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Creators versus Suits


CaveGirl
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We all have seen numerous examples in life, of how those in control at the top of any organization, manage somehow to inject anti-creativity clauses in any contract or venture.

In film, this is a commonplace situation. Now we also know that to continue any project, one need make money, but often the need for moola supercedes that of creating a quality product.

 

The stories of such happening during the production of films is legendary. The big boys [and sometimes girls] at the top in the offices with their own watercoolers, dig in and try to countermand any creative urges by the artists they hire to create the dream factory turnout for the year.

 

Can you think of a movie that was harmed by the suits and could have been a masterpiece if the dollar squad had kept their hands off it?

 

 

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Well, the only thing that comes to mind, is The Wizard of Oz (1939) and what a masterpiece it would not have been if the "dollar squad" (as you put it) had had their way and cast Shirley Temple instead of Judy Garland. I read that the studio wanted to trade Clark Gable and Jean Harlow just so they could have Shirley Temple play Dorothy Gale. I don't think the film would have been as timeless or as popular as it still is, over 75 years later if Shirley had attempted to sing a song like "Over the Rainbow."

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Well, the only thing that comes to mind, is The Wizard of Oz (1939) and what a masterpiece it would not have been if the "dollar squad" (as you put it) had had their way and cast Shirley Temple instead of Judy Garland. I read that the studio wanted to trade Clark Gable and Jean Harlow just so they could have Shirley Temple play Dorothy Gale. I don't think the film would have been as timeless or as popular as it still is, over 75 years later if Shirley had attempted to sing a song like "Over the Rainbow."

Really a frightening proposition, N&N!

 

I recall some film critic once saying that Shirley Temple singing reminded him of Merv Griffin, but it would have been a shame to have her instead of Judy.

 

Good call, and thanks for your input!

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The "suits" wanted Ernest Borgnine and Robert Redford to star in The Godfather in the roles that went to Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.

Another great fact, and thanks, Lawrence.

 

Didn't the suits want Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones?

 

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I think he was Lucas and Spielberg's first choice, too. But he couldn't get out of his Magnum PI contract. 

Just think, he could have worn those Hawaiian shirts and ugly shorts, as Indy and saved costuming costs!

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There's been a lot of discussion over the years of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, which RKO cut by about 40 minutes without the involvement of director Orson Welles.  The studio also shot a new ending without Welles' involvement, which lent a different mood to the film.  (The film's editor, Robert Wise, who later became a director, handled the changes for RKO.)  Based on the notes Welles left behind for the editing when he went to South America for another RKO project, it's been speculated that his intended cut would have been a greater movie, even though AMBERSONS has, as released, been considered one of the best movies ever made.  Robert Wise, however, disagreed, saying the original cut wasn't better than the released version.

 

It might be argued that the suits had already allowed Welles to go over budget, so it wasn't really money that dictated the release of a truncated version; apparently, audiences weren't entirely enthusiastic about the much longer preview version.  And it's also been argued that Welles should never have relinquished his contractual "final cut" rights, which gave RKO the right to finalize the film.

 

But I think there's reason to criticize the studio's handling of this film nonetheless.  The studio could have released Orson's intended cut based on his editing notes, trusting his creative judgment over the feedback of preview audiences.  Moreover, Welles claimed that he went to South America, which involved important war-related diplomatic goals, only after the studio agreed to let him complete the editing of AMBERSONS later, a promise (if made) they obviously didn't keep.  And the studio certainly could have preserved the excised film, making a later restoration possible, instead of destroying the negative in order to free up storage space.

 

Interestingly, Welles wasn't the only creative genius left disappointed by the studio's actions.  Composer Bernard Hermann was so unhappy about his score being cut significantly that he asked to have his credit removed from the film.

 

One enticing possibility is that because the longer rough cut of AMBERSONS that was sent to Welles in South America, as well as the longer preview cuts, have been lost, there's a possibility that they could found some day.

