30s. The moment when she tells the dying Emile that she's glad it happened, hissing the words, may just be her best scene ever.
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by FrankFay » Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:29 am

I think that studios could fudge things like this because your average viewer didn't have the luxury of rewinding the film to check the details.
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:22 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
At any rate, I agree that this was Crawford's best performance of the '30s. The moment when she tells the dying Emile that she's glad it happened, hissing the words, may just be her best scene ever.
Now I HAVE to see it. Is there anyone I can kill for it?
:)

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:27 pm

?
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:45 pm

?
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by stairstars » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:59 pm

Yo, tease...don't you already have a target on your back??? :lol:

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:40 pm

OK so what doesn't make sense to me about this copyright infringement case that MGM lost in 1936 is that there was a 1930 play called "Dishonored Lady" and the authors claimed Letty Lynton plagiarized it. But the film was based on a 1931 novel of the same name. The film must have veered wildly from Marie Belloc Lowndes' novel if they won their case. It would seem more likely that the novelist should have been charged with plagiarism if the film followed the novel. The 1936 decision was upheld by a higher court in 1939.

The 1947 Hedy Lamarr film of Dishonored Lady was savaged by censors until it bore little resemblance to the original play which starred Katharine Cornell.

So more than 70 years after the final legal action and 80 years after its initial release, Letty Lynton is still in purgatory

The "Letty Lynton" dress sold more than 500,000 copies!!
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by missdupont » Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:50 am

Once again, if you'd read my post, you would have found most of these facts. MGM tried to get the rights to the play twice, and claimed they were then going to base the movie on the book, but instead basically copied the play, which the MGM attorney admitted in court. Case shut, closed, dismissed.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by missdupont » Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:53 am

The Court of Appeals ruled for the playwrights, MGM appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it, meaning the playwrights won. Once again, slam dunk. That means it's over, final, de nada. MGM didn't want to pay what they owed, and that is when the playwrights asked for the permanent injunction. MGM has no one to blame in this case but themselves. If they hadn't copied the play or at least attempted to settle and pay in a timely manner, none of this would have happened. They got what they deserved.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:13 am

Yes I read all that on Wiki... Was Marie Belloc Lowndes involved with the screenplay? Seems odd that John Meehan and Wanda Tuchock, both well know writers, would have been that brazen and stupid.
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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:58 pm

Well, I've tracked down and watched this and I agree - a superb performance by Crawford. It's a crying shame we don't have a decent release.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by WaverBoy » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:49 pm

Looks like this one is still in purgatory...?

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by sepiatone » Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:59 am

Mike Gebert wrote:They could just buy the rights now, couldn't they? Or make a payment of some sort to the heirs for permission-- I mean, what other revenue can be coming in from that play by now?
Edward Sheldon and Margaret Ayers Barnes were the main complaintants in the suit against MGM. Barnes has heirs. Sheldon and Barnes authored the play "Dishonored Lady" upon which Letty Lynton is based.
Edward Sheldon had no immediate heirs, ie wife, children. He died a bachelor and in severe handicap. He was friends to nearly every important person involved in the Broadway theatre world. Helen Hayes is one notable. Sheldon's mother may have outlived him if I recall, I'm not sure just off the top of my head.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by Dave Pitts » Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:08 am

BTW, is Christopher Bean also lost in old litigation? I've never read a clear description of the circumstances, and I'm really impatient to see it -- Dressler's last, of course, and supposedly a great Dressler performance. (I love Marie, as do most buffs -- we should have every foot of film she's in, just like we have all of W. C. Fields.)
I own Letty Lynton -- various 'gray market' dealers have released it, and the dealers at Columbus Cinevent (in May) often have it. Since Nils' death scene was discussed above, I'll add that the kick I get out of that sequence is Crawford's little strangled yelp -- the same one she delivers in Grand Hotel when she sees Barrymore with his head bashed in.

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Re: Letty Lynton (32)

Unread post by drednm » Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:26 am

The rights issues for these old films are often so murky and ludicrous I'm surprised the "rights" have any legal bearing at this point. Letty Lynton at least is knocking around the gray market, but Christopher Bean and Marion Davies' It's a Wise Child are not.

Has anyone compiled a list of 30s films tied up by rights issues? The case is often that the rights were sold by one studio to another for a remake ... even if they never make it. I doubt that's the case with the Dressler or Davies films.
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