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There's been a lot of discussion over the years of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, which RKO cut by about 40 minutes without the involvement of director Orson Welles.  The studio also shot a new ending without Welles' involvement, which lent a different mood to the film.  (The film's editor, Robert Wise, who later became a director, handled the changes for RKO.)  Based on the notes Welles left behind for the editing when he went to South America for another RKO project, it's been speculated that his intended cut would have been a greater movie, even though AMBERSONS has, as released, been considered one of the best movies ever made.  Robert Wise, however, disagreed, saying the original cut wasn't better than the released version.

 

It might be argued that the suits had already allowed Welles to go over budget, so it wasn't really money that dictated the release of a truncated version; apparently, audiences weren't entirely enthusiastic about the much longer preview version.  And it's also been argued that Welles should never have relinquished his contractual "final cut" rights, which gave RKO the right to finalize the film.

 

But I think there's reason to criticize the studio's handling of this film nonetheless.  The studio could have released Orson's intended cut based on his editing notes, trusting his creative judgment over the feedback of preview audiences.  Moreover, Welles claimed that he went to South America, which involved important war-related diplomatic goals, only after the studio agreed to let him complete the editing of AMBERSONS later, a promise (if made) they obviously didn't keep.  And the studio certainly could have preserved the excised film, making a later restoration possible, instead of destroying the negative in order to free up storage space.

 

Interestingly, Welles wasn't the only creative genius left disappointed by the studio's actions.  Composer Bernard Hermann was so unhappy about his score being cut significantly that he asked to have his credit removed from the film.

 

One enticing possibility is that because the longer rough cut of AMBERSONS that was sent to Welles in South America, as well as the longer preview cuts, have been lost, there's a possibility that they could found some day.

Bingo, Bing!

 

That's the movie which prompted my post to begin with. Every time I watch it, the abrupt ending sequence with Tim Holt coming to terms with his injury and the final bit with Cotten and Baxter just irks the heck out of me.

 

It is like stopping a movie in the middle and whipping up the final credits with no regard for the story. And Booth Tarkington wrote a wonderful story which deserved better, though even mutilated I do enjoy the film.

 

One can only hope that some lost footage is recovered someday. That and the spider pit scene from "King Kong" would make me so happy!

 

The only thing worse than having suits ruin your project at its inception, is having suits of a second or third generation come along and also treat an object of art or even business [that was spawned by an earlier generation] with disdain and disregard. That is why so many companies started by an elder statesman in the family, go bust when the progeny get their myopic hands on it.

 

Myopic hands! Sounds like a movie Colin Clive would star in.

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There's been a lot of discussion over the years of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, which RKO cut by about 40 minutes without the involvement of director Orson Welles.  The studio also shot a new ending without Welles' involvement, which lent a different mood to the film.  (The film's editor, Robert Wise, who later became a director, handled the changes for RKO.)  Based on the notes Welles left behind for the editing when he went to South America for another RKO project, it's been speculated that his intended cut would have been a greater movie, even though AMBERSONS has, as released, been considered one of the best movies ever made.  Robert Wise, however, disagreed, saying the original cut wasn't better than the released version.

 

It might be argued that the suits had already allowed Welles to go over budget, so it wasn't really money that dictated the release of a truncated version; apparently, audiences weren't entirely enthusiastic about the much longer preview version.  And it's also been argued that Welles should never have relinquished his contractual "final cut" rights, which gave RKO the right to finalize the film.

 

But I think there's reason to criticize the studio's handling of this film nonetheless.  The studio could have released Orson's intended cut based on his editing notes, trusting his creative judgment over the feedback of preview audiences.  Moreover, Welles claimed that he went to South America, which involved important war-related diplomatic goals, only after the studio agreed to let him complete the editing of AMBERSONS later, a promise (if made) they obviously didn't keep.  And the studio certainly could have preserved the excised film, making a later restoration possible, instead of destroying the negative in order to free up storage space.

 

Interestingly, Welles wasn't the only creative genius left disappointed by the studio's actions.  Composer Bernard Hermann was so unhappy about his score being cut significantly that he asked to have his credit removed from the film.

 

One enticing possibility is that because the longer rough cut of AMBERSONS that was sent to Welles in South America, as well as the longer preview cuts, have been lost, there's a possibility that they could found some day.

 

Welles' foray in South America was a government project (as mentioned) but he mainly (I believe) involved himself in his own projects and having a merry old time (partying day and night), while continually asking for more and more film. The studio couldn't wait for him. Of course the studio would think that the released version is better their "vision" consisted of "playing to the groundlings" while Welles wanted to create "caviar to the general," i.e., a more personal and artistic version. Oh, so they destroyed the originals because they needed storage space? Right.

 

Welles shoulders much the blame for the loss, he couldn't control himself down south. Later in life and as reported in one of the biographies, while living in Las Vegas, his wife walked into his den and found him sobbing like a baby. He was watching The Magnificent Ambersons.

 

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Welles' foray in South America was a government project (as mentioned) but he mainly (I believe) involved himself in his own projects and having a merry old time (partying day and night), while continually asking for more and more film. The studio couldn't wait for him. Of course the studio would think that the released version is better their "vision" consisted of "playing to the groundlings" while Welles wanted to create "caviar to the general," i.e., a more personal and artistic version. Oh, so they destroyed the originals because they needed storage space? Right.

 

Welles shoulders much the blame for the loss, he couldn't control himself down south. Later in life and as reported in one of the biographies, while living in Las Vegas, his wife walked into his den and found him sobbing like a baby. He was watching The Magnificent Ambersons.

 

/

Yes, of course Orson does bear some of the blame.

 

Thanks, Laffite!

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Welles' foray in South America was a government project (as mentioned) but he mainly (I believe) involved himself in his own projects and having a merry old time (partying day and night), while continually asking for more and more film. ...

 

Welles shoulders much the blame for the loss, he couldn't control himself down south. Later in life and as reported in one of the biographies, while living in Las Vegas, his wife walked into his den and found him sobbing like a baby. He was watching The Magnificent Ambersons.

 

I think you're right that Welles didn't do himself any favors by cavorting in South America while AMBERSONS needed editing.  His late-life reaction shows that he apparently knew what a missed opportunity it was.

 

I'd argue that the missed opportunity, and source of his tears, wasn't just his failure to turn AMBERSONS into the masterpiece he envisioned.  It was also that he missed an opportunity to establish his reputation as a director who could be relied on to complete a movie, whether masterpiece or not.  Although Welles did a very good job with his next movie, THE STRANGER, which he intended to show that he could make conventional film, I think his reputation for not being reliable had already started with his failure to complete AMBERSONS.  

 

Even though THE STRANGER made money, too many people in Hollywood were unwilling to work with him after that, perhaps because his artistic vision wasn't commercial enough, perhaps because he truly wasn't reliable, or perhaps as a way to bring the former "boy genius" whom they resented down to earth.  (It also didn't help that the Hearst papers were against him because of KANE.)  

 

Thereafter, he made some outstanding movies -- THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, TOUCH OF EVIL, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (which I haven't seen yet), even F FOR FAKE, which is quite a good film within its limited scope.  But for many of his remaining years, Welles spent much of his time not making films, but trying to raise money for them by taking acting jobs, because no studio would back him.

 

Welles undoubtedly bore some, if not all, of the blame for his plight.  But regardless of who was to blame, I wish he'd made more movies.  He probably had more masterpieces in him.  

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"Freaks" (1932)--What's left is a good film, but after disastrous previews in California, where people RAN from the theater, producer Irving Thalberg cut 30 minutes from the film.  The footage is considered Lost, so we'll never know one way or the other what it could have been.  I prefer to think the Lost footage would have made it a masterpiece.

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The best movie producers are a combination of creator and suit.    The role of the producer and how they work with the director can be the difference between a film full of movie magic and one that is just another programmer. 

 

We also can't really see the result of where the producer, acting as a suit,  edited an overzealous director and the end result is a better film.   We can't see this because the so called director's cut was never made (or never made available to viewers as a completed work).       

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"Freaks" (1932)--What's left is a good film, but after disastrous previews in California, where people RAN from the theater, producer Irving Thalberg cut 30 minutes from the film.  The footage is considered Lost, so we'll never know one way or the other what it could have been.  I prefer to think the Lost footage would have made it a masterpiece.

That's some footage I'd give my eye teeth to see, FL!

 

Interestingly [at least to me!] my grandmother said she had seen most of the performers who appeared in "Freaks" at travelling carnivals that would visit the area yearly. She said it would be hard to forget seeing someone like Prince Randian, or Johnny Eck and that the Hilton Twins would actually fairly famous in general, and she also knows she saw Schlitzie.

 

Not so sure if the Doll Family, or as they called themselves the Earles, like Harry were as common in the carnival circuit. She also said she saw the film "Freaks" when it came out. This woman also saw things like "Frankenstein", "Dracula" and "King Kong" on their initial release dates. Boy, am I jealous. She says the only one which she did find really frightening was "King Kong".

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The best movie producers are a combination of creator and suit. 

 

I think most are drawn into the business because of their love of the medium. Many are better suited to finding material, securing talent and/or backing a production- a different kind of "creating". But it takes an artistic eye to orchestrate the final "product."

 

Selznick was one of those guiding eyes. Look what he put together.

 

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) was an "art" picture, I think MGM budgeted one of these a year. As I understand it, the attitude was: it would be NICE if the movie made money, but at least one movie a year should be made "for arts sake" like their motto states.

 

She said it would be hard to forget seeing someone like Prince Randian, or Johnny Eck and that the Hilton Twins would actually fairly famous in general

 

Did you know the Hilton Twins starred in their own movie? 

CHAINED FOR LIFE (1951) it has been shown on TCM.

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Yes, of course Orson does bear some of the blame.

 

Thanks, Laffite!

 

For the sake of accuracy, I said that Welles bore "much" of the blame. There is a perception by some that Welles had the picture taken away from him by the studio. That's true, but with cause. For me, this is one of those if-only-I-could-change-history situations, it's depressing to think about it.

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For the sake of accuracy, I said that Welles bore "much" of the blame.

To me, the accuracy of this is borne out by watching Mr. Arkadin, which is an absolute mess. (Then again, I heard a documentary about the Jaglom interviews and Welles' jabs at Hitchcock only hardened my relatively low opinion of Welles' bloated ego.)

 

There was a good two-hour movie to be made from the book behind Greed, but Erich von Stroheim wouldn't let the studio put it out by making a nine-hour monstrosity instead and forcing the studio to edit it down.

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The most recent incarnation of Mr Arkadin cleared up some of the narrative problems that the earlier versions had. You might know this but think it's still a mess, I can't tell. But this final version made the movie much more watchable for me.

 

...

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The best movie producers are a combination of creator and suit. 

 

I think most are drawn into the business because of their love of the medium. Many are better suited to finding material, securing talent and/or backing a production- a different kind of "creating". But it takes an artistic eye to orchestrate the final "product."

 

Selznick was one of those guiding eyes. Look what he put together.

 

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) was an "art" picture, I think MGM budgeted one of these a year. As I understand it, the attitude was: it would be NICE if the movie made money, but at least one movie a year should be made "for arts sake" like their motto states.

 

She said it would be hard to forget seeing someone like Prince Randian, or Johnny Eck and that the Hilton Twins would actually fairly famous in general

 

Did you know the Hilton Twins starred in their own movie? 

CHAINED FOR LIFE (1951) it has been shown on TCM.

Loved "Chained for Life" and saw it with my grandmother when I was about 12 years old, at a local film festival. They were also showing "Freaks". I love how the Hilton twins tried to have different hair color so as to be individualistic.

 

I'm sure if I'd been a siamese twin my twin would try to off me!

